According to our Constitution, Congress is to enumerate (count) the citizens every ten years. Here’s what is actually stated in Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution:
The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct. The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the State of New Hampshire shall be entitled to chuse three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five and Georgia three.
The first sentence quoted above covers what is to be done, and we get a sense of why it is to be done by what follows–this has to do with proper representation of the citizens in changing state populations.
It seems odd, then, that the census in its current state does so much more than merely enumerate the citizens. In fact, the video clip below by Jerry Day (Matrix News Network), reveals a bit more of what we can expect to see on this year’s census. But is it constitutional? Or is it asking much more than what is required to merely enumerate the citizens?
I found a sample of the 10-question census form for 2010 in PDF format here. It seems to me that nine out of those ten questions are illegitimate according to the charter for such a device as is found in the Constitution. You might not have a problem with answering the questions, which is fine. But I’ve got a problem with these questions being asked without authority to do so. I don’t see how my sex, age, and race fit into the enumeration requirements that confine the business of the census to its rightful scope.
But according to the 2010 Census web site, answering all the questions will “paint a portrait of America”. That’s nice. It’s also expensive. In another area of the Census Bureau web site, we see how expensive counting 300 million people (and painting portraits) can be:
The life cycle cost for the Reengineered 2010 Census was estimated at $11.8 billion in the FY 2009 Budget Request, including $1.8 billion for the American Community Survey which replaced the long-form. The new estimated life cycle cost for the 2010 Census is $13.7 to $14.5 billion.
Since the 1970 Decennial Census, costs have risen substantially from one decennial to the next. In 2010 dollars, the 2000 Census life cycle would have cost approximately $8.2 billion; a 100 percent increase over the 1990 Census ($4.1 billion); which was about a 58 percent increase over the 1980 Census ($2.6 billion); which was a 160 percent increase over the 1970 Census ($1.0 billion).
Funny how the costs keep rising every ten years. Is that inflation, or perhaps getting distracted with “painting portraits”–or both? Did you know that according to this new estimate of $14.5 billion for the census, that comes to $47.69 per person counted (see PDF spreadsheet here for population numbers and sources for numbers). What a bargain. I’m fairly confident I could contract my official counting services to Uncle Sam for that amount and end up a multi-millionaire for my efforts (and that’s including paying workers a fat wage to run around and count people, too!).
Enjoy the video clip: