Friday, July 11, 2008

Where I Say Hello To The Census Bureau

My pals at the Census Bureau paid this blog a nice long visit this afternoon. They:

  • Spent 6 minutes and 16 seconds here.
  • Found me via a Google search on the phrase "American Community Survey."
  • Searched the phrase "American Community Survey" on the blog and no doubt got lots of fun reading material. I guess they missed the part where I have conveniently labeled all of the ACS posts with "You're Not The Boss Of Me" and "Just Say NO To ACS" in order to save them (and other interested parties) some precious keystrokes.

There you have it!


cathy said...

Still getting hits! Interesting. Well, there is ongoing research to understand the nonresponder and to develope methods to combat the growing numbers of nonresponders, not just for gov surveys, but for all surveys and polls. They are just wasting their time. What a scary world it will be for them when they have so few numbers to crunch.

Patty Becker said...

It really makes me sad that you are so sure that it's wrong to conduct and to respond to the American Community Survey. This is a democracy, and no one is really in the end game going to make you do it, but the data collected in these surveys and used IN AGGREGATE FORM ONLY are very important in figuring out the best way to use scarce financial resources in both the public and the private sectors. I can give you dozens of examples where it's made a difference, starting with directing federal funding where it's needed the most.

P. Becker

Darren said...


Keep it up! :)

cathy said...

Dream on!

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...


First off, this is not a democracy, or at least it is not supposed to be one. It is a Republic. A democracy means majority rule. A Republic means representative government with rights reserved to the individual. Like the right not to be harrassed by nosy government officials.

Secondly, where do you think the Feds get the money they are so freely promising 'communities.' They get it by taxxing (taxx--it really should be a four letter word) those very same communities, who must pay a surcharge to send the money to Washington and have it pass through agencies there, all of which have staff that get paid big bucks to send it back to the 'community.' Such a deal!

Better to keep the money in the 'community' in the first place so that the "community' could get a better return on the dollar.

I use quotations around 'communities' because the word means nothing. You are taking money from some individuals by force to give it to other individuals. In other contexts, that's called "stealing."

Joanne at Open Mind Required said...

C'mon, folks! You really need to fill out those surveys. They need the information to add to their database so that when they microchip you they can download all your data via their scanners.

They also need to know who to target first when they come to collect your homes. They just raise the interest rates on the credit cards for those families with three or more children and no internal plumbing. May I swear here?

Seriously, Jenn, your blog's a hoot and you *are* hilarious. Good for you for not filling this out. Our government is run by the banking cartels, and the less they know, the better.

From another rebel and free spirit. Stop by my blog some time and read all about how I'm giving the credit card companies their debt back.

brendan said...

Ms. Becker -

Good to see you're back, but I'm not sure you're truly understanding Rational Jenn's position on this issue. I'll try to explain:

What should be very clear to anyone who reads her posts on the ACS is that she believes it is wrong *in principle* for the government to be asking for this information. There is no justification for it.

If something is wrong in principle, then whatever justifications you're using to try to legitimize it are truly irrelevant.

It does not matter whether or not the data is made available in "aggregate form only".

It does not matter whether it helps the government use "scarce financial resources".

It does not matter whether it has "made a difference" to anyone, in any sector, either public or private.

The government has no right to this information. Period.

I hope I've made that clear.

Now, as for the scarce financial resources (a phrase you have been using), it is *wrong* for the government to take money from people by force. It does not make it right simply because you say it's being used to heal the sick, or feed the hungry, or educate the uneducated. These things are what charity is for -- not government. I can give to charity if I want to. Government leaves me no choice.

Do you see the difference? There is a very important difference between a charitable organization and the government. Let's use the Red Cross as an example.

The Red Cross does not have the legal right to use force to accomplish its goals. The government does. If the Red Cross thinks I should donate 30% of my income so that they can feed starving children in Somalia, they can request it of me, and I am free to give 10, 20, 30, 40 -- however much I want & can afford. Or I can give nothing. My choice.

The government just takes the money from me. I can refuse to pay it, but then I go to jail. It doesn't matter whether I can really afford to give away 30% of my income. Or if I have my own bills to pay, or if I want to save for my retirement, or put my kids through college. I pay, or I go to jail.

NOW can you see why I'm not exactly chomping at the bit to HELP the government figure out how much more of my money they need? I mean, be honest, that's what you're really saying when you talk about "scarce financial resources". You're really talking about my money, and the money of everyone else who pays taxes.

There's only one person who has the right to determine how best to allocate my scarce financial resources: me. Because, you know, I'm the bloke who earned it.

I'm sorry that our position on this makes you sad. I believe that if you think about this issue, and educate yourself as to what the *proper* role of our government really should be, you would agree that the ACS is what it is: a gross violation of the U.S. Constitution, and the rights of everyone to whom it is sent.

Please try to look past your own job security when you think about what is right and what is wrong (because yes, I am now positive that you work for the Census Bureau).

I asked you if you worked for the Bureau before, and you never answered. But I want you to know: you needn't try to hide who your employer is. Nobody here is trying to pry into your life or make you cough up information that you're not willing to give.

That's your job, apparently.

Some reading for you:


P.S. If you're still not following what I've said above, please read EHL's comments before mine, because they are spot-on.

Darren said...

Small note, just an idea that popped in my head: I'm a little creeped out how ACS supporters use phrases like "scarce financial resources." Putting the issue of taxation aside, are government financial resources always scarce? Are they scarce everywhere? That seems like a pretty broad statement to make. The phrase "scarce financial resources" has a lot of really bad attitudes and ideas baked in to it. And when I multiple ACS supporters repeat it, I start to get that feeling like I'm in some alien invasion movie where I'm one of the few who really know what's going on. :)

cathy said...

What I fined interesting is that the CB employees keep using info from their talking points manual for their circular logic as to why the ACS is important, while never posing a new idea. All this whining about how we're not doing our civic duty to help the gov help our communities is nonsence. This country was founded on yankee ingenuity and not with polls and surveys! While the gov can get its hands in my pocket, it will stay out of my head.

Rational Jenn said...

My goodness! This has been quite the post, hasn't it?

Thanks to Cathy, Darren, Elisheva, Joanne (welcome!), and of course, Brendan.

We've done a little googling and Ms. Becker works for a private company that contracts with the Census Bureau and is or has been specifically involved in the ACS. If I had more time in my life just now, I'd write more about the information I've found--but I don't, and it's easy enough to google.

Ms. Becker--we are talking about principles here, and it's clear that you haven't read much of my blog if you still believe that your arguments will hold sway with me.

When the government takes money from me and "allocates" it toward something/someone else--or heck, even if it allocates some of it back toward me--it is morally wrong. Doesn't matter intentions or outcome. Doesn't matter if a "difference" is made or not.

It only matters that my property is confiscated from me. That my government then "requires" that I "voluntarily" provide private information about myself and my family so that it can reallocate my money adds insult to injury.

I am glad that you have admitted the point that nobody is going to make me comply with the ACS. Since I know you are affiliated with and have a vested interest in the success of the ACS, that is very reassuring to hear.

And Elisheva is right--we have a Republic (if we can still keep it--I fear it's been lost). I will actively fight against a pure democracy every day of the week.

cathy said...

Hi Jenn,
Thanks for the info on P Becker. It will be worth a google.
Also, I found 2 articles (from the many on the CATO Institute website: Testimony on the census (7/20/00) by Edward Hudgins and Statement of Jenifer Zeigler, Welfare Polocy Analysts, Cato Institute before the Subcommittee on Human Resources of the House Committee on Ways and Means (2/10/05). Both of these people have argued against the CB and its surveys. Zeigler's article gives the gov's interest in the marriage and fertility questions.

Darren said...

Hi, one more thought popped in my head about this while I was doing some yard work. Patricia Becker said that the data collected was only be used in "AGGREGATE FORM ONLY." This may be how it's sent out for consumption by politicians, but that doesn't change the fact that the data is still kept on an individual level. If you were to fill this survey out, there will be some database with a record just about you. Think of it like a big Excel document with a column for your first name, next to the column for your last name, next to the column for your salary, next to the column for your SSN, etc.. There are probably few with access to that non-aggregate data, but still... that's data in NON-AGGREGATE FORM.

And what about the paper copies of the surveys? And what about the memory of the government employee who typed in the survey information into the computer? And what about the memory of the government employee who asks the questions over the phone or in-person? More data in NON-AGGREGATE FORM held by individuals who don't have right to know.

I wouldn't trust any government employee with my data any farther than I could throw an ACS survey taker off my front porch, and neither should you. They can say that they prevent "unnecessary" access, but can we know? We can't. And if the fact that they're willing to resort to government force to make people fill this out this survey says anything, it says this: They don't really care about the privacy of your data, or you.

The question of how the ACS data is kept, used, etc. is not the essential issue, but I would just like to suggest that we not forget who we are dealing with. Or better yet, let's not forget *what* they're dealing with. Imagine passing by your local ACS survey taker and her boyfriend at the grocery store, and then imagine her whispering something to her boyfriend as they both look at you and giggle. Imagine reading a story about an ACS employee reporting her laptop (with a hard-drive full of data) as "stolen." Or read Patty Becker's comment above and think about whether you want to take her word for it.

Anonymous said...

They should be grateful to you at the CB--keeps people in a job! How crazy! It's almost humorous if it wasn't such a huge waste of time and money.
Sean is beautiful, by the way! Sounds like his big brother and sister are taking good care of him. Liliana is doing great! We're in awe of her all the time.

cathy said...

I thought that Patty Becker's name was familiar and not just from her posts here. She has every right to be sad, since the CB is on a path of self-destruction. Its primary function is to enumerate and it can't even do that well. Many states have filed lawsuits claiming that the population counts were not accurate. Add in the lost laptops, wasted money for the handheld computers, canceled practice counts and the list can go on and on. The CB also is suffering from the gov not doing something about identity theft and illegals using another citizen's SS#.The CB has an additional challenge of the disappearing landline. Cellphones do not define a residence. Some are tied to places of employment; change jobs, change phones. Cellphone users are less likely to waste time and minutes doing a survey. The phonebooks do not contain cellphone numbers and at the present time, federal law prevents autodialing to cellphones. So all these datajunkies who took decades to develope, test and implement the ACS are watching it begin to crumble. Add to this the fact that none of these questions should have been asked in the first place. Our gov would probably run better if it were not bogged down under its own weight. Remember - just because something is a good idea, doesn't mean it should become a government program.

Rational Jenn said...

Darren, thanks for your additional comments. I'm in complete agreement.

Jen, thanks for your continue support! Liliana is a beautiful name. Hope you're getting lots more sleep than I am!

Cathy, Love your last sentence. In fact I think it should be "Just because something is a good idea means that it SHOULDN'T be a government program!" :o)