Sand In The Gears

The Census is among the multiple, pedestrian duties of the federal government. It is also among the multitude of duties that the Trump Administration is sabotaging, either through incompetence or malice.

Why should we care?

A recent report from the Brookings Institution spells out the uses to which an accurate census is key. As the article notes,

Congress and now the Trump administration have set the 2020 decennial on a course that threatens its basic accuracy. In so doing, they put at risk the integrity and effectiveness of some of the national government’s basic missions.

We rely on the accuracy of the census for both democratic and fiscal decisions: the census  determines how the 435 members of the House of Representatives are allocated among the states, and how members of state legislatures and many city councils are allocated in those jurisdictions.

Consider as well that every year, the federal government distributes about $600 billion in funds to state and local governments for education, Medicaid and other health programs, highways, housing, law enforcement and much more. To do so, the government uses formulas with terms for each area’s level of education, income or poverty rate, racial and family composition, and more. The decennial Census provides the baseline for those distributions by counting the people with each of those characteristics in each state and Census block.

It isn’t only government that relies on the data provided by the census. Businesses– retailers,  commercial real estate developers, banks and many others– use census data to determine  the demographics and locations of potential customers and to inform their planning and investments.

In some cases, the data actually make their projects possible, for example, when an investment qualifies for special tax treatment if it occurs in places with certain concentrations of low or moderate-income households.

Even worse, Trump has demanded that the 2020 Census add questions about the respondent’s citizenship and immigration status. Adding such questions would violate current laws protecting the privacy of the respondents, and would add immensely to the  fear that already prevents many members of immigrant groups from participating in the count. When such groups are undercounted, states, cities and towns with substantial populations of Hispanics and other immigrants are underfunded.

These and other significant, negative consequences of a mismanaged census evidently don’t worry our uninformed and clueless-about-government President. The Trump administration  cut Obama’s 2017 budget request for the Census Bureau by 10 percent and then, this past April, flat-lined the funding for 2018.

It is no coincidence that the Director of the Census Bureau, John Thompson, resigned in May, effective in June. It’s a serious loss, since Dr. Thompson directed the 2000 decennial count and is probably the most able person available to contain the coming damage to the 2020 count. For its part, the administration hasn’t even identified, much less nominated, his successor. It is no surprise that the Government Accountability Office recently designated the 2020 Census as one of a handful of federal programs at “High Risk” of failure.

The Trump Administration: throwing sand in the gears of effective government one agency at a time….


  1. “The Trump Administration: throwing sand in the gears of effective government one agency at a time….”

    Sheila and Sandy; rethinking the level of “accomplishment” to “deconstruct” this government and democracy, it is impossible to have accomplised so much since November 8, 2016, or January 20, 2017, and today without years of planning and successful undercover preparation by Republicans. My guess is that committee, formed to stop President Obama from as much progress as possible, has been formulating the actions now being carried out by this administration. Using this country’s deeply embedded racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, basic hatred of anyone thought to be “different”, et al, was too easily unleashed by Trump and his cohorts and the census action – or inaction – was carefully planned long before now.

    This takes me back to Marv’s on-target comparison of Germany’s invasion of Poland using tanks and their almost immediate demolition of Poland’s government protected by their horse patrols. We are now suffering the “horses vs. tanks” syndrome of a well-planned and carried-out successful invasion of the United States government from inside.

    As President Lincoln so aptly put it years ago, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” We are living the results of that division within the government; we are headed to implosion unless and until the current Congress does not begin to use it’s Constitutional powers to stop the ongoing “deconstruction” of democracy and America as it was and is meant to continue to be. Waiting till the November 2018 for election results and inauguration of POSSIBLE Congressional changeover on January 1, 2019; we will be as overrun and powerless as Poland was after the German takeover. Census is a major issue; but only one of our many basic issues needing protection from our own government.

    Or nuclear WWIII will destroy us due to ongoing mentally unbalanced leadership of Trump, supported by Congress. Gen. John Kelly cannot control him or Congress; that is a terrible burden to place on one man.

  2. I wish I had something profound to say. Trump has repeatedly said that we have too much government. Tragic.

  3. Is there anything he won’t muck up? Guess not. Wonder what he will say about climate control now? If there was any delight in Hurricane Irma, it is that pompous “Irma-is-fake-news- Limbaugh was routed out of West Palm Beach. I still don’t understand what all this negativity is going to accomplish.

  4. It isn’t just our “uninformed and clueless – about -government President” at fault here. During the last census, down in a rural county in Illinois, the local radio station told its listeners to not co-operate and give out their information because… well, government. When the reports came in that the county had lost a large percentage of its population, and the local Republicans in charge, who were also tea party members, demanded a re-count. They only got a partial re-count of one nursing home and that did not help. During those ten years since the last census half of the population of the county seat had picked up and left. That part of Illinois lost a congressional seat, and funding for anything that would have helped economic development fell away too. “Uninformed and clueless” doesn’t begin to cover it.

  5. JoAnn,

    “We are now suffering the “horses vs. tanks” syndrome of a well-planned and carried-out successful invasion of the United States government from inside.”

    The Nazis were a THIRD FORCE in Germany. They were acting outside the parameters of the Weimar Republic. They had no regard for the give and take of partisan politics in a democracy. The FAILURE of the German people to create an EFFECTIVE COUNTERVAILING FORCE led ultimately to the DESTRUCTION of their country.

    The Interests of DEMOCRACY has no ORGANIZED THIRD FORCE in the US. Consequently, more than just this ANALOGY, we’re now facing, by another ANALOGY to the THIRD REICH, a CATASTROPHIC POLITICAL TSUNAMI IN THE US caused by DOMESTIC VIRAL WARFARE using viral MEMES of HATRED thru a NAZI-LIKE political playbook.

    You’re a very strong woman, we’re fortunate to have someone like you who is not afraid to say it as it is.

  6. My opinion of and experience with government census’ will probably aggravate many on this blog.

    I live in an extremely rural area and used to farm. There is an annual ag census that wants to know every little detail of your operation. The problem with this census is that it does farmers absolutely no good. It serves corporations by giving them the info they want for their marketing and fiscal needs. It is a demand of farmers to spend time providing free access to personal financial info with no gain for the farmer.

    The government does not require corporations/businesses to provide this massive amount of information about their businesses. I refused to fill out those census’ every year. The government cannot legally force anyone to provide the info they demand, but they do like to threaten that you may be prosecuted.

    As for the regular citizen census I was really aggravated at the amount of personal info they were demanding in the last one. Questions about my income, what time I leave home to go to work and what time I return home from work, etc, etc. were more than I was willing to provide. They were given my basic info and that is all. When they hire local people to come to your house to hunt you down and threaten that you MUST provide this info, that is going too far and that is exactly what they did. The threats were turned back on them and they backed down because they knew they didn’t have a leg to stand on.

    Maybe in a large city people don’t mind sharing such personal information, but in a rural area we have no interest in sharing all of our personal financial information with other local people. It is like asking us to post this info on a billboard for everyone to see.

  7. Nancy, I’m with you on giving out that personal information and that is an invasion of privacy. Someone could get ahold of that information and use it to rob you. Just like the equifax hack, our information is no longer secure and we all should be worried. Of course, Congress is so far behind in governance that anything like that hack will not be addressed to protect the citizens, which is a threat to our security! We’ll never come to a time when Congress is so far ahead of us that they have nothing to debate. We’ve been set up to fail, not only personally, financially but democratically.

    Marv – good to see you online today. What a mess that Irma brought to our country, on the heels of Harvey. And we’re only half way through hurricane season. yikes.

  8. Nancy and AgingLGrl; the income information helps track numbers of income levels, we are currently concerned with the lowering of middle-income to low-income and low-income to poverty level. Without your income levels to include in the COUNT, the numbers do not tell the true economic levels of cities, towns and rural areas. As for leaving and returning for employment; this provides information regarding road, street, highway and interstate travel and wear. Maybe not knowing this information is why our infrastructure continues to deteriorate.

    Theresa; I am assuming the government ceased sending out “census takers” to those addresses who did not respond or gave only partial information. A friend who long ago worked as a census taker said the non-responses were primarily in very low income areas, she worked with uneducated people who did not understand the questions so did not answer. All of the non-responders aid in loss of funds much needed in all areas. Unlike Trump lies and refusal to release his taxes; they aren’t hiding information which would work against them but are cutting much needed funds as you so aptly pointed out. Census is a necessity to retain – or REGAIN – our democracy as protected by the Constitution. The information is used to disburse a great deal of our tax dollars. The census information is not the same as Trump’s demand for voter registration information which is intrusive regarding our personal information; his use we can be assured would lead to loss of voters in areas who voted against him. If giving my barely above poverty level income from Social Security and City retirement and general living conditions will help all others after I am gone; including my descendants and YOURS, I see no reason not to respond to the Census.

  9. The motto of this administration seems to be dumb people govern better than smart people.

    Resist, resist, resist.

    Repeal and replace Congress at every opportunity.

    For now rely on Director Mueller to do his job.

    Don’t fall for Pence’s practiced politicians puss.

  10. Perhaps I draw an improper inference, but that is why I ask the following. If I respond on the census form that my ancestors entered this country (in the 1670s) without any clearance by immigration officials (there were none), and I have been given neither a green card nor any other clearance to live here (except for my birth certificate from a county in Indiana), is it possible that I shall be deported to the nation of origin of those ancestors (Wales)? If anyone answers “yes,” and her or his answer is plausible, supported by statute and is more than wishful thinking, I am tempted to answer the questions—and my answers would be truthful—as I have described. And here I thought I would have to click three times the heels of shoes I can buy who-knows-where and say “get me the [four-letter transitive verb used as a noun here] out of here.” On the other hand, if the universal opinion is “no,” I shall continue to fight the good fight. Bailey et al v United States, docket 16-1464, is set for conference 9/25. In that case, the Petitioners I represent seek to have the current occupant of the Oval Office removed and the election declared void ab initio.

  11. Thanks for getting that out there, JoAnn. For those who do not want to cooperate with the census all I can say is that the information is already out there scattered about here and there. There is you tax returns, the information you gave to get a loan, to get a charge card, to use your “shopper’s card” at this store or that. It is the record of your phone calls and your use of the internet. The amount of money you get from farm crop support programs. What the bank tellers know about your accounts. What your local church knows about how much you give every Sunday.

    If what you are really scared of is what information the neighbors might learn about you, be assured that they already know more about you than you think.

  12. I am looking at a copy of the 1930 census for my grand parents, among the questions asked are: Father’s Birthplace:, Mother’s Birthplace:, Language Spoken, Immigration Year:, Naturalization, and Able to Speak English.

    Similar questions were asked on the 1940 census. So the idea that questions to determine U.S. citizenship and immigration status is something new is false.

    As far as the Polish Cavalry vs German tanks please read – The Mythical Polish Cavalry Charge

    When the Germans invaded the Soviet Union in June of 1941 they had 3,350 tanks, about 600,000 motor vehicles and 625,000–700,000 horses.

  13. Not sure everyone is getting it. Congressional seats, federal funding, electoral college. Cheating on the census is another way to fix the next ten years of elections.

  14. Marv tells it all today with his discussion of countervailing force. It is not only a lack of countervailing force in matters political, it is also a matter of countervailing force in matters economic with political implications, to wit: the lack of countervailing union and citizen power to stop or at least slow down the corporate forces set to take over this country lock, stock and barrel, and as a for instance, it might be much more difficult for DeVos to privatize education if every school teacher in the country’s public schools belonged to a union opposed to such treachery. The continuing lack of countervailing force invites yet such further invasions of policies dedicated to destruction of the common good. What’s it going to take to stop the corporate takeover of America? Socialism? A takeover of Wall Street and corporate governance? Public rather than private investment? Limits on profits? All of the above, and others? These people are asking for a surge in countervailing power that exceeds the modest reforms I am suggesting with my talk of wage inequality and right to work travesties, and if it happens, it could amount to a new disequilibrium of too much power to the left. Horses and tanks amounts to a good metaphor, and Marv is right on, but we need to extend the political to the economic to the social and indeed to our folkways and mores since we are on the cusp of losing the whole shebang to the forces of greed and government by psychotic tweet.

  15. Gerald,

    “we need to extend the political to the economic to the social and indeed to our folkways and mores since we are on the cusp of losing the whole shebang to the forces of greed and government by psychotic tweet.”

    You’re 100% right. Anything less will be fruitless in the long run.

  16. If Trump’s administration adds “sexual orientation” to the upcoming census form; I can simply…and honestly…answer “none”. Now that would be an invasion of privacy question but no real surprise coming from Trump and Pence.

  17. You know, if we had a national ID card, we could avoid all of this census stuff. They would know our address, age, employment and anything else they wanted to know. Maybe we could eliminate the IRS with no need for filing too.
    We had those in Germany and Switzerland and only filed exceptions for taxes. We’re so far behind with issues like this. Sad.

  18. JoAnn, please don’t get the idea that I don’t understand how the census data is used. I gave income data that was far lower than reality. As for the travel data – they soecifically wanted to know what time I leave home and return. In a rural area that has absolutely no bearing on road use/ needs. Filling in that info truly would have been like telling potential burglars exactly what window of time they should come to my house.

    And as someone else commented – most of the information is already out there and could be easily compiled by the government.

  19. AgingLGirl, my friends In Austria have also commented on how simple income tax filing is compared to here. Of course, they don’t give the wealthy class all of the exemptions and deductions that we do. What a novel idea.

  20. Undermining the census is a double-edged sword. It may undermine federal aid to communities most dependent on it, but it can also undermine economic development, job creation, and real estate wealth. Democrats need only find places where Trump properties would suffer the negative effects, and I’d bet my life savings that the White House would change course.

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