PHIL WIELAND: Census Bureau is counting on you, not your name

2013-05-31T00:00:00Z PHIL WIELAND: Census Bureau is counting on you, not your nameBy Phil Wieland phil.wieland@nwi.com, (219) 548-4352 nwitimes.com

The U.S. Census Bureau has an insatiable curiosity about us. And who can blame them?

We are a diverse and interesting population. Well, except for a couple people I could name. (You know who you are.)

To keep track of the ever-changing nature of the nation, the Census Bureau can't rely on the decennial head count mandated by the Constitution, even if they counted the eyes, toes and spleens in addition to the heads. So they have some spare time for counting other things.

In fact, at any given moment, the bureau could be conducting up to a dozen interim surveys for various government agencies on everything from housing to hunting and fishing to health and even some things that don't start with the letter "H".

Among these surveys is the annual American Community Survey James Lovick, of Valpo, received last month and which I wrote about a week ago.

The ACS provides the latest info local, state and federal governments can use to — and I am quoting an official government pamphlet here — "establish goals, identify problems and solutions, and measure the performance of programs."

The pamphlet says they can do this, but, of course, there is no guarantee they actually will do this. Still, it's good to know the info is available should anyone, such as a congressman, get a sudden urge to identify a real problem and solve it.

Lovick's only problem with the ACS is it gets pretty personal, asking questions about income and what time he leaves for work and stuff. He wouldn't mind providing these bits of personal info if he could do it on an impersonal basis, which is to say anonymously.

Stephen Laue, spokesman for the bureau's Chicago Region office, said the name is needed in case the bureau wants to contact Lovick to clarify an answer he provided. It's all in the name of accuracy, and, once the bureau is satisfied, all the names are destroyed so no one else will ever know whose answers they are.

"I've got sort of a distrust of the government," Lovick said of the promise to destroy the names. "I think they all collude with each other, but I could be wrong."

A little paranoia is usually a good thing where the government is concerned, but collusion among government departments implies the ability to organize and communicate, something even our top spy agencies have trouble with. They are more likely to collide than collude.

Laue said fining someone $5,000, as allowed by law, for not responding is very rare. After consulting with a couple of lawyers, who told him it's wiser to just fill out the survey, Lovick said he's decided to comply.

"I'll be a good 'sheep-le,'" he said.

That's probably not a baaa-d idea.

The opinions are those of the writer. He can be reached at phil.wieland@nwi.com or (219) 548-4352.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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