The 2010 Census and Our Fair Share

Earlier this week, an undercover journalist in New Jersey and one in Louisiana worked together to expose the embarrassingly erroneous method by which the Census Bureau pays its workers, thrusting the 2010 census into the headlines once again.

Using hidden cameras, the two revealed Census Bureau managers who encouraged their newly hired employees to submit timesheets exaggerated with hours they did not work. The undercover journalist's thesis is that, when multiplied by the thousands of temporary Census employees, this exaggeration becomes a significant amount. 

The team's hidden camera/YouTube style of exposing the Census Bureau might seem familiar to you. In fact, James O'Keefe, the young journalist who impersonated a pimp last year and nearly singlehandedly ruined ACORN, and Shaughn Adeleye both work with Andrew Breitbart. The Census Bureau's indifferent procedure for compensating its employees has reignited the concerns voiced by many over the past several months about the exorbitant cost of the 2010 Census.

These concerns are valid. The cost of running the Census has grown exponentially over the decades, and according to the Census Bureau, the 2010 decennial census cycle will cost $13.7B-$14.5B. Consider the progression of the decennial cost: From 1970 to 2010, the cost to run the census has increased by 1,350%, while the population has increased by about 51% over the same time.

Despite the obvious concern of wasteful spending, there is another concern to address, and it is the Bureau's vaguely veiled agenda to propagate the mentality of government dependence.

The major outlet that the Census Bureau has used to inform citizens (and non-citizens) of the Census has been TV commercials (including a $2.5M Super Bowl Spot). Largely these commercials are well done, entertaining, and have a catchy beat or message.   

The concern, though, is the message itself. In one of the more popular Census commercials,  NASCAR star Greg Biffle lays rubber in a neighborhood cul-de-sac, and while pulling off perfect tire-melting donuts, calmly delivers a message about the census:

Some people wonder why they should bother with the Census. Well, the Census creates a snapshot of who we are as a community. So it helps us get our fair share of funding.

"Our fair share" is a common expression, but when used by a government bureau, it conveys the notion that the government is here to provide for us and owes us something. This mentality has spread from FDR's "New Deal" programs that included retirement income and unemployment compensation to include retirement health care, health care for all citizens, payments for buying a new car or house, and even a free cell phone. Nearly 70% of the federal government's $3,518B 2009 budget went toward paying for existing entitlement programs.

Not discussed in the star studded Census commercials: "Our fair share" also refers to each citizen's share of the debt burden that this reliance on government has created.  The total debt that the Federal government has taken out in our names, largely to pay for entitlements, now amounts to $12.8 T (or $87K per worker) and the interest owed each year on the debt by every working man and woman alone amounts to $1820.

But, "our fair share" of federal debt obligations is significantly higher than the reported federal deficit.  Our two largest entitlement programs (Medicare and Social Security) are "off budget items" meaning that their underfunding is not counted in the federal deficit. 

The National Center for Policy Analysis (using the 2009 Social Security Administration's Trustees Report) estimates that the total level of underfunding for Social Security and Medicare in 2009 was $106.8T. When added to the reported federal deficit of $12.3T, the total debt obligation becomes a mind-numbing and heart-stopping $119.1T. Our fair share of debt for our fair share of government funding is roughly $881K for every working person in the country. 

This type of government entitlement and distribution of "our fair share" may have already allowed a poverty of ambition to seep it to our society. According to data collected from the Office of the White House and Census Bureau, from 1970-2006, while government outlays to individuals increased 64% faster than during the previous 23 years, the rate of median income growth slowed by 64% over the same period. 

The progressive ideal of a paternalistic government is a significant danger to our nation because the burden of such programs has eroded our nation's fiscal strength. But instead of acknowledging the concern of burdensome debt, the government, through the guise of the 2010 Census, has propagated the idea that they will provide and that we deserve our fair share of funding. "Our fair share" has a dangerous double meaning, and the value isn't worth the cost.

Brenton Stransky is a co- author of The Young Conservative's Field Guide, which is recently available. The author can be contacted through his website at
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