‘Should the Cen­sus re­turn to its orig­i­nal mis­sion — just count­ing peo­ple?’ YES NO

Cecil Whig - - OPINION - By WIL­LIAM J. WATKINS, JR. Tribune News Ser­vice By WAYNE MADSEN Tribune News Ser­vice

OAK­LAND, CALIF. — The U.S. Cen­sus Bureau is pre­par­ing for its next con­sti­tu­tion­ally man­dated na­tional head count, to be held in 2020.

Un­for­tu­nately, the Bureau’s 2020 Op­er­a­tion Plan re­veals that an ac­tual enu­mer­a­tion of the pop­u­la­tion — the only thing con­sti­tu­tion­ally per­mit­ted — will be but a small part of the over­all ef­fort.

The 192-page doc­u­ment filled with bu­reau­cratic gob­bledy­gook re­minds us why the cen­sus should re­turn to its orig­i­nal sim­plic­ity.

Ar­ti­cle I, sec­tion 2 of the Constitution states that “Rep­re­sen­ta­tives ... shall be ap­por­tioned among the sev­eral States ... ac­cord­ing to their re­spec­tive Num­bers.”

It fur­ther re­quires that “the ac­tual Enu­mer­a­tion,” or head­count, shall be made every ten years, in such Man­ner as Congress shall by Law di­rect.

In propos­ing leg­is­la­tion for the first cen­sus, James Madison sug­gested that the govern­ment gather other “use­ful in­for­ma­tion” that would as­sist Congress in learn­ing about the coun­try and in craft­ing leg­is­la­tion.

The first Congress, how­ever, re­jected Madison’s grandiose plans for the cen­sus. In­stead, the 1790 cen­sus was a model of sim­plic­ity that asked five ques­tions fo­cus­ing on a gen­eral count of the pop­u­la­tion.

The 2020 Op­er­a­tion Plan es­chews a mere count and seeks in­for­ma­tion that will be used to cal­cu­late ev­ery­thing from em­ploy­ment and crime rates to health and ed­u­ca­tional back­ground.

The Bureau even as­serts that de­cen­nial data is nec­es­sary so pri­vate busi­nesses can ex­am­ine it “to make de­ci­sions about whether or where to lo­cate their restau­rants or stores.”

In other words, the Bureau ap­pears to be­lieve that with­out govern­ment in­tru­sion into our lives en­trepreneurs will be struck blind and thus be un­able to al­lo­cate cap­i­tal to­ward ben­e­fi­cial projects.

Such wild claims are pre­pos­ter­ous. More­over, go­ing fur­ther than the enu­mer­a­tion ex­ceeds con­sti­tu­tional author­ity and un­der­mines pro­vi­sions of the Bill of Rights, which is meant to se­cure our lib­er­ties against gov­ern­men­tal en­croach­ment.

For ex­am­ple, the First Amend­ment to the Constitution seeks to pro­tect the peo­ple’s right to free­dom of speech. By forc­ing peo­ple to an­swer ques­tions be­yond a hum­ble count, the Bureau com­pels peo­ple to en­gage in speech.

The idea that the First Amend­ment pro­hibits govern­ment from com­pelling speech has deep roots in Amer­i­can con­sti­tu­tional law.

In­deed, in 1943, in a case known as West Vir­ginia State Board of Ed­u­ca­tion v. Bar­nette, the Supreme Court re­lied upon this doc­trine when it struck down a school pol­icy re­quir­ing all chil­dren to salute the flag.

The Fourth Amend­ment se­cures the peo­ple in their homes against un­rea­son­able searches and seizures. A core prin­ci­ple of that amend­ment is per­sonal pri­vacy — the right to be let alone.

The great Supreme Court Jus­tice Louis Bran­deis once ob­served that to se­cure this right “every un­jus­ti­fi­able in­tru­sion by the Govern­ment upon the pri­vacy of the in­di­vid­ual, what­ever the means em­ployed, must be deemed a vi­o­la­tion of the Fourth Amend­ment.”

The Cen­sus Bureau should rec­og­nize that ques­tions be­yond an enu­mer­a­tion in­trude upon our right to be let alone and thus should form no part of the cen­sus.

There is also a real threat that govern­ment can mis­use in­for­ma­tion col­lected from the cen­sus, as the Roo­sevelt ad­min­is­tra­tion did when, af­ter the at­tack on Pearl Har­bor, it used cen­sus data to lo­cate Ja­panese Amer­i­cans and fa­cil­i­tate their re­lo­ca­tion to in­tern­ment camps.

This mass de­pri­va­tion of civil rights was a dark blot on the other­wise heroic ef­forts of the so-called Great­est Gen­er­a­tion.

The de­cen­nial cen­sus is a con­sti­tu­tional ne­ces­sity, but it need not be an in­for­ma­tional fish­ing ex­pe­di­tion. The first cen­sus asked five ques­tions and the process of count­ing has not changed in the last 227 years to re­quire more.

Let’s go back to a sim­ple enu­mer­a­tion and stop com­pelling speech and in­va­sion of pri­vacy

Wil­liam J. Watkins Jr. is a re­search fel­low at the In­de­pen­dent In­sti­tute. He earned a bach­e­lor’s de­gree from Clem­son Univer­sity and law de­gree from the Univer­sity of South Carolina. Read­ers may write him at In­de­pen­dent In­sti­tute, 100 Swan Way, Oak­land, CA 94621.

TAMPA, FLA. — There are plenty of in­ter­ests, most of them with du­bi­ous in­ten­tions, that would like to aban­don the way the U.S. Cen­sus Bureau tra­di­tion­ally con­ducts its de­cen­nial “hands-on” count­ing of the pop­u­la­tion of the United States.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion and its po­lit­i­cal back­ers un­der­stand that to con­trol the out­come of the cen­sus is to con­trol the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives and the Elec­toral Col­lege.

The state-by-state ap­por­tion­ment of 435 House seats and the al­lot­ment of 435 of the 538 pres­i­den­tial elec­tors be­tween the states are based on the lat­est cen­sus.

There are those on the po­lit­i­cal right who in­sist the Cen­sus Bureau should con­cen­trate its ef­forts on merely count­ing heads, with­out any re­gard for col­lect­ing statis­tics on race, age, eth­nic group, gen­der, and in­come level.

There have also been calls for the cen­sus to in­clude sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion statis­tics. By not de­ter­min­ing the ac­tual pop­u­la­tion of mi­nor­ity groups, cen­sus re­sult could and would be used for the ger­ry­man­der­ing of con­gres­sional dis­tricts, par­tic­u­larly in ur­ban ar­eas, to en­sure African-Amer­i­cans and His­pan­ics are un­der­rep­re­sented in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

It is im­por­tant that every Amer­i­can sub­ject to the cen­sus un­der­stand that our coun­try’s founders be­lieved that a 10-year count­ing of the pop­u­la­tion was so im­por­tant that they man­dated it in the U.S. Constitution.

Amer­ica’s found­ing doc­u­ment states in Ar­ti­cle I, Sec­tion 2 that “Rep­re­sen­ta­tives and di­rect Taxes shall be ap­por­tioned among the sev­eral States ... ac­cord­ing to their re­spec­tive Num­bers ... 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.”

Those con­ser­va­tive quar­ters, from which is heard a con­stant re­frain of strictly in­ter­pret­ing the Constitution, are more than happy to fi­nan­cially cut cor­ners for the con­sti­tu­tion­ally-man­dated cen­sus.

Some on the po­lit­i­cal right sug­gest that Amer­i­cans could be counted more ef­fi­ciently and at a lower cost over the In­ter­net. That would be a dream-come-true for the right.

The home­less, poor ru­ral res­i­dents, and many se­nior cit­i­zens and dis­abled peo­ple would go un­counted.

Slash-and-burn Repub­li­can pol­i­cy­mak­ers would use an un­der­count­ing of the most vul­ner­a­ble Amer­i­cans to take a bud­get ax to Medi­care, Med­i­caid, So­cial Se­cu­rity, Head Start, pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion, vet­er­ans’ and pub­lic health clin­ics, unem­ploy­ment as­sis­tance, fam­i­ly­owned farm sup­port, and other so­cial safety net pro­grams.

Sec­re­tary of Com­merce Wil­bur Ross, a bil­lion­aire banker who wore $500 cus­tom-made bed­room slip­pers to Don­ald Trump’s first ad­dress to Congress last Fe­bru­ary, may see his de­part­ment’s Cen­sus Bureau as un­nec­es­sary and fi­nan­cially bur­den­some to his de­part­ment’s over­all bud­get.

How­ever, Ross would be vi­o­lat­ing his con­sti­tu­tional oath if he did not pro­vide the Cen­sus Bureau with all the tools it re­quires to con­duct the most ac­cu­rate and pol­i­tics-free cen­sus as pos­si­ble.

The cen­sus should also en­sure max­i­mum pri­vacy for the providers of in­for­ma­tion, es­pe­cially since the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is jam-packed with those who might de­cide to sell per­sonal cen­sus data to their friends in the in­for­ma­tion bro­ker­age in­dus­try.

Sec­re­tary Ross tes­ti­fied be­fore the Se­nate Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Sub­com­mit­tee that he was seek­ing a two-per­cent in­crease in the Cen­sus Bureau’s bud­get for Fis­cal Year 2018.

Ross should be con­grat­u­lated for in­creas­ing the bud­get of the bureau. How­ever, Ross’s pri­or­i­ti­za­tion for the “strate­gic re­use” of cen­sus data by other govern­ment de­part­ments and the pri­vate sec­tor is a wor­ri­some sign.

Ross said noth­ing about the pri­vacy con­trols for such po­ten­tially per­son­ally-iden­ti­fi­able data. Cen­sus data, like voter regis­tra­tion data held by the states, should not be used by pri­vate ac­tors to mi­cro-tar­get Amer­i­cans with var­i­ous schemes.

That is not the pur­pose for cen­sus data and any sug­ges­tion to the con­trary is not in keep­ing with the wishes of Amer­ica’s founders.

A grad­u­ate of the Univer­sity of Mis­sis­sippi, Wayne Madsen is a pro­gres­sive com­men­ta­tor whose writ­ings have ap­peared in lead­ing Amer­i­can and Euro­pean news­pa­pers. Read­ers may write him at 415 Choo Choo Lane, Val­rico, FL 3359

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