By Frank James
The arrival of census forms always seems to bring out the anti-government types who see the decennial headcount as only the first wave of the federal government's grand scheme to rob Americans of their constitutional liberties. Presumably, the black helicopters would form a follow-on wave.
I was recently watching C-Span during an appearance by Census Bureau director Robert Groves and heard some viewers claim that census takers had no right to ask for any information beyond how many people live in a dwelling. They went further to say that they would claim their Miranda rights if the census takers persisted in asking questions.
Groves used perhaps the best argument, the true facts, to explain why the anti-census callers were flat-out wrong. The Constitution actually gives Congress the authority to decide how the census should be conducted, including what questions should be asked. See the clip below:
In case Groves isn't convincing enough, census skeptics might want to consult Factcheck.org.
In a posting aptly titled "Census Nonsense" journalist Brooks Jackson does a very good job of debunking the arguments for not cooperating with the census put forward in a popular YouTube video by a guy Jackson describes as:
... A Burbank, Calif.-based TV camera operator and video producer named Jerry Day.
Day's video had received more than 1.6 million viewings on YouTube.com as of March 18, and it has received considerable attention on conservative and anti-government blogs and Web sites. Day bears an uncanny resemblance to the late Harry Reasoner of ABC News, which may give him an undeserved air of authority in some eyes. In fact, Day's denunciation of the Census is full of misinformation and false claims.
A sample of Jackson's rebuttal:
Day is off base again when he says that "presumably Census data may be subpoenaed by law enforcement" and used in court. Quite the contrary, the law says clearly that individual Census reports are "immune from legal process" including subpoenas.
U.S. Code, Title 13, Section 9: Copies of census reports ... shall be immune from legal process, and shall not, without the consent of the individual or establishment concerned, be admitted as evidence or used for any purpose in any action, suit, or other judicial or administrative proceeding.
The law also forbids the sharing of individual Census reports with any other "department, bureau, agency, officer, or employee of the Government" (including the CIA and FBI) and prohibits release of anything but statistical information that does not identify individuals or businesses. Furthermore, the law makes it a crime punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000 for any Census official to make unauthorized release of information. (Census says the fine can be up to $250,000 under Title 18.)
Perhaps the best reason anti-government census skeptics should complete out their census forms is, if they don't, they will most assuredly be visited by a census enumerator. Why not just save everybody the trouble?