It’s stories like this that feed the popular conception among the rabid right that government can’t do anything right. If they can’t correlate the box I rent from the same government sending me the mail … ?
All that aside, the census is our one opportunity every decade to send messages to the government that will most certainly be heard. Elements of the federal budget, particularly social services and programs, depend on analysis of the data collected on what sort of folks live here and just who they are, collectively. Which raises the question of how much we want to tell our government about our affairs to begin with.
I remember the “redevelopment” of west Oakland, Calif., where the entire Victorian-era residential neighborhood between downtown and the port was torn out for project housing. The fact that the census stats had labeled the area a poverty pocket was strictly coincidental and a result of its population of black working families imported from the rural south during the wartime shipyard boom. The relocation of the black folks to the east of town destroyed their semi-organized west Oakland community, with its nightclubs, rib joints and small shops serving the neighborhood. In retrospect the racist policies of the all-white city government of the time are obvious, but the census allowed them to commission studies on the need to clean up the “slums.”
Today, in the wake of the hate campaign against President Barack Obama and the
Democrats, elements of the paranoid right wing fringe are urging people not to fill out the informational questions, claiming that the entire program is part of Obama’s secret socialist agenda. The issue of whether we are required to provide any information beyond the basic “how many of what sort of people are living where” has yet to be tested, and you can bet that the wing nut patriots will go to court if challenged.
But it does raise some interesting options.
Somewhere in the past 10 years, I had cause to look up the population figures on my little town and discovered that we had just over 100 people in town, a fifth of them children and a third of retirement age. Someone in town listed themselves as an Aleutian native, and someone else claimed to be a Pacific Islander. Now, I know nearly everyone in town by name if my memory holds, and I have never determined just who these two minority members might be.
With this in mind, the prospects for organizing your neighbors and friends to shape a social portrait of your community with a mind to the potential federal stimulus projects and other community goals that might be served by one or another slightly slanted statistical model.
Just a thought on how to resist the apparently inevitable.
“Travus T. Hipp” is a 40-year veteran radio commentator with six stations in California carrying his daily version of the news and opinions. “The Poor Hippy’s Paul Harvey,” Travus is a member of the Nevada Broadcasters Hall of Fame, but unemployable in the Silver State due to his eclectic political views.