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Today's Flame 

September 29, 1998 |, San Francisco | Issue #004

The People, United, Fix the Census

Census Bureau SealThe science of counting heads is as old as the United States of America

The long-running blood feud in Washington over the use of "sampling" in the year 2000 census shows no sign of relenting and, in fact, is escalating through the legal system. The crux of the dispute is that the Clinton Administration wants to use sampling techniques to account for the large number of Americans who for one reason or another don't cooperate with census takers. The U.S. Census Bureau wants to canvas 90% of Americans and sample the rest.

Democrats support sampling because its constituencies (poor, inner city minorities) tend to be undercounted. Republicans are holding out for the actual enumeration called for in the U.S. Constitution. Since census figures are used to dole out federal aid and draw congressional distincts, a whole of lot of dollars and political power hangs in the balance.

Republicans are likely to win this battle. The Constitution is explicit: "Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by ... actual Enumeration". Of course, the founding fathers could not have been aware of today's sophisticated sampling techniques. It seems as a matter of fairness and accuracy, the sampling should be done.

While the Washington slings mud with statistics and abstruse legal wrangling, no one is addressing the core problem here: minorities who don't stand up and get counted. When you consider the federal government's awesome power, it's no wonder people are afraid. While the Census Bureau has integrity, people are naturally afraid that the Immigration and Naturalization Service might be interested in the large numbers of illegal immigrants, the IRS in discovering lifestyles that don't match tax returns, the Bureau of Firearms and Tobacco in unregistered weapons, etc. Barring a major revolution, there's almost no way to convince the poor and fearful mass of census refusniks to cooperate.

But there is a way to improve the accuracy and fairness of the census without sampling.

Concerned white people of America unite. I propose that, in the absence of sampling, that progressive European-Americans correct the census themselves by boycotting it. When the census takers come, tell them you're boycotting this census in order to correct the minority undercount. Simply don't answer any questions. If pressed, refer them to The Daily Flame Unofficial Census Boycott.

Granted, it's unlikely that The Daily Flame's boycott will be taken seriously by more than a tiny percentage of hard-core nethead radicals. But that's the whole point! Even a small percentage of white boycotters should be enough to offset boycotters-of-color. Presto! Republicans win because no sampling will have to be done. Democrats win because their minority supporters will be no more undercounted than the rest of us. Minority communities will get the representation and dollars they deserve. And white boycotters can enjoy the satisfaction of helping society and the even the greater pleasure of being left alone.

-- Seth Ross

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