Nothing lost by completing Census

By Kevin Wilson

Checking my mail after a week at the state basketball tournament was an adventure in futility. Bills I already paid online, magazines I won’t read and coupons I won’t use.

But wait, something I have to do — the Census.

I had my problems with the Census, particularly the $2.5 million Super Bowl ad with D-list actors talking about mailing the Census back. But let’s assume that Super Bowl ad draws good publicity, or outrage because of how bad it was. If that ad causes a 1 percent jump in mail-back response, that’s $85 million that won’t be spent on door-to-door workers.

The Census’ big talking point is that it takes only 10 minutes to fill out the census form and mail it back. I put the talking point to the fire, and pulled out both my Census form and my stopwatch.

My total time, from kitchen table, to mailbox and back to kitchen table was 3:44.9. I wanted to have a punchline for that, but gave up after four minutes.

And now I won’t be getting a visit from a door-to-door Census worker. Sorry, Census, your workers won’t get to see me at home in my sweatpants. That’s reserved for Jehovah’s Witnesses and door-to-door salespeople who insist they’re not scammers but won’t let me independently verify their operations before I sign anything.

But I guess others are suspicious of the Census, or were suspicious. Like Minnesota Rep. Michelle Bachmann, who suggested that people should not comply with the Census — until, presumably, she realized her job was on the line.

“If Minnesota loses a congressional seat,” a Minneapolis Star Tribune editorial noted, “Bachmann’s populous Sixth District could be carved into pieces. She likely would have to battle another incumbent to hang on to her seat. We’ve noticed that her anticensus rhetoric has lately ceased. We hope she got wise: Census compliance is not only in Minnesota’s best interest, but also her own.”

And it’s also in eastern New Mexico’s collective interest, not just in the department of federal funds that we get a great share of due to Cannon Air Force Base. A population drop isn’t the kind of thing merchants and industry put high on their list when choosing suitors.

Am I concerned about privacy? Not really. The average pizza delivery chain in Clovis has more information on me than I just gave to the Census. I’m more concerned about immunity for telecom companies who cleared the way for warrantless wiretaps. Or the data mining allowed under the Patriot Act. Or governmental “checkpoints” where the only probable cause is driving on a taxpayer-funded road.

None of those are covered by Constitutional mandates. But the Census is. Mailing it back to me is just as American as voting or standing at attention for the anthem.

And now, I still have 6:15 left on the time I budgeted for the Census. Hmmm, read my magazine or think of something witty to close out on.

Magazine it is.