IN HIS confirmation hearing last month, Wilbur Ross noted he may be the first secretary of commerce nominee who was once a U.S. census taker. Those skills could come in handy right about now: A recent report indicates the 2020 Census is in trouble.
Mr. Ross, who as a business-school student served the Census Bureau as an enumerator in Boston, is scheduled to see a confirmation vote next week. If it is a yes, he should get to work immediately, looking to the report published this month by the Government Accountability Office that includes the decennial among its list of “high risk” operations.
There is a reason the Founding Fathers saw fit to make the census part of the Constitution: The national head count is critical to a functional democracy. Not only is it a vital research tool, but also the census determines how many seats each state gets in the House of Representatives and how district lines are drawn. Any doubt about the data’s validity could cause a crisis in the redistricting battle which will follow the census and affect the elections in 2022 — which is why it is essential that the bureau gets it right.
The census may be the most important thing in government that no one talks about. That the 2020 report could lack integrity would be worrying on its own, and it would be even more so under an administration that has repeatedly displayed a disdain for data. Saving the census would give Mr. Ross an early opportunity to prove that he, at least, cares about accurate numbers.Keep in mind that the President can propose a budget, but ultimately it has to be approved by both houses of Congress. So, this thing that "no one talks about" needs to be talked about to our elected representatives as the budget process moves forward.