This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Ignorant Members of Congress Seek to Limit Census Bureau Data Collection

Congressman Jeff Duncan (Republican from South Carolina) has introduced a bill into the House of Representatives that would:
"repeal the authority to conduct certain censuses." Among other things, it would effectively repeal the Census of Agriculture, the Economic Census, the Census of Governments, and American Communities Survey, and largely limit the function of the Census Bureau to conducting the "short form" decennial census once every ten years.
The exact language is available here, where it is noted that the bill has other sponsors, including Mr. Chaffetz (R-Utah), Mr. Harris (R-Maryland), Mr. Jones (R-North Carolina), Mr. Pearce (R-New Mexico), Mr. Ribble (R-Wisconsin), and Mr. Southerland (R-Florida).

A Huffington Post article on this bill includes a good quote from the former Director of the Census, Kenneth Prewitt:
"It's so unimaginable. It would be like saying we don't need policemen anymore, we don't need firemen anymore," said Prewitt. "To say suddenly we don't need statistical information about the American economy, or American society, or American demography, or American trade, or whatever -- it's an Alice in Wonderland moment."
Mr. Duncan's office claims that his main concern is that these surveys are an invasion of privacy (despite the layers of protection built into them), but it is more likely that this is just gross ignorance of how important these data are to the workings of the economy and other sectors of society. Mr. Duncan is, after all, the same person who once compared undocumented immigrants to vagrants and animals.

Ignorance of this kind is not bliss; it is very dangerous, especially when associated with elected officials who might be able to inflict real damage on American society. As the Huffington Post notes:
...supporters of the Census Bureau and of government-backed science are acutely aware that pieces of such measures have a way of getting attached to higher-priority legislation. In March, a measure from Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) that bars the National Science Foundation from doing political science research this year slid through the Senate attached to legislation to keep the government running.
And Duncan's bill comes as Congress has already proposed slashing the Census budget 13 percent below the president's request, and the bureau lacks a director to complain. There is also no secretary or deputy secretary at the Commerce Department, which oversees the bureau and would generally advocate its cause in Congress.
Unfortunately, it seems that the blame for the lack of an appointed director of the Census (Thomas Mesenbourg is the Acting Director) lies with the Obama Administration for not having made an appointment.

1 comment:


    FYI...not good news for Egypt, I think.