By Ray Knapp
Earlier this month, I received an American Community Survey from the United States Census Bureau. I never received one of these before; being somewhat suspicious, as some of the questions were very personal. They wanted to know if you were married, and if so, how many times? With so many of these type of questions, and with numerous scams going on, I thought about calling Senator Rusty Crowe, or Representative Phil Roe, to see if this was for real or not. But, after doing online research and calling the toll free number provided, I determined it was real. (hopefully)
One of the first things I noted was the threat of a $5,000 dollar fine being imposed for refusal of the resident to answer all the questions; also that the resident would receive a visit from Census Bureau Personnel if they refused to participate and answer all questions. With the words, “fines and Under Penalty of Law,” being bandied about, plus the threat of a visit from Census Bureau Personnel – I filled out the survey.
Of course the first question was: Who was the person or persons living at that address, and had anyone lived with them during the past year, even for a short while. I didn’t know if that meant weekend visitors or not, which made me a little nervous when I answered, “No.” A few of my kids came up from Atlanta for an overnight stay, or a day or two visit during the past year. Did that count? I didn’t know what my house was worth either. (One of the questions) I figured realtor Scott Metcalf could answer for me, but I couldn’t get in touch with him; I just pulled a number out of the hat and put that down.
I recall filling out a questionnaire back in my Navy days for a Secret Clearance; this survey was even more thorough. By the way, I did receive that clearance and when asked, would somewhat proudly say: “Yes, I do have a Secret Clearance.” I was never privy to any secret information that I know of. Generally, you can read all about secret stuff in the newspaper. I recall going to Ice Observer School back in ’59. One of our submarines was conducting experiments up around the North Pole and had been able to break through yea-many feet of ice. Someone mentioned this to our instructor, who turned pale, and asked in all seriousness: “Where did you get that information? That’s Top Secret.”
“Right here in the newspaper,” the student replied, pulling out a copy of the Washington Post.
Officially, the American Community Survey (ACS) helps local officials, community leaders, and businesses understand the changes taking place in their communities. It is the premier source for detailed population and housing information about our nation – or at least that is their statement. However, several U.S. representatives have challenged the ACS as unauthorized by the Census Act and a violation of the Right to Financial Privacy Act. Representative Ron Paul of Texas, who opposes the ACS, said of it that the founding fathers of the United States “never authorized the federal government to continuously survey the American people.” But, regardless of numerous challenges, the courts have upheld its legality.
Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote the poem, “The Charge of the Light Brigade” which is one of my favorites, especially a couple of lines in the second stanza: “Theirs not to make reply, theirs not to reason why.”
It seems Americans have found their voice and are reasoning why. Not just me questioning the invasive personal ACS questions, but more importantly, school children questioning our elected officials as to why they can’t attend public schools in a safe environment, free from the threat of a mass shooting at their school?
If common sense prevailed, instead of personnel in the Census Bureau coming up with invasive questions to justify their jobs; or politicians afraid to lose the endorsement of the NRA by opposing some of their views, I wouldn’t be wondering if some questions posed by the ACS could be for nefarious reasons, or if political endorsement by the NRA was more important than the lives of our school children?