The Census collects apparently important information that helps the Federal government decide how to waste money in the future. The population, age and racial demographics help Washington make a choice about whether billions should be poured into cities in Ohio or California, and presumably they have algorithms to ensure it's done in the most cost-ineffective way possible.
The Census is also timely in its arrival since politicians had practically exhausted all other ways of pissing away taxpayer money. After giving away tens of billions to failing banking organizations and automakers and then trillions in stimulus spending (thanks for repaving the road outside my house that was repaved a year ago), there was considerable head-scratching about where the next government accounting blackhole would be, which included:
Setting fire to the money directly as it came from the 24/7 presses under Ben Bernanke's house.
Finding another oil-rich country to liberate.
Releasing Bernie Madoff and electing him head of the Federal Reserve.
Building a bridge to Hawaii. Then making it tsanami-proof.
Fortunately, none of these back-ups were needed since the 2010 Census clocks in at a staggering $14.5 billion, 3 times the cost of the 2000 data collection exercise and 10 times the 1980 cost (not adjusting for inflation which we all know doesn't exist anymore).
Check out my Census Cost page, or the interactive version, and marvel at the sound of dollars being shoehorned into the fireplace. The graph illustrating cost per person isn't particularly helpful given the enormous growth in the last 3 decades, but this picture of Kingda Ka probably gives a better sense of where the costs is headed.
At this rate, the next Census will cost $150 per person, and by 2040 the total billion will be one tenth of a trillion dollars. And in case you're wondering, the annual US GDP is around $14 trillion.
The truly staggering part about this is that the Census only collects the most basic of information (the number of people in your household, their names, ages and ethnicity). Most of this could be pulled from:
IRS tax records
State records - tax, DMV, etc.
Google (probably and, if not, shortly)
And the best part is that the only way to participate is by mail! The Federal Government, ever the trailblazer for adopting technology in airports and any other privacy-crushing enterprises, refuses to acknowledge the Interwebs whenever potential cost saving is involved. Imagine my delight when I had sharpen my pencil and reink my quill this morning to fill out my Census form, rather than opening my browser and answering their questions online in 30 seconds flat. Some guy in Phoenix is now anxiously waiting anxiously for my hand-scripted response so he/she can rekey the data into some 1970s mainframe system.
In what sort of Kafka-inspired madness is this in any way acceptable during these economic times? It defies belief that pretty much any private solution to data collection would come in at 1% of the cost, and get significantly more than the 13% average national response rate we're currently at. 13%! We can barely afford to teach kids to read, but $14 billion to find out everyone's details is apparently a good investment.
In the words of Mugatu, "I feel like I'm taking crazy pills".
Wow, my first census, and I actually get to fill it out all by myself. After seeing the Dora video I was convinced that I needed to do the census to help better my community, Even it's only going to be my community for 1 more month. Little kids count, and so do college kids. So as soon as I got my census in the mail I filled out and sent it back, so proud that I had helped the government realize it needed more than … more
The 2010 US Census is a joke. There is so much waste and corruption. I personally know a Census worker. She is unemployed at the moment and needing some extra money to get by. The cenus job seemed like a great fit. She is finding the whole process is worse than the poorly managed marketing jobs serving samples at WalMart. They attend trainings, then they are told how many hours they can work. Then they are told the work is not available. Then they are told just be ready to work … more
Time has rolled around again for our country's census. This includes having one mailed to your home for you to fill out and mail back as well as census-takers coming to your door. Which one would you prefer? I would much more prefer filling it out and mailing it back. One good thing about the 2010 Census it's offering jobs for the dismal economy. The census is taken to find out the country's population which will allow for proper funding to go to these areas for … more
The Twenty-third United States Census, known as Census 2010, will be the next national census in the United States. The census has been conducted every 10 years since 1790, as required by the United States Constitution, with the previous one completed in 2000. On January 25, 2010, Census Bureau Director Robert Groves personally kicked off the 2010 Census enumeration by counting World War II veteran Clifton Jackson, a resident of Noorvik, Alaska.