Beware the American Community Survey

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Census Bureau seeks highly private information from us.

An East Dallas woman is outraged after she claims one U.S. Census worker showed up at her door for a housing survey and would not take “no” for an answer.    Sonia Platz says the Bureau camped out in her yard, hoping that Sonia would change her mind and “cooperate”.

As happened in my own case, I received three copies of the American Community Survey.  I did not return them.  That was followed by phone calls three times a day for over a month, even on the week-ends.  My Caller ID alerted me to not answer.  The follow-up to that was the Census Bureau showing up at my door unannounced to get me to cooperate. The third visit was from a state supervisor, computer in hand. I told her I would not answer her questions.  I offered to anonymously reply by cutting off my name and address and leaving just my city.  No, that was not acceptable, for the information is used to make funding decisions for communities.

I know you must wonder what questions could be so “invasive”, so I will list a few of them.

1) How much did you pay for your home?

2) How much is your home now worth?

3) How much do you pay in real estate taxes?

4) How much are your utility bills?

5) How much is your regular monthly mortgage payment?

6) How many cars, vans and trucks are kept at home for use by members of the household?

7) What type of health insurance do you have?

8) Provide the address of your place of employment

And worst of all, since the information is NOT available at City Hall:

9) What time do you leave for work in the morning and how long does it take you to get there?

Don’t dismiss this story as impossible.  Prepare yourself!  I will share my story. I know that the possible penalty for not complying is a $5000 fine and a term in jail.  However, our Constitution states that the only information the Census is allowed to ask is the number of occupants in the home.  A decision by the Supreme Court on Interstate Commerce Commission v. Brimson in May of 1894 states that “neither branch of the legislative department, still less any merely administrative body such as the Census Bureau, established by congress possesses or can be invested with a general power of making inquiry into the private affairs of the citizen.”

Involving your elected officials at both the state and federal level is powerful.  Representative Dan Benishek and State Representative Greg MacMaster both pledged to go to jail with me and to pay my $5000 fine.  I was happy to tell the Census Bureau Supervisor all about that.

I learned through the Rutherford Institute’s website that 250,000 of these forms are mailed out each month.  More than 45% of Americans do not send the form back, and only 21% of those are harassed by the Census Bureau.  I was told that this is the law, and was passed by Congress.  I responded by saying that I will not comply with any law which I feel is invasive and beyond the rights of our government.  I know that Republicans have attempted to pass a resolution declaring that failure to comply will not result in a penalty.

The Supervisor told me that I should provide all the information – that it is all available at City Hall anyway.  I responded that she could then go to City Hall to get the information.  Well, of course, they don’t have time to do that.

I told her that telling the government just when I leave for work in the morning is a good way for someone to know when to come to my house to rob me.  She declared that they only need that information so that they can check traffic patterns around town.  I responded that she can get a chair and sit on the corner to count cars if she needs that information.

She told me that computer information is oh, so secure.  I told her she doesn’t read much, for every month I learn of data breaches of government computers.  This preceded by several years the information we now have on the government data of 22 million federal workers being compromised, leading to the resignation of the woman in charge of keeping all that information safe.

Just before I shut the door on this State Supervisor of the Census Bureau I told her, “I will not comply.  What are you going to do about it”?  She said, and this is a direct quote, “Well we can’t waterboard you!”  Indeed.




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