Census Pre-Notice: Government Waste At Its Finest.

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Did you get a “About one week from now, you will receive a 2010 Census form in the mail. When you receive your form, please fill it out and mail it in promptly.” notice from the government in the last week? I am really bothered by the fact that our government, which has no money to begin with right now, chose to send out millions of sheets of paper by mail letting us know that yet more paper is coming next week. Why was this necessary? As much as I appreciate how important the census is, I cannot help but wonder if that money could have been used towards something a little more needed – like school textbooks or medicine and food for the poor. You won’t hear me complain about the government wasting money on “socialized” things like roads, bridges, parks, airlines, libraries, etc – but you will hear me complain about this kind of waste. This is the kind of thing that really irks me about government waste – totally unnecessary, expensive, and a waste of resources. I really do wonder what these people are thinking some times…

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  1. Yep, I got it and I had the exact same response. Can’t believe what a waste of money and trees. As if there would be shear confusion if people just received the census and not a pre-notice.
    I think the continuous commercials on tv of the importance of it is pre-notice enough.
    Even if someone doesn’t have a tv I am sure just blindly receiving the census with brief instructions would be sufice.

  2. And it’s not like the government doesn’t hire a wee army of people to knock on the doors of homes that don’t return the census … usually homes in the employee’s own neighborhood, which may have less of an impact than this mailing does.

  3. Seriously … and apparently public schools are indoctrinating our children about the census. My kid was singing a song the other day about “everyone being counted” and I realized it was about the census.

  4. While I hate to think of wasted resources and try to cut down on my consumption etc. (this is the bit where I try to prove my eco-focus before I disagree). There are valid reasons for this approach. A large portion of research literature surrounding response rates for census data and other surveys suggests that a multiple approach works best. That is, telling people you will contact them, contacting them and then following up is the best way to ensure a high response rate. There are a number of reasons for this – for example, if people know a survey is coming, they are less likely to ignore it when it turns up. Surprizingly this can significantly increase response rates and cut down on the human follow up needed once the census is distributed. So while it is problematic that all of this has been done in paper (giving an online option and not distributing a paper copy to people who opt out would be great), at a practial level it increases responses and for the same response rate, requires fewer return visits for the information.
    I’m not living in the US (in New Zealand actually) but the literature is pretty international and many studies back this up. Hope it helps clarify.

  5. Actually, I think it makes sense. Following up with nonresponders is the most expensive and labor-intensive part of the census. So the heads-up mailing could actually save a lot of money by not having to follow up on so many people.

  6. Amen, I was not only thinking that when I received the notice, but also was thinking a few weeks ago how they could make the census project itself less wasteful. I mean I appreciate that hiring people to drive around and knock on doors for the census creates jobs. However, just like Phone Book deliveries, it increases fuel waste, paper waste, emission increase etc etc. I think it would be beneficial to make the census a schedule on your tax forms every 10 years or something of the like. I don’t have the answer, but there is a solution.

  7. The only way to stop wasteful spending, and its eventual debilitating taxation, is to starve the government machine. Yet our founders envisioned even this occurrence in Article V of the Constitution: “Congress ”¦ on the application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, ”¦” The only solution is to amend with

    1. Except in time of declared war against a foreign enemy, the federal government shall balance its budget. Further, the total cash expenditures of the federal government shall not exceed eighteen percent (18%) of the prior year”™s gross domestic product.

    2. Included in budget expenditures will be a 3% annual payment to retire the national debt.

    3. Any increase in taxes or other sources of revenue shall require a 2/3 vote of each chamber of Congress.

    4. No unfunded mandates or requirements shall be placed on state or local governments.

    Please share with others.


  8. There’s another reason for the pre-census-mailout: When they are returned because someone has moved or something, the post office sends them back to the census bureau. The big census forms aren’t sent to that house instead of wasting the paper and postage of unused forms rotting in mailboxes in empty homes.

  9. This kind of reminds me of the notice the government sent out a few years ago about the $600 or $1200 tax refund (2007?) Talk about a waste of billions of dollars.

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