Census shenanigans present a troubling picture of this year’s count

Someone get Sesame Street on the phone. The census is coming and we need to get someone like “The Count” in charge so we can trust the numbers. If he’s unavailable, we should perhaps try to get Count Chocula to at least review the material for accuracy.

The fact that a muppet and a cartoon character seem more reliable than the administration’s appointees to count the population should inspire the appropriate level of confidence.

Aspects of the census are traditionally political. After all, the main point of the exercise is to determine the location and amount of representation in political bodies.

Normally, the political gamesmanship takes place after the census, as politicians in state legislatures take the results and busily begin trying to determine the best way to either isolate and surround their political opponents or carve the strongholds of the other party into little pieces to be swallowed up in antagonistic political subdivisions.

But as a result of the election of President Barack Obama, we now see a direct attempt to politicize the methodology of the count itself. The White House is attempting to direct the process of the census without even attempting the charade of having it run through the Commerce Department.

Funding for this epic attempt at political gamesmanship is astonishing, as the Associated Press discovered this week in reviewing the $15 billion price tag. Of that, $133 million has been allocated to an advertising campaign, including a controversial $2.5 million for televison spots during the Super Bowl.

Much waste has already been discovered, including little things like 10,000 workers paid $300 for training, who quit or were fired before they did any work. Then there was $1.5 million spent on the same training for people who worked less than a day. The Denver office is already one of several regional centers that have mileage costs exceeding their budgets.

Amid all this bureaucratic waste, another area of national and Colorado concern is the lack of differentiation in the immigration status of those counted.

Rep. Michele Bachmann, a Minnesota Republican, points out that the census does not ask if someone is a legal citizen of the United States before being included in the count. Since this number is used to determine representation and the allocation of federal programs, inclusion of illegal noncitizens can inflate the per capita redistribution of taxes.

But that’s not the only tomfoolery at work. There is also an effort to change the way prisoners are counted for the purposes of location.

Traditionally, prisoners were counted as residents of the county in which the prison was located, but a movement has started to have the census record prisoners as residents of the city and state from which they were transported to the penitentiary.

A reason for this is that prisons tend to be located in more rural and conservative areas, and adding population to those regions increases their representation and eligibility for federal and state programs.

Many prisoners, particularly those with gang ties or drug-related convictions, come from large metropolitan areas country prior to their incarceration. And large cities tend to be Democratic strongholds much more than Republican ones. These areas would like to have those prisoners counted as part of their populations to help them increase their congressional and legislative representation and federal per-capita funding.

In January, the state of Colorado was housing over 22,600 inmates in various correctional institutions throughout the state, many in smaller communities like Rifle, Delta, Buena Vista and Stterling.

The federal government is housing a smaller number in federal prisons such as the Super Max facility in Florence (Pop.3,685) with its approximately 500 inmates, including 33 international terrorists and the shoe bomber.

It’s unclear which city might wish to claim them as residents.

One thing in all of this that strikes me as being true is that the small towns willing to accept these inmates and the problems associated with their incarceration in return for jobs have a better claim on the state and nation’s largess than the places that created the problem.

Rick Wagner offers more thoughts on politics at his blog, The War on Wrong, which can be reached through the blogs entry at GJSentinel.com.


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