The Orwellian American Community Survey
The American Community Survey wasn’t around when Ronald Reagan declared that the nine most terrifying words in the English language are: “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” If it was, he’d probably agree that having a government representative knock on your door, try to threaten their way into your home, and demand that you give them very personal information is far more terrifying.
My nightmare started in January when I received the American Community Survey (ACS) form in the mail. The ACS is an extension of the U.S. Census that all households receive. While the U.S. Census form contains 10 questions and is sent out every 10 years, the ACS form contains 48 questions and is sent to 250,000 households each month on a rolling basis.
The ACS itself is a lesson in government overreach. Article 1 of the Constitution allows for a census every 10 years so that seating in Congress is proportional to state populations. Lawmakers gave the Commerce Department the power to ask more questions, and it took the power and ran, and ran, with it — ending up asking questions unrelated to districting. (ACS answers, according to its website, are to help “manage or evaluate federal and state government programs” — not to help with congressional seating.)