April 26, 1990

Snafu of the Decade

Call the dogs, Maw, here comes the census taker!!!

The framers of our constitution, in their collective wisdom, decided to apportion the House of Representatives according to population. To do that, it is necessary to know what the population of the various states is; so congress mandated that a census be taken every ten years. There weren't many people to count back then, so it wasn't a very big job. Besides, they didn't have to count Indians and slaves.

The census has gone far beyond what was originally intended, and it's now a major source of information. It is the denominator for every statistic, from the percentage of people who are employed, to the number of rolls of toilet paper used by the average person in a year. This is important stuff!!

I hear that the Census Bureau is going to hire a new batch of employees to locate those people who haven't returned their census forms. To hear them talk, you would think that the public has been somewhat negligent in returning their forms. Maybe some have; but what about the "countless" people who never received their forms?

I'm still waiting for them to find me; and I intend to go on waiting. At the time of this writing, April 26, I have yet to receive a census form. I know that there is a penalty for failure to return a form, but what is the penalty for not having ever received one? How about a $100 fine for each individual missed --assessed against the head of the bureau? John G. Keane would be the only bureaucrat who ever had to pay the government. --No, that wouldn't work. You'd have to have another census to find out who was missed.

Of course, the Census Bureau probably has a good reason for not having sent me a form. Maybe I'm an undocumented alien who can't speak English. No, that couldn't be it. They have people out beating the bushes for those and they will probably find them. They have census takers who can speak languages from Armenian to Zulu. Some, I understand, even speak English.

Maybe it's my Klingon cloaking device. That's why they can't find me even though I'm plainly VISIBLE. I have a POST OFFICE BOX, TELEPHONE, BANK ACCOUNT, PENSION plan, and I get a SOCIAL SECURITY check every month. My WIFE is GAINFULLY EMPLOYED by SEVERAL EMPLOYERS. We pay STATE and FEDERAL INCOME TAX and county PROPERTY TAXES. How VISIBLE can a person be? If the Jehovah's Witnesses can manage to find us each year, why can't the Census Bureau.

If they never find me, I won't be counted. Just call me No-a-count Ira. What will that do to the country? If there are enough people like me, Mendocino County will be under represented in the State Assembly and California will be under-represented in the House of Representatives. There may be fewer politicians with jobs --Horrors!!! California would not receive its fair share of the federal honey pot. Even worse, if they miss me and my wife, the next edition of the World Almanac will list the population of the United States as 248,372,401 instead of 248,372,403.

It was during World War II, that some genius invented the acronym SNAFU, meaning Situation Normal All F_ _ _ ed Up. It was used to describe the military. Now it is applied to any organization.

That the Census Bureau is snafu doesn't surprise me. The bureau doesn't do much for eight years, then it hustles like hell for a year or two. That's the equivalent of sitting in a rocking chair for a whole year and then running the Boston Marathon. You just can't expected it to work very well.

I have an idea for determining the population of the country. It's the way that the pollsters, and some scientists, do it. Station a census taker at strategic points in every state: Hollywood and Vine in L.A.; Market and Powell in S.F.. They count the number of people who go by in an hour. Multiply that by 24 hours and multiply that by the area of the state in square meters. Multiply that by half the reciprocal of Pi (that would be known as the Census Fudge Factor). Add up the figures for the various states, and you have the population.

Would it be accurate? Of course not --but it would be a hellofalot cheaper.

I like to end a column on an upbeat note: If our country ever gets a Gestapo-type secret police force, it would probably be just as efficient as the Census Bureau.

Next column

Return to the Light Stuff Home Page

Return to Ira's Home Page