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Jun 17, 2020

Are You Losing Your Census?

I’ve turned mine in three times, so bring on the district benefits!

By Ed Goldman
By the time United States Census 2020 is completed, I’ll either show up as someone who has a number of humans in my home instead of just one, or as someone with multiple personalities, all with the same name.

This is because the same day I received my first Census inquiry, I responded on line. I’ve since received the survey twice in the U.S. mail, which may indicate the Post Office thinks if it turns in a bunch of extra-credit work right about now, Congress won’t try to privatize it or push to abolish it. Congress is pretty limited in what it can do; the Post Office was established by the U.S. Constitution and is an agency of the government.

Too bad there’s not a Blue Book essay exam for the USPS to argue its case—you can really lay it on with a trowel in those: 

“I think the United States Post Office is essential for United States taxpayers to continue to keep funding because of the United States Post office’s essentialness and need to keep being funded. In fact, in the history of United States taxpayer funding, I cannot think of something better to keep funding than the very, very, very essential United States Post Office. I would write oh so much, much, much more but you asked us to keep our answers to 50 words, which I passed after my first use of the word ‘keep’ and is now, including this essential addendum, up to 103 words.”     

As you may or may not recall—there’s no reward for doing so and no penalty for not—I wrote on June 8 about my affection for the United States Postal Service and especially my unofficial pen pal, Postmaster General Megan Brennan. Her appointment some years ago firmly established that if the USPS had a glass ceiling, it was just waiting to be shattered. This kind of glass shattering is good, whereas smashing in the windows of stores and making off with major appliances earlier this month—to demonstrate one’s condemnation of racial injustice—probably isn’t. I mean, whoever hires the idiots who turned otherwise peaceful protests into a reboot of “Apocalypse Now” might want to explain the difference between “figuratively” and “literally” breaking glass. It probably won’t change anything for them but at least they’ll have something to debate at their next mixer besides ”Duane forgot the Velveeta again.”

In short (I know: too late),  I don’t blame the Post Office for sending the multiple forms. And I’d like to believe that the Census Bureau will come across my first response and delete the others. To be sure, they’re all identical. The Bureau won’t find in one response that I live here with only an almost-18-year-old cat, in another that I have a hockey team renting rooms upstairs, and in still another, that my three-bedroom place contains a subterranean bat-cave unnervingly close to the American River water table.

A Shock to His Census? The photographer, of course, is me.

I must have filled out the form three times in a spasm of unchecked anarchy and I sincerely regret having done so. As evidence I could otherwise control my sense of rebellion, I also refrained from breaking my own windows and running down the street with my microwave. 

In reality, I just wanted to see if anyone would catch it—as I’m likely to, if sending in something to the government in triplicate when it hasn’t been requested is an arcane misdemeanor of some sort (Illegal Wry Transfer?). 

Lest you doubt it, I think the Census is an otherwise serious matter.

The Bureau itself explains it at its website. The 2020 Census will help determine “how hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding are allocated to more than 100 programs, including Medicaid, Head Start, block grants for community mental health services, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program… .”

Wait! There’s more! “The results will show where communities need new schools, new clinics, new roads, and more services for families, older adults, and children.”

So if anyone at the Census Bureau is reading this—and why on earth would you be when you have all that counting to do—please accept my apology for “gaming the system,” an expression that makes it sound as though I did something much more diabolical—like spending $500,000 with a consultant who said he could get my kid a chess scholarship to Rutgers. Or smuggling Velveeta across state lines.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).