Sweepstakes: Census ads illustrate a transformation

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 14, 2010

This year more than ever before the U.S. Census is being promoted as a sweepstakes.

“Results from the 2010 Census will be used to help each community get its fair share of government funds for highways, schools, health facilities and many other programs you and your neighbors need,” director Robert Groves says in a brief notice sent to most Warren County addresses last week. “Without a complete, accurate census, your community may not receive its fair share.”

People who remember civics classes know that the national head count has only one purpose defined in the U.S. Constitution. Groves doesn’t even mention that purpose, which is to assure that district lines can be drawn to apportion seats evenly in representative bodies, such as the U.S. House, as well as state legislatures, town councils and such. To assure the Constitution’s “one-person, one-vote” principle is upheld, district-to-district populations must be as balanced as possible and that can’t be done without counting us.

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Today, however, U.S. Census Bureau advertising materials and information on its Web site appeal to the emotion of greed. “Get your government goodies or somebody else will.”

How we view government’s role in our lives has completely changed. The founders were skeptics, believing government had to be limited, that government governs best when it governs least. Now government is the fountainhead of all good things. Our only duty is to get in line to accept its blessings.

Some conservatives have spoken out, saying the 10 questions on the forms we should receive in the mail this week are too intrusive, not authorized by the Constitution and such. Sorry. The questions are straightforward and most have been asked in some fashion each decade for 100 years or longer.

Complete the form and send it back. The form is not a big deal, nor are the questions.

What is a big deal is how the 2010 Census is being marketed: The federal treasury is a pot of gold. Step right up. Take what you’ve got coming.