In an effort to make sure I get ALL sides of a story (because sometimes there are even more than two) I read a couple of conservative blogs. It makes my husband nuts, so it’s really a win-win situation for everyone.
So one of the headlines on The Drudge Report screamed, “Census workers can enter your apartment in your absence?” I just had to click on it. The scary link led me to blog by, well, an insane person, who I don’t even want to give validity to. Oh, well, you’ll see his name in a minute–it’s Mr. Bob Barr. Great. Now he’s going to show up on MY Google search. I’ll look like I’m one of them. Let’s just rename him in order to avoid slander—we’ll call him Mr. Crazy.
Mr. Crazy claimed,
“What many Americans don’t realize, is that census workers — from the head of the Bureau and the Secretary of Commerce (its parent agency) down to the lowliest and newest Census employee — are empowered under federal law to actually demand access to any apartment or any other type of home or room that is rented out, in order to count persons in the abode and for “the collection of statistics.” If the landlord of such apartment or other leased premises refuses to grant the government worker access to your living quarters, whether you are present or not, the landlord can be fined $500.00.”
Now this immediately didn’t pass the sniff test for me, so I googled the title of Mr. Crazy’s article title, “Census workers can enter your apartment” and was shocked to find it return 64,100 hits for this topic. Okay, maybe The Drudge Report is on to something. Let me look a little closer…
Mr. Crazy’s name is on all these articles! I found it being posted on Hannity. Great. Now it’s going to be the crawl at the bottom of Faux News.
Fine, I thought, I’ll just find out what the census site says about this. I try googling “Census law, workers” and a couple of other terms and I keep getting Mr. Crazy’s article! This is why the Conservatives are winning. One wacko writes something without ONE TINY SHREAD OF FACT OR EVIDENCE and he’s running amok on the Web.
Please, Mr. Crazy, can you cite the federal law that empowers Census workers “to actually demand access to any apartment or any other type of home or room that is rented out, in order to count persons in the abode and for “the collection of statistics.”
More searching….more sightings of Mr. Crazy’s article. I know this is going to be a rant on some of my conservative friends’ Facebook pages (see my entry, Why I fight with Conservatives).
FINALLY. The Census site has an FAQ section. I get this little gem hidden among the “we are not going to deport you if you are an illegal alien unless you live in Arizona” questions.
The law does require the cooperation of building managers and gated communities to allow us to enter the building or neighborhood to conduct the census and other surveys. The Constitution mandates a count of everyone, including people living in these situations.
It goes on to say, “Note that the census taker will never ask to enter your home” (link). Look, see how easy that was. I wanted to cite a fact rather than an opinion and I provided a link to where I got the information. Where is your citation to your federal law, Mr. Crazy?
Before I wrap up with the final citation, let’s do a tiny bit of research about Mr. Crazy. Let’s see what his agenda is. Is he a reporter that reports facts or a columnist who wants readers. Perhaps he’s a politician with an agenda. Now none of these things are wrong in and of themselves–I’m a writer with opinions and facts and I want readers. I also have an agenda. I just don’t write my agenda under the guise of “reporting.” This is something apparently Faux News hasn’t yet figured out.
Ah, here is Mr. Crazy’s bio.
- He is a practicing lawyer (remember this one in a minute).
- He represented the 7th District of Georgia in the U. S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003.
- He was the 2008 Libertarian Party nominee for President of the United States.
- From 2003 to 2008, he worked at the American Conservative Union.
- He is a member of The Constitution Project’s Initiative on Liberty and Security.
- He was a member of a project at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government addressing matters of privacy and security.
- He serves as a board member for Privacy International, a privacy watchdog group headquartered in London.
- And finally, former New York Times columnist William Safire called him “Mr. Privacy.”
So now I know that I was addressing him incorrectly. He shouldn’t be called “Mr. Crazy” he should be called “Mr. Privacy.” Whatever. None of these things are wrong. A lot of these groups are probably right. I don’t want the government snooping in my house. But not because they are going to find something, just that if they are snooping, I’ll feel obligated to keep my house cleaner. As one responder to the original article wrote, “If they come into my house, I feel it is only right that they clean it before they leave.” I agree completely.
Now…let’s actually get to the heart of this very scary matter. Does, as Mr. Privacy claims, the governement actually allow Census workers to “demand access to any apartment or any other type of home or room that is rented out, in order to count persons in the abode and for “the collection of statistics?”
Thankfully there are people out there who are smarter than I and actually KNOW the law. Or at least where to find the law. Justia.com has the US Code for the Census. Chapter 7: Offenses and Penalties: Subchapter II– Other Persons (see, this is why no one reads the laws–they’re too darn confusing)
TITLE 13 > CHAPTER 7 > SUBCHAPTER II > § 223
§ 223. Refusal, by owners, proprietors, etc., to assist census employees
Whoever, being the owner, proprietor, manager, superintendent, or agent of any hotel, apartment house, boarding or lodging house, tenement, or other building, refuses or willfully neglects, when requested by the Secretary or by any other officer or employee of the Department of Commerce or bureau or agency thereof, acting under the instructions of the Secretary, to furnish the names of the occupants of such premises, or to give free ingress thereto and egress therefrom to any duly accredited representative of such Department or bureau or agency thereof, so as to permit the collection of statistics with respect to any census provided for in subchapters I and II of chapter 5 of this title, or any survey authorized by subchapter IV or V of such chapter insofar as such survey relates to any of the subjects for which censuses are provided by such subchapters I and II, including, when relevant to the census or survey being taken or made, the proper and correct enumeration of all persons having their usual place of abode in such premises, shall be fined not more than $500.
While I admit that this sounds all scary, several lawyers specializing in landlord/manager law (oh, look here’s a link. Or two) actually explain what the law means. Very simply, that a landlord must open up a gated or locked building to an authorized Census taker. Not into a house or apartment that is empty (because there’s no one to count, DUH). Just into a building so the poor Census workers can knock on doors and get yelled at by Conservatives who don’t know the Constitution (which HERE states that yes, you must answer the questions so that Obama can put you into some sort of brain-washing camp). BTW, that is sarcasm, just in case you want to say, “SEE! He IS going to put us into brain-washing camps.” and that ends up being the crawl on the bottom of Faux News.
All this being said, I do think individuals as well as landlords/condo managers DO need to be safe. Remember, Census takers will never enter a home. They will not ask for a driver’s license, Social Security number, credit card numbers or bank accounts and they will have an official government badge strung around their neck.
Sadly, more Census workers are being harmed than the people the evil Census workers are calling on. I think we have angry men like Mr. Privacy to thank for that.
It scares me that such anger and falsehood is running around the web regarding the Census (and everything else in the world). I remember being excited to fill it out with my parents when I was little. I had these illusions of the President sitting at his desk looking over each form. The Census determines how money is spent in our Nation, how districts are represented in the government. Failing to accurately report who is living in your house does nothing but prevent your district from receiving federal funding that they are due. The reason they ask race (which they’ve done for FOREVER) is to make sure schools are offering programs to those who may not speak English. They want to make sure they aren’t offering ESL to an area that has 100% English speakers (like that’s gonna happen). They want to make sure services actually GET to the people who need them.
The 1850 Census was the first one to ask about slaves, women and children and asked:
- color (white, black or mulatto) for each person
- whether deaf and dumb, blind, insane or idiotic
- value of real estate owned (required of all free persons)
- profession, occupation or trade of each male over 15 years of age
- place (state, territory or country) of birth
- whether married within the year
- whether attended school within the year
- whether unable to read and write (for persons over 20)
- whether a pauper or convict
Wouldn’t Mr. Privacy have a field day with this one! Something Mr. Privacy WOULD like, was the size of the government in 1840. The Census estimated the population of the United States at 17,100,000 and the results were tabulated by 28 clerks in the Bureau of the Census.