Friday, April 02, 2010

Welcome to Tom Tomorrow's "Health Care Reformageddon." Next up in the death struggle against socialism: the census


[Click on the strip to enlarge it.]

by Ken

In how many cities and towns across America did this gripping minidrama play out a couple of weeks ago?
MAILMAN: Howdy, Mr. Williams! Say, I've got you're census forms here!
MR. WILLIAMS: Uh-huh -- and how long do I have before your goons haul me off to the gulag?
MAILMAN: I, uh -- before who does what to where?

So have you gotten your census form in? I carried mine around, still sealed inside its envelope-of-death, for a couple of weeks before finally cracking it open early this week. I was recalling something about an April 1 deadline, of which I couldn't find any evidence once I finally ripped the thing open. I did, however, note the oddity that Al Kamen and no doubt others have pointed out: that the thing had a mailing date of March 15, instructing us to return it "today," but the form in fact asked about the resident(s) of your household as of April 1.

Am I the only one who wonders whether the numbers from the 2010 census will have any meaning at all? With distrust of government having grown so wildly, and morphed into contempt or something close to outright rebellion (is this a year in which you would like to be one of the poor souls charged with dong the fieldwork to fill in the households that didn't respond to the mail-in form? has this not become a life-risking job?), and with the traditionally undercounted groups having no less reason to fear calling attention to themselves as the Obama administration's social policies become ever harder to distinguish from the Bush regime's, how much of the population is going to remain intentionally outside the count?

The other day the Washington Post ran one of its celebrated Post Puff Pieces (Pat. pending) on current Census Director Bob Groves [see also footnote* below], whom the Obama administration lured away from what sounds like his wonky dream job heading the University of Michigan's Survey Research Center to take charge of the census. (He was an associate census director in the '90s.)
A scientist at heart, Groves understood the political perils of the job: He would be second-guessed and lambasted for the cost, questions and methodology used to count 309 million Americans.

As it turns out, though, the 2010 census is mostly out of Director Groves's hands -- beyond seeing it through completion, of course. His real job laying the groundwork for the 2020 census. In one crucial area, the controversial one of "sampling" to make the numbers reflect reality better than the actually collected data, Groves appears to be especially well qualified, though it may not matter much:
He is considered an expert in sampling, a technique in which results are adjusted to compensate for people -- often minorities, immigrants and the poor -- who are undercounted. Many Republicans suspect sampling helps Democrats amass political power.

As an associate census director on leave from Michigan, Groves supported using sampling to adjust an undercount in 1990, but the Supreme Court ruled that methodology couldn't be used to apportion House seats. It can be used to draw district lines and to distribute tax dollars, though.

"Statistical readjustment of the census is a complicated matter, and only about 20 people on Earth understand it," Groves said, noting there is no controversy in using sampling to calculate unemployment rates and the consumer price index. "It's like asking if you believe in surgery. It depends what the disease is and how good the surgeon is. That's how I feel. It depends how good the census is, and how good the adjustment is."

Americans tend not to understand just how important the census is, and how important it is to get the most complete and accurate one we can. Of course the Right has traditionally benefited -- in both dollars and electoral influence -- from undercounting, because undercounting has most afflicted people outside its sphere of influence. It would be ironic if this time around, with the Teabaggers and the assorted other right-wing Faux Patriots in a state of near-insurrection, they wound up being the leading undercount victims.
*FOOTNOTE: The WaPo pledges solemnly, "We
will abandon no right-wing lie before its time"

I note that the currently online-posted version of the above-referenced WaPo puff piece on Census Director Bob Groves leads off with the following "correction":
An earlier edition of this story incorrectly stated that ACORN advisers posed as a prostitute and a pimp. In fact, two conservatives who posed as a pimp and a prostitute sought tax tips from ACORN advisers.

Well, no, WaPo! This is admittedly closer to reality, but all it does is propagate the kazillionth right-wing whopper of 2009. Crusading right-wing lying scumbag hoodlum James "No Lie, No Crime Is Too Big in the Pursuit of Right-Wing Truth" O'Keefe never -- not once, ever -- entered an ACORN office dressed as (his version of) a pimp. (Of course, whom would the Right want as a hero if not a lying scumbag hoodlum?)

Credit our friend Mike Stark for being on top of this story: that it was only for his lying right-wing camera that our Jimmy play-acted out his inner pimp. He's admitted it, and so, however grudgingly, has his patron, Andrew "I Spread the LIes" Breitbart. I don't suppose it's realistic to expect a two-bit backwater village rag like the Post to keep up with the story.


[See Monday-Wednesday's installments in my post from Wednesday night, and Thursday night's strip in my post last night, or visit the Doonesbury website. Don't forget to click on the strips to enlarge them.]


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