MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Columns

March 26, 2010

Census questions count toward representation, debt

“I'm a busy person. Why do I have to fill out this U.S. Census form anyhow?”

“The U.S. Constitution says that every 10 years, the federal government must count every resident in the United States. It sounds simple, but what it really comes down to is politics and money.”

“How does it involve politics?”

“There are 435 seats in the U.S. House. The government uses the population count to determine the number of seats your state will have. In 2002, after the 2000 census results were tallied, 12 seats moved across 18 states.”

“Change happens. What's the big deal?”

“When a state gains or loses seats, the political party in power redraws congressional districts with hopes of making it impossible for the other party to win.”

“Politicians would do that? I’m shocked. But what does the census have to do with money?”

“It determines, says the census form, the ‘amount of government money your neighborhood will receive.’ The idea is that the more people the census determines to be living in a region, the greater percentage of federal dough that region will receive. You better fill out the form to get your fair share.”

“Wait a second. I work hard and pay taxes to the federal government. The government skims off its share, then sends what is left back to me based on the number of people who live in my neighborhood?”

“You’re beginning to understand. The government sends your neighborhood money to fix roads, build bridges and fund all kinds of government programs — so that your House member can take credit.”

“That doesn't sound like a very efficient way to use my money.”

“It’s much worse than that. Our government is spending hundreds of billions more than it is taking in. It is borrowing that money. Your children and grandchildren will be saddled with the cost of that debt.”

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