U.S. House Votes for Ignorance

22 May

Daniel Detests Data

I need to thank an amazing social worker and advocate for social justice, Sarah Bradley for inspiring me to write this article.

In a little-noticed move last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to kill the American Community Survey. This move is the latest in a series of tea-soaked efforts to deny science and block information. The annual survey, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, is a critical information-gathering tool. The detailed information is used to understand funding, business, and legislative needs at the state, local and federal level. The information gathered also helps identify those populations in poverty and who are marginalized.  The people who rely on the information range from social workers to economists, from activists to business leaders. In fact, the move to abolish the survey was opposed by an unlikely alliance of players ranging from the NAACP to the American Chamber of Commerce.

The primary sponsor of the legislation was Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL). (You just know that the irony of someone with that name opposing the gathering of knowledge has the renowned orator and intellectual Rep. from Massachusetts spinning in his grave.) Babbling a scattershot of reasons for the move — all of which adds up to “we don’t like it” — Webster defies logic at every turn. He rails against the survey as too intrusive while using its data on his own website. He argues that it is anti-business when every major business organization in the country supports the use of the survey. And, in a remarkable display, Webster says

This is a program that intrudes on people’s lives, just like the Environmental Protection Agency or the bank regulators. We’re spending $70 per person to fill this out. That’s just not cost effective, especially since in the end this is not a scientific survey. It’s a random survey.

Really? Do you know what “scientific” means? It means RANDOM. And spending $70 per person to effectively determine where to channel BILLIONS of dollars is wasteful? And banking regulations are intrusive? It truly seems like the Devil and Daniel Webster’s Details.

So far the Senate has blocked efforts to kill the survey, but the equally info-phobic Rand Paul has promised to bring it forward again. Since it is attached to budgetary legislation, there’s an excellent chance that a compromise could significantly weaken the survey (such as making it voluntary, thus greatly reducing its usefulness). Anyone who is interested in an informed government should contact their congresspeople and insist that they not tamper with this important tool.


12 Responses to “U.S. House Votes for Ignorance”

  1. William May 22, 2012 at 6:35 am #

    These people Deify the “Founding Fathers” and act as though the U,S Constitution is Holy Writ yet at the same time trample on everything the “Father’s” tried to do.

    It was Their idea to have a Census bureau track and research the various demographics of American society to better understand and attend to the needs of the individual “communities”

    Yet More proof that these people only care for and support the parts that they Like and pretend the rest was just a “suggestion” not to be taken seriously.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt May 22, 2012 at 6:42 am #

      You are absolutely correct. By choosing not to look at marginalized populations, they help to sustain a white hetero male dominated discourse.

      • William May 22, 2012 at 7:03 am #

        The Status Quo yet again. I Honestly wish time travel were possible

        I would just Love to put some of these ignoramuses in a room with the likes of “Jefferson” or “Paine” after they have a chance to review the Modern State of Affairs that have developed in this country.

        Hell “Franklin” would have a Field Day ripping their Political Dogma to shreds with a smile and a wink.

      • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt May 22, 2012 at 9:40 am #

        Somebody needs to “rip their political dogma to shreds.”

  2. Christine Noble May 22, 2012 at 1:32 pm #

    They want to do away with all government so all we have are boards of directors.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt May 22, 2012 at 7:17 pm #

      I fear the 1% wants full control and continues to oppress marginalized populations.

  3. nevercontrary May 22, 2012 at 4:43 pm #

    I love how it is totally ok for the govt to regulate all the things they want, but never anyone elses.
    Makes me want to pull my hair out. But I have cute hair, so eff them.

  4. Jay May 22, 2012 at 6:31 pm #

    My first reaction was “$70 per US resident is over $21 billion dollars, and I’ll bet this survey costs nowhere near that.” Then I figured he meant 70 bucks per respondent to the survey, and did a little math and concluded his complaints are still utterly bogus.

    I used to work in market research–1000 completed surveys for $70,000 sounds downright cheap, well below private sector industry norms for good quality quantitative research (which includes a properly weighted and randomized sample of potential respondents–you are of course correct that his complaints about ‘random’ betrays either a deep ignorance of statistics, or cynical demagoguery on an epic scale).

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt May 22, 2012 at 7:20 pm #

      My honest wish is that you would run for elected office and make me your campaign manager. I fear you are far too bright and would not suffer fools easily.

      • Jay May 22, 2012 at 8:27 pm #

        What a flattering response. Thanks, Michael, but I think I’d be better as a guy behind the scenes, a Rove-for-good rather than evil, than as a candidate. You can bring the passion and the principles necessary to be a good leader, and I’ll be a number-cruncher and bullshit-detector whispering in your ear.

      • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt May 23, 2012 at 6:26 am #

        If I were to ever entertain such an idea as running for office, I would certainly want you an a number-cruncher and as my bullshit-detector.

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