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(Note: This reader asked to have her name withheld, for fear of government retribution.)
February 3, 2012 (San Diego’s East County)--A woman came to my door today from the U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Census Bureau, because I had not returned the American Community Survey. Honestly, I don't remember receiving it.
She handed me a much used paper which said we are required by law to answer, and threatened fines up to a $5,000 if we do not comply. 
I asked her to wait while I called my “conservative” Congressman's office, which verified this is the law.... and then told me this is good because their office will receive funding.
The questions were extensive, detailed, frequently redundant, and repeated for every member of the household. 
It required information not shared with our closest friends. Our proctologist knows less about us. Even I  know less about us, without doing some research first. I declined to state to on a number of questions, and could truthfully state "don't know" for many more.  
There were more questions than can be listed here, but this gives an idea of the intrusiveness: 
  • Personal information: Name, sex, birthdate, age, race, ethnicity, ancestry, place of birth, are we hispanic, what languages do we speak at home, military service, VA rating, marital status, number of marriages, what year did you last get married, highest education level, major in college, any students in the household etc.
  • Health: Disabilities, visual impairment, auditory impairment, type of health insurance, has one given birth in the last year, was one able to work and do errands in the last year, etc.
  • Employment: Name of employer, address of employer, employment sector, activities performed, hours worked per week, wages earned etc.
  • Income: all types and all amounts of income received - salary, interest, dividends, rent, child support, social security, student financial aid, disability income, food stamps, welfare, total income, etc.
  • Expenses: Cost of homeowners' insurance, annual property taxes, cost of electricity bills, cost of water bills, cost of gas bills, etc.
  • Physical household: acreage, mortgage, current market value, year built, number of rooms, number of bedrooms, how do we heat the home, ovens, sinks, toilets, vehicles, how many years at this address, etc.

The Constitution allows the Federal Government to do an accurate headcount every ten years to allocate Representatives for Congress, but nothing more. There is no such thing as a secure data base in this high tech information age. Besides, this information gathered in this survey will be private for only a limited time, and eventually becomes public access.  
People have been systematically rounded up many times and places in the last century, civil rights violated, possessions stolen, children taken, sometimes genocide has occurred, all based on information gathered by bureaucrats in the name of the public good. Ask Japanese Americans. Native Americans. Jews. Again, the list could go on. "First they came for the communists...."
The pressure and message from the census taker and my Congressman's office were clear: This is for the "good" of the community; if one objects one is not a "good citizen." But where is the boundary? 
Is there even a boundary any more? How far are you willing to trust an anonymous bureaucracy? For what ends? How far do you want your elected representatives to go, for money? 
Speak up! Discuss these questions with your family and neighbors, before it is too late. This is government out of control, and it is dangerous.

The views expressed in this editorial reflect the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of East County Magazine. To submit an editorial for consideration, contact 

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I would have asked if you could have just filed out the basic short form since you found the long form to be an invasion of your Privacy Good luck Rose