Lying and Stealing our Way to a Census

April 22, 2010

For release Tuesday noon April 20 and thereafter (629 words)

Government types tell us that the 2010 Census helps Americans two ways. First, adding 800,000 or so census workers to the federal payroll will reduce our country’s unemployment rate. Second, American neighborhoods will receive more “government money” to the extent they participate in the census.  

The first benefit is bogus — they are lying. However many census workers are added, private-sector employment will fall by that amount or more. Everyone knows there is “no free lunch.” Well, there’s no free census either. More public sector output, the census in this case, comes at a cost of less private sector output, i.e., housing, clothing, food. Census workers are part of the cost of the census, not a benefit.

All the dollars paid to the census workers come from taxing Americans. Even dollars coming from borrowing or the printing press have taxes hiding behind them. Uncle Sam’s ability to borrow traces to his ability to levy future taxes, and the inflation that follows upon fired-up printing presses in effect taxes peoples’ desire to hold or use money. Taxes, in all their permutations, shrink private markets — always.    

The second alleged benefit, getting more government money for our neighborhoods, is an endorsement of theft. It will not “government money” that our neighborhoods tap into when census forms are returned. It Will be money taken from Americans in other neighborhoods. They would have Americans believe that we can stand in a circle with our hands in each others’ pockets and end up wealthier. 

Just the opposite happens; we’ll be poorer, not only because federal bureaucrats always cut a generous slice of the tax pie for themselves but also because federal funding for state and local government goodies spread their cost across all Americans. This gives people an incentive to overindulge in these programs. Why not? Others are picking up most of the tab.  

Consider the case of Indiana. Hoosiers comprise about two percent of the population of the United States. Assuming they pay the same percentage of federal taxes, it follows that a $10-million federally funded program in Indiana costs Hoosiers $200,000. For the program to be economically worthwhile to Hoosiers, then, its benefits need only exceed that figure even though it costs $10 million, the other $9.8 million being paid by other Americans.

The shortfall between benefits to Hoosiers and the programs’ true costs is important. It’s the stuff of lower national living standards, especially when projected across a myriad of other such programs across all 50 states. Bridges to nowhere, anyone? Sure, when someone else is paying.    

Some might think we’ve forgotten the U.S. Constitution’s requirement that there be a census every 10 years. Not true. The requirement appears in Article 1, Section 2, which says nothing about unemployment reduction or encouraging Americans to use Uncle Sam to steal from each other. It just says conduct an “enumeration”—a census. End of story. In our book, that’s reason enough for a census.     

Are we surprised by this year’s census tactics? Not really. Don’t forget that left-liberal jurists and pundits have been telling Americans for decades that the Founding Fathers’ original constitutional intentions should be ignored. The Constitution, say these jurists and pundits, is a “living-breathing” document that means anything we want it to mean.

Could it be that this is why the current census effort is packaged in lies about employment gimmicks and theft promotion? Why not, if the alternative is honoring the Founding Fathers’ original intent? The implications of the latter are unthinkable, at least for the Left.

But what a sad commentary on America. Given a choice between simply adhering to the Constitution as opposed to lying and encouraging people to steal, our opinion “leaders” opt for the latter.         
Clarence Deitsch and Norman Van Cott, adjunct scholars of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, are professors of economics at Ball State University.


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