April 12, 2010
One of the first things President Obama did when he took office was pull the 2010 census under the control of the White House, rather than leave it as an independent government agency. In keeping with his policies to count government spending as a sign the economy is getting better, he hired tens of thousands of census workers and pointed to job gains. Aside from the political implications of taking direct control over this Constitutional mandate, and what mischief could be done with it, there is a simple matter of the extraordinary cost in this census that makes you wonder if government is capable of running anything on a budget. The process that will cost an estimated $14,000.000.000 to count an estimated 310,000,000 people, even though the detail the census is getting this year is much more limited (10 questions) than in the past two or three decades. In case you are wondering, that equates to $45.16 per person counted. How is that possible, when most of the census is being conducted through the mail, and the government owns the U.S. Postal Service? As a reference, the census cost $1 billion when Richard Nixon was president. That's a 14X increase in cost, while inflation has been about 2x. Is it any wonder people want to know who's minding the store on our behalf?