I was on MSNBC today with Contessa Brewer and Matt Lewis talking census — jh (Now updated with video at right.)
Today is Census Day. This year’s 10-question form is the shortest in history. The government will use the information it learns about the population to define congressional districts, plan transportation systems and roadways, draw areas for school districts and utilities, and determine the need for police and fire precincts just to name a few. Businesses will also use the information to forecast the demand for products and services. It’s a basic technocratic function that the government must provide in order to both administer itself and facilitate the growth of industry and commerce.
Weirdly, Rep. Michele Bachmann has said she won’t fill the form out, and encouraged others to do likewise. Immediately, her fellow Republicans in Congress like Patrick McHenry called her out for it, realizing its implications: an under-sampling in the census could have serious negative consequences for the GOP. Even Glenn Beck, he of the “FEMA camps,” raised his eyebrows.
Now, I’m not unsympathetic to the fear that the government will misuse personal information for nefarious purposes, which seems to be Bachmann’s central gripe. But I’m a lot less worried about a transparent, 10-question census survey than I am about illegal warrantless wiretapping programs like FISA, the details of which the government goes to great lengths to hide from public scrutiny.
But Bachmann loves that program:
One of the critical tools that has allowed us to keep the homeland safe after 9/11 has been the Protect America Act. It updated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to deal with new, deadly challenges in this age of terror — enabling intelligence services to immediately listen to phone calls made between foreign terrorists….While this inaction may score cheap political points with the fringe elements of the Democratic caucus, American families are needlessly imperiled. This is not an exaggeration. This is not hyperbole. This is fact — confirmed by our intelligence community and agreed upon by Republicans and Democrats alike.
As Marcy Wheeler just reported, Judge Vaughn Walker just ruled against the government in the al-Harimain case, and found that they were liable under FISA.
The fear mongering by right-wing extremists over the census is suppressing the return rate in heavily Republican Texas counties to as low as 5% in some areas. The backlash from their own rhetoric is hammering them.
You have to wonder how Bachmann could fear the census and find an illegal, intrusive spying program unproblematic — or why anyone would listen to her.