Republicans introduce census reform bill that would end unemployment estimates

By Stephen C. Webster
Wednesday, May 1, 2013 13:14 EDT
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Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC). Photo: Jeff Duncan on Facebook.
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Thinking they’re going to deflate an intrusive government overreach into the everyday lives of American citizens, a group of House Republicans introduced a census reform bill last week that would prevent the government from conducting the research necessary to produce monthly unemployment estimates.

If the Census Reform Act of 2013 (PDF) becomes law, all data-gathering efforts at the U.S. Census Bureau except for the once-a-decade census mandated by the Constitution would come to an end.

That’s a problem for the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which depends upon the U.S. Census Bureau to create representative sample groups used in the monthly Current Population Survey (CPS), which helps the BLS estimate unemployment.

Speaking to Raw Story, an aide to the bill’s primary sponsor, Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC), pictured, refused to explain the reasoning behind the proposal on the record, but insisted an official statement was forthcoming. The statement had not arrived at the time of this story’s publication.

One of the bill’s co-sponsors, Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), told Port City Daily that constituents have brought him “dozens, if not hundreds” of complaints about one exercise of the Census Bureau in particular: the American Community Survey (ACS), which randomly targets 3.5 million households every year for detailed study, in an effort to determine how to best allocate billions of dollars in federal resources.

Republicans in the House tried and failed to kill the ACS last year. That sentiment appears to have returned in Duncan’s new bill, albeit in a much broader fashion.

Not only would Duncan’s bill eliminate the ACS and the CPS, it would also prevent the government from conducting its annual agricultural census and all its mid-decade studies, like the Survey of Income and Program Participation and the American Housing Survey. The bill even proposes restricting the Census Bureau from asking any questions at all, other than how many people live in a household.

Those studies are crucial for producing numbers like America’s gross domestic product, but some ultra-conservative Republicans object to the government producing such detailed statistical information, thinking it an infringement of their liberty. When the 2010 census was underway, some of these same people organized boycotts and openly flouted census workers, risking a $100 fine for refusing to answer questions.

While those efforts were encouraged by the likes of Reps. Ron Paul (R-TX) and Michele Bachmann (R-MN), who suggested the Census Bureau far overreaches its mandate, some Republicans like Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) noted that if conservatives don’t fill out their census surveys, more federal money will flow into areas where the government is sure people are, making life harder on people who live in areas where conservatives boycotted the census.

(H/T: Huffington Post)

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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