Census Reform Act: GOP's Solution to High Unemployment? Stop Counting


There have been many plans to deal with the unemployment problem, from cries for further economic stimulus to insistence that budget austerity will solve the problem. But one Republican congressman has come up with the most innovative solution of all to deal with the unemployment statistics! A bill introduced by Representative Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) would unintentionally abolish the unemployment statistic entirely.

The bill is called the Census Reform Act, and clocks in at a brief six pages. It would end nearly every survey the Census Bureau conducts, except for a count of population every ten years. In addition to the unintended consequences of the bill, it reflects opposition that conservative activists and some lawmakers have had to certain census surveys.

The opposition is primarily to the American Community Survey. The ACS is a mandatory survey sent to 250,000 addresses monthly that collects current data for government and businesses. Duncan's spokesman said that he has received complaints from constituents that the survey is "overly intrusive." But both government and businesses, such as Target, utilize the ACS in their decision-making processes. The House passed a bill last year to kill the ACS but the Senate let the measure die. Previous opponents of the ACS include former Representative Ron Paul.

Data from the surveys eliminated in the bill would make it very difficult to calculate gross domestic product, unemployment, homeownership rates, and other major economic indicators that markets rely on. It would eliminate the National Crime Victimization Survey, the Census of Governments, the Economics Census, and many other surveys that the Census Bureau conducts for other government agencies.

When news of the bill's effects came, a combination of disbelief and humor greeted it on Twitter:

Fury over the census has become a cause célèbre for fringe elements of the Republican Party. Controversy emerged over the 2010 census, with very conservative voters and even politicians refusing to fully fill it out, the prime example being Representative Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.). Bachmann also expressed alarm at the census, warning of a link between the census and Japanese internment camps during World War II.

Although the bill has ten Republican co-sponsors, it is unlikely to make it further due to the dependence the business lobby has on the data that the Census Bureau provides. But still it represents a worrying trend within the GOP of ignoring the overall implications of implementing an ideological agenda.