Some Thoughts on Smarter Spending & the ACS

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I am by no means the only person who has written on this, but here goes. In May, the House of Representatives passed (232-190) a bill to cut the American Community Survey (ACS). The bill was championed by Representative Daniel Webster (R) from Florida's 8th District. On the floor of the house, Webster said the survey is "intrusive," "unconstitutional," an "inappropriate use of taxpayer money," and "the very picture of what's wrong in DC." On every point, he is categorically wrong as are the 231 representatives who voted with him.

Yes, a very small number of the questions are somewhat personal (maybe?), but the survey responses are aggregated and made anonymous. Still, the very Constitution he cites allows for this survey, which includes questions that have been asked since Thomas Jefferson (Director of the 1790 Census). Also, let's recall my prior frustrations at opposition to the ACS (in which I rant about the difference between a citizen's reasonable right to privacy and that same citizen's responsibilities as a constituent in a representative democracy).

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Regarding the use of taxpayer money and "what's wrong in DC": For literally centuries, the US government has been asking questions about how Americans live in order to responsibly determine how taxpayer money needs to and should be spent. Programs, policies, funding, and investment are created and calculated according to the results of the American Community Survey. While I will definitely agree that there are places where the federal government spends wastefully, the money spent on determining how to spend smarter is perhaps the most efficient use of taxpayer funds I can think of.

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In fact, I'm not entirely sure how Representative Webster can legislate, adequately representing his constituents, without the information offered to him by the ACS. Maybe he would guess? Go with his gut? Maybe he believes everyone in Florida's 8th District is just like him? Or maybe he believes that there won't be problems requiring leglislative attention if we stop collecting information about those problems?

Well, because it's the sorta helpful thing I do, here are some things I learned tonight from the ACS about Webster's district. If he has his way and this nonsense attaches itself to a bill that passes the Senate, this might be the last bit of reliable information we have about the counties included within his boundaries. I'm covering some common topics -- information about the state of the housing market while we continue to battle the housing crisis in the country, information about employment and education, information about what people earn and whether that allows them to afford their homes.

And on that note, Happy Fourth of July.