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US census takers fight angry Americans for their data

They barely even vote. Why would they fill in a form?

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Census employment was the only bright spot in the US economy this year. It showed solid results when the army of enumerators went into the field. The president mentioned the more positive employment statistics sometime in late May-early June. Paradoxically, since the statistics lagged the real world, by the time he said it, the census was busy laying off as many people as it could in Pasadena.

The regional leaders were obsessed with performance. They emphasised this by using the good cop/bad cop routine at weekly meetings, but delivered by just one person, perhaps to save money and time. First everyone would be told how much the census appreciated them. A minute later the same person would be insisting that anyone could be replaced anytime.

The regional supervisors had a regular data sheet that showed response collection against the total to be processed. As the census proceeded into early summer, the rate of collection slowed since, by definition, the process was getting down to a hard resistant core of census dodgers.

Just say No to the Census (and the Government

This was cause for the delivery of an inspirational speech, the kind used at mass corporate rallies in the US where people pay to be told, by important figures and celebrities, that the only thing standing in the way of success is their bad attitude. If we were not to run with wolves but soar like eagles, we were told, we should separate ourselves from the drag of the complainers and critics.

And then the census commenced firing people. This was called being put on "hold", or being told to return your address binders. Despite this, the enumerators were virtually free of bad attitude and sloth. The people who stuck with it enjoyed the experience and liked working a job which had a real national purpose - a constitutionally mandated regular accounting of exactly who was living in the United States.

This turned out to be a sticking point for some Americans. Now keep in mind that the enumerator's job was to dig out non-responders, people who hadn't completed their census forms.

The non-responders fell into two general categories. The first included the transient poor and those in the middle class severely damaged by the Great Recession. The second category included crazies from the upper class as well as those looking up enviously - people with the now common idea, reinforced daily by TV, that the US government is tyrannical and Stalinist.

The first category had some compelling reasons for their non-response. They were people who may not have even been living in the places we were visiting for most of the year. They were battered by regular dislocation and distress. If they hadn't filled out their census, they generally said why - no time because of juggling multiple jobs, or moving from place to place, or even losing housing. They showed the big fissures developing in American society - a large body becoming nothing but a servant class to the rich, ridiculously underpaid, often living under transient circumstances or in flophouses. They were the easiest among the NRFUs to canvas. Despite all things, they still had civic pride in America and once you could connect with them, they'd willingly you give you their names and family members in the household, their ages and races.

The others were just census-dodgers. They lived in high button gated condos and apartments where they could count on the protection of corporate property managers who either passively or actively impeded the census. The corporate property managers had two motivations in this, one sometimes being a desire to cover up vacancies and the other being the idea that the wealth and class of tenants entitled them to a firewall against the nuisance of census workers.

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