Just Tell Me How Much The Census Fine Is Already!

Trixare4kids recently got the American Community Survey in the mail. For those not in the know (and Trixare understandably doesn’t seem to be. Hell, we had to do some Googling ourselves) it replaces the long form in the census. Here’s a PDF version of 2005’s census.

Trixare didn’t want to fill it out. By law, he’s obliged to. So Trixare wanted to know what kind of fine he was looking at for not answering what he determined to be overly personal questions asked by an Orwellian groupthink state. He decided to call up the Census Office and ask.

At first, they wouldn’t tell him. We will: the fine is 100 smackers. However, “the Bureau also notes that no one has been penalized for failing to file in the past. The fine is more of a psychological reminder of the importance of the census than a source of income for the government.”

Trixare’s story after the jump.

Last week I received a letter informing me that I had been selected to received the American Community Survey. According to the website, the survey is, “a new nationwide survey designed to provide communities a fresh look at how they are changing…”

When I received the questionnaire packet last night. I reviewed the questions and find them highly personal, detailed and invasive. I also received a brochure that among other things, informed me I was required by law to answer the questions. They quoted the title and section but I don’t have the brochure with me today. There was mention of a fine but now how MUCH the fine was. I’m both the curious type and not planning on sending in the form, so I decided to call them and see how much this might possibly cost me. Did I mention I have a problem with authority and really hate being told what to do?

I didn’t have to go through too many automated steps and reached a CSR fairly quickly. I would like to warn you that I don’t have a lot of patience with this kind of thing. I don’t appreciate the run around. Just answer the damn question. Ahem.

Me: I see in the brochure that there’s a fine of some kind for not answering the questions, what is the amount of the fine?
Her: Yes, ma’am and what is the census number on the front of my form?
Me: I just want my question answered, it had nothing whatsoever to do with my form number. Her: It DOES matter if this call is being recorded…
Me: I’d like to talk to a supervisor, please.

I was on hold for less than a minute.

Supervisor: First, I wanted to explain why the representative..
Me: (interrupting): I don’t really care about that or her, I just want my question answered and it doesn’t matter what my form number is. What is the penalty that is referred to in the brochure? Is it $10? $5,000? 10,000?
Supervisor: First, let me explain that in order to have have this conversation legally…..
Me: You know what? Never mind! ::CLICK::

Admittedly I was on a short fuse last night so I just hung up. And to be fair, they both had polite tones.. I just didn’t want the run around.. I don’t care about all that other stuff just answer.the.question.

This morning I called back and very sweet sounding woman with a slow Texas drawl, immediately explained (without requiring my census number) that the Census Bureau does not impose the fine. Te fine is imposed by the judicial branch of the federal government as written into law and that fine was up to $100 (one hundred dollars). She went on and on for about three minutes about how it was so important and that they would be sending a reminder card, follow up telephone calls and even a census bureau worker to follow up if I did not send in the form. She also informed me that I could leave off my name if I choose. (Yeah, like they don’t know who lives at my address? uh huh.) After three minutes of non-stop information from her, I finally said, “Thanks for answering my questions, someones in my office, I have to go.” I could hear her trying to ask for the number on the front of my census form as I gently placed the phone in the cradle.

This isn’t the exact layout of the form I have but I believe the questions are exactly the same. http://www.census.gov/acs/www/Downloads/SQuest05.pdf

I can’t decide: Should I just throw the form to the paper shredder god and await my fate or do I fill it out with bogus information? e.g. I’m American Indian and live here with a large extended family? Or maybe I should be a black gay couple who are the proud parents of two Chinese girls?

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