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?


Edit Your Comment

  1. CatMoran says:

    Cool, can we made filling this out a community project? I think Trixare should go for a mixed race gay couple with one adopted kid and a grandchild. And make one of the kids a Native Hawaiian.

    The housing questions have some entertainment possibilities, too. How about a mobile home built before 1939 with 5 bedrooms?

  2. Xian.C says:

    I think if you’re going to fill it out, fill it out properly. The census, flawed though it may be, is pretty important. While I don’t think this is the one they take every 10 years as dictated by the Constitution (considering the last one was in 2000), it’s by no means Orwelian. I just sent mine in and the only question I found personal was about my income. No real biggie when you consider the IRS has that information. Still, I estimated on the census form. Other than that, there was a request for contact information, and I only gave them what they already had – address and 1 daytime phone number.

    Everyone has a right to their beliefs, and if you’re not comfortable filling out a form for the government, don’t fill it out. Sending in a bogus census form sounds pretty childish to me.

  3. konstantConsumer says:

    i would say that if you live in a “blue” state, you should lie and say that 10,357 people live in your home. if you live in a “red” state, see if they will buy that -3,586 people live there. gotta take away some reps and electoral college votes from mississippi, i say.

  4. airship says:

    I feel your pain as far as sharing your personal information with the gub’mint. The Bush administration is more likely to abuse that information than any other in history. However, as others have explained above, they use this info for everything from doling out money to schools and road building, to alloting how many Representatives your state gets in Washington. It’s important. Think of it as a necessary evil, like getting a vaccination. Or having your leg amputated when you get gangrene.

  5. Smoking Pope says:

    Word of caution. My wife filled one of these out and was contacted to see if she’d like to answer some additional questions. My wife has a hard time saying no to this kind of thing, so she said yes and they set up a time to send a census worker over.

    The worker came over and proceeded to ask questions until my wife booted her from the house on the grounds that she had to get some sleep for work the next day. The worker then remarked, “Well, we got through a third of it!”.

    Over the next 6 months, this worker HAUNTED her. She must’ve had a boatload of questions and a quota to meet. My wife became wary of the personal nature of a lot of the questions and told her she’d like to stop. This didn’t stop Jane P. Census. It took freaking forever to get rid of her.

    So, for those of you who will fulfill your legal obligation, be aware that you may be asked to VOLUNTARILY answer more questions. Answer wisely.

  6. Exasperatrix says:

    I understand that most of the questions on this form are actually voluntary. You don’t have to give your name, for example, and can just say “Resident Male” or something. For the other questions, just write “skip” on the ones you don’t like. You can call the census people and they should tell you which questions you have to answer to get them off your back. If you just leave them blank, they’ll keep bugging you until they get a response.

    It’s better to give no response than to give bogus information; they do use the information to evaluate community needs and bad information will just lead to bad allocation of funds.

  7. Gubmentagent says:

    Why don’t you just do what you’re supposed to do? FFS, this isn’t an information dealer trying to sell your email to penis growth spammers. The information is all gathered by computers, spit out as non-identifiable statistics, and classified for 72 years. Your fine might be a measly $100, but the fine for anyone related to the census giving out your precious info to anyone, anywhere, is $250,000 and a 5-year jail term.

    That being said, you’ve already given your information, or even received it in the first place, from all the troublesome government organizations, like the IRS and SSA. Yet here you are writing an article to bitch about the only bureau in the government that doesn’t use the information to harass, obstruct, and steal from the people. BTW, the census doesn’t care if you’re gay.

  8. taxpayer046 says:

    I pay my taxes, I completed the census. I am an American from birth. I still take issue with some of the questions on this survey and I take issue with the secrecy of this survey. If they want this survey completed, they should launch a media campaign as they did with the census. I spoke with our local law enforcement who told me all of our schools, highways, hospitals are established in our area, so the rationale for asking what time I leave for work (hour/min) does not apply. They asked about income, education, employment-all information that can be obtain by the IRS, dept of treasury, dept of education-they don’t need to know if I can walk up a flight of stairs or run errands-none of their business. Government is overstepping and that is a dangerous thing.