The most expensive census in history

With our government spending fantastic amounts of taxpayer money (that we don’t have) on everything, it should be no surprise that the 2010 Census will be the most expensive in history. This is not the fault of the current administration but they have done nothing to address the issue. In fact, if anything, they have made it worse. This is a typical example of an out-of-control government with a blank check and no accountability. (story here from

The Founders scarcely could have foreseen the stunningly costly and politically sensitive undertaking the census now has become.

There is much at stake. Census figures will be used to shift representation in Congress from states where populations have declined since 2000 to those where they have grown. By 2012, every state also will have redrawn its own legislative district boundaries to reflect recent population trends.

Moreover, the 2010 headcount will determine how every state and community fares over the next decade when federal funds are allocated for a host of social programs, including health care and job training; highway, bridge and tunnel construction; public education; and much else. The jackpot of taxpayer-financed loot to be doled out based on census results now amounts to about $400 billion. With federal spending reeling out of control, billions more likely will be up for grabs.

How much will it cost to count noses this year? No one really knows. The Census Bureau began planning for 2010 immediately after 2000. It is not yet fully ready. Preparations for 2010 have been plagued by fraud, cost-overruns and failures of computer hardware and software.

In a report published in June 2006, the Government Accountability Office raised grave concerns about the transparency and accuracy of the bureau’s cost estimates for the 2010 census, citing among other things assumptions about savings that would be realized by equipping census workers with hand-held mobile computing devices rather than paper forms (although potentially fatal problems with those devices had been evident in 2004 field tests) and the absence of a strategy for updating address and map files for areas impacted by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Even then, the 2010 census promised to be the most expensive in history, estimated to cost $11.3 billion, after adjusting for inflation.

So costs are skyrocketing – what else is new. As long as we get an accurate count, I suppose we could live with the extra costs – right? Well, maybe not.

The GAO was prescient. Hand-held computing devices have been abandoned and paper census forms will again be used. The Census Bureau is scrambling to implement a paper-based operations control system (PBOCS) for tracking submitted forms and, more important, to coordinate visits by census workers to every household that fails to return the form it receives in the mail. (Non-response is the census’s main cost driver.) But PBOCS itself has suffered serious technical problems in the few areas where it has been deployed.

Meanwhile, estimated costs have skyrocketed to $14.7 billion. According to February 2010 testimony by the Commerce Department’s Inspector General, the Census Bureau routinely has overspent on pre-census activities. It budgeted $356 million for address canvassing in 2009 and exceeded it by 25 percent ($88 million).

The GAO issued another scathing report in 2008 warning congress of the problems with the 2010 Census. (report here) They pointed out 3 key areas where the Census Bureau was failing and made specific recommendations for addressing the problems. Apparently this fell on deaf ears.

The Census Bureau initially planned to allow people to respond to its queries online, but canceled that option in the face of privacy concerns. Along with other IT misfires, the 2010 census essentially will be conducted the same way it was in 1790—and may well be less accurate.

With 10 years to prepare, the Census Bureau is still not ready, doesn’t know how much it will cost, and the actual count is in jeopardy of being inaccurate. Geez, sounds like yet another epic government FAIL. We simply cannot accept this from our government.


One Response to “The most expensive census in history”

  1. […] the homeless – twice (or more) The 2010 Census FAIL saga continues. (more here, here, here and here) This story (from CNS News) describes how the Census may be counting the homeless twice, or […]

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