Op-Eds

CYPRESS CREEK MIRROR

Byline: Rep. Ted Poe

It’s Friday night. You come home from work, tired and hungry for supper.

There is a big stack of mail on the table you sift through, including one piece addressed to you from the government.

You open the envelope only to find a survey.

The survey asks you to asks a series of questions like: How many toilets do you have in your house? When do you leave and return from work? Does anyone in your home suffer from mental illness? Does your house have a sink with a faucet? Do you have a refrigerator?

This government-mandated questionnaire is known as the American Community Survey. Three million Americans each year are “lucky” enough to be selected to answer this mandatory survey. The American Community Survey is independent from the Census. This survey is more intrusive, more personal and more time consuming. Not to mention, it is 28 pages long and mandatory.

Understandably, many people dismiss this survey, tossing it out or feeling too uncomfortable to divulge such personal information. But throwing it away does not make it disappear.

If you fail to answer the survey, the government will come after you. It begins with phone calls. If the calls go answered or the survey is incomplete, the calls will increase from weekly to daily. Then the eyes of the federal government are sent to houses of the unwilling, to ring the doorbell and peak in the window. This is harassment. No one wants the government doing drop-ins to their home. Quite the opposite, the majority of Americans want the government to leave them alone.

And on top of all the harassment and intimidation by Census Bureau emissaries, citizens who still choose not to answer, are threatened with a criminal penalty, and in some cases face up to a $5,000 fine.

In an effort to help protect American’s privacy, I reintroduced legislation that would make the American Community Survey voluntary. This survey is another example of unnecessary and completely unwarranted government intrusion.

The federal government has no right to force Americans to divulge such private information, especially information that they are uncomfortable giving away.

But this is happening all over America and even right here in Southeast Texas. I have had neighbors contact me for years complaining about this government harassment.

According to the Constitution, article 1, section 2, a count of the nation’s population is required to be conducted every ten years. The purpose of the Census is to apportion congressional seats and levy direct taxes. But the American Community Survey achieves none of that, except information on American’s toilet flushing patterns.

I believe in a limited government and will work to protect American citizens from government abuse and harassment. Bottom line, Americans should have the choice on whether they want to tell Washington how many toilets they have.

And that’s just the way it is.