WASHINGTON, May 9 -
Madam Chairman, my colleagues and I--Congressman Gowdy, Congressman King, Congressman Scalise, and Congressman Landry--have introduced an amendment to prohibit funds from going to the Census Bureau to enforce a criminal penalty that is imposed upon people who choose not to complete the American Community Survey.
The American Community Survey is not the same as the decennial, or every-10-year, census that is required by the U.S. Constitution. The census, of course, is conducted every 10 years to account for the population and includes, basically, 10 questions. The
American Community Survey is a different survey handled by the Census Bureau that has 48 questions and is sent to 250,000 people every month, or 3 million Americans a year. The questions that it asks have nothing to do with national security, but it asks specific--in my opinion, intrusive--questions to determine Federal funding for certain areas. Plus, businesses use these answers to the questions to make business decisions on locating or not locating in certain parts of the United States.
I don't argue the benefit of the overall purpose of the American Community Survey. My concern is that it's intrusive. And does the Federal Government really have the right to ask certain questions? There are 48 questions. I'm not going to go through all of them. However, I would like to put into the Record the American Community Survey.
There are three questions I would like to mention, however. One of them is, Does your home have a flush toilet? Or, Do you or any member of your household have a second mortgage or a home equity loan? The third question that I wanted to mention is, Because of a physical, mental, or emotional condition, does this person have serious difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions?
Now, does the Federal Government really need this information? Should the Federal Government really obtain this intrusive information from citizens?
If Americans want to complete the American Community Survey, fill it out, give it to the Census Bureau, fine, but they shouldn't be required to do so with the threat of a fine.
I've heard from many people--not only in Texas but all over the country--that they are concerned when people come from the Census Bureau, or subcontractors, to have them fill out this questionnaire. These people from the Census Bureau, or those who are contracted by them, start with phone calls. First there's one a week, and then many times there's one every day. In one particular case, I had an individual who was a single mother with a young child who said the Census Bureau worker started coming to her house, sitting out in the front of her house waiting for her to come in. And then when she is in the residence, the worker is peeking through the window to see if she's in there, knocking on the door to have her come to the door to answer the American Community Survey.
Now, does that really need to take place in the United States just to get a 48-question survey filled out? I don't think so. The means to get this information does not justify the result. And if people don't want to complete the survey, they shouldn't be required, under our law, by the penalty of a fine, to do so.
I hope that we do, in this country, as the Canadians have done. They have made this type of information voluntary. They still obtain the information from people who want to voluntarily give the information. As smart as the Census Bureau is about collecting information, they can certainly do this without having to go door to door, 250,000 people every month, to do this. Figure out new innovative ways to obtain this information voluntarily. Maybe talk to some of the polling agencies that have specific information about all kinds of polls in the United States to obtain the information with the result to be for businesses to use and for Federal funding to be going into those areas.
So this amendment simply says, there will be no penalty for people who refuse to fill out the survey.
With that, I yield back the balance of my time.