Congressman Ted Poe (TX-02)

It seems everywhere we look these days we see more and more government involvement in our lives.  Whether in our banks, auto industry and now our health care, Uncle Sam is becoming that annoying relative you can’t seem to get rid of. 

I believe in a limited government.  I don’t think that the government always knows what’s best for me and my family, if they ever know what’s best at all.  So, when I recently received a copy of the American Community Survey sent our by the US Census Bureau that wanted to know how many bathrooms I have in my house, if my stove is gas or electric, and what kind of car I drive, (it’s a Jeep with a lift kit, I’m sure they frown on that), it was a little too much big brother for me.

In response, my colleague Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and I filed legislation that would limit the type of information required in the Survey.  And, most importantly, it would make the survey voluntary. Currently, you are subject to various fines for failure to comply.

Now, don’t get this confused with the Housing and Population Census that is conducted every ten years.  Our legislation pertains only to the survey, not the census.      

Under the United States Constitution, article I, section 2, it states that every ten years there will be a counting of the people. The purposes are twofold: one, to levy direct taxes, and two, to find out how many people live in the United States so that Members of Congress can be apportioned percentage-wise based on population. That is the purpose of the census and it's a good purpose. Next year we will have another undertaking of the Census of the people in the United States.

The American Community Survey is independent of the Census.  This survey is conducted annually and sent out to three million citizens every year.  The lengthy survey contains a lot of information that makes me question its purpose.  Why does the federal government need this information?

According to the Census Bureau website, the purpose is to assess what the population looks like to help communities locate services.  That’s all fine and good, but the questions in the mandatory survey are far more intrusive.  Why do they need to know your level of education?  Do more educated people get better services or worse?  Why do they need to know how many bathrooms are in your home?  What is the cost of your home?  How much did you earn in interest and dividends? If my house costs more and I make more, do I get more? Or do I get less?   

And what is even more troubling is that you are asked to answer these personal questions not only about yourself, but about others in your household.  What if your mother-in-law lives with you and you don’t like her so you answer the questions about her emotional state negatively?  Seem far fetched?  Not so.  There is a question asking if you have emotional problems that limit your ability to concentrate, remember things and run errands.  I am not making this up.

If that’s not enough to make you curious, the federal government also needs to know how much you spend on health insurance.  Where did you worked last week?  What is the name and address of your employer? How much did you make? What is your position there?  And, what type of vehicle you did you drive to get there?  I guess they want to know how many pick-ups we drive in Texas.

One question they are forbidden by law to ask: what is your religion?  I guess they need to know how much your electricity bill is, but not where you will worship this weekend.

I could go on and on with these type of questions in the survey, but I encourage you to judge for yourself.  I have posted a copy of the survey on my website along with information about my legislation that would make this survey voluntary and protect your right to privacy.

As an American citizen, you have the right to keep your information private if you so choose.  If you want to give the type of information solicited in the American Community Survey to the federal government, then you should be allowed to do that.  However, it shouldn't be required by law.

And that's just the way it is.