Geez, I wanted to be a good citizen and mail in my 2010 Census form today. The cover message, dated March 15, said in bold type "Please complete and mail back the enclosed census form today."
OK. I tried. But then I saw that my answers have to reflect the people living or staying in our house on April 1, 2010.
Today is March 18. A lot could change in the next two weeks.
I've written to all of the girls featured in the 2010 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, letting them know that we have a empty apartment area in our home that is available for extended stays by bikini-clad supermodels who also like to cook, clean, and do yard work.
How am I supposed to know how many additional young curvaceous females may be residing in our house on April 1? I'm not psychic.
This discrepancy between "return form now" and "base answers on situation as of April 1" has been bothering quite a few others also. A commenter on this blog post wrote:
I just find it a little amusing that the government is asking people to be psychic. They could have timed these forms to arrive on April 1, 2010, but they chose to have them arrive two weeks early. They could have also said on the form to fill it out and send it in as soon as possible and not mention the date of April 1st.
And this Reuters blogger said:
The first question – I’m not making this up – is “How many people were living or staying in this house, apartment or mobile home on April 1, 2010?” WERE? That date is more than two weeks from now. I guess I could wait until April Fool’s Day to count them, but my warning letter said to return the form “promptly.”
I see two possible reasons for this confusion.
(1) The Census Bureau is filled with incompetents who didn't anticipate that citizens would think Huh? if asked to answer questions about the future. (2) The Census Bureau wants to soak Americans for billions of dollars.
Since unfounded conspiracy theories are a lot more appealing than boring logical conclusions, I'm going with (2). This also gives me a much better chance at getting some air time on Fox News.
The Census Bureau web site says:
According to Title 13, Chapter 7, Subtitle 2, anyone who willfully gives an answer that is false could be fined up to $500.
My back-of-the-census-form-envelope calculation is that if 20,000,000 Americans send in their form before April 1, thereby giving false answers (since many of the questions say "on April 1, 2010"), the Census Bureau can bring in a cool $10 billion in fines at $500 a pop.
Well, I'm not going to fall for this ruse. I'll hold on to our form until April 1 and make sure it is postmarked on or after that day.
Good try, Census Bureau, but you're have to do better to pry that $500 out of my non-psychic self.