Shutdown Stories: The Census Bureau

Our Shutdown Stories series, which began as a series of public Facebook posts, is focused on providing factual, evidenced based information about the effects of shutting down particular Federal Government agencies. We are moving it here to our corporate blog, in an effort to increase readability and make it easier to share these complex issues. Please feel free to share on the platform of your choosing, with attribution to The War Room Group. 

Census 2020

(Originially Published on Facebook 1/5/2019)

Good Afternoon Taxpayers, today marks day 15 of the partial government shutdown, as we push into week three and affected feds feel the pinch on their bank accounts and small business contractors dust off break-the-glass plans to try to keep their staff employed and their businesses open. The president’s negotiation squad left the EEOB a few minutes ago, it’s unclear if they are done with the day or breaking for lunch so now seems like the perfect time for today’s #ShutDownStory. I’ve been holding on to this one, this one is fun. (if you are a nerd, like me). 

The Census Bureau. So, most of you have a basic grasp on what the Census Bureau, which rolls up under the currently unfunded Dept. of Commerce, does in it’s most basic function, they count the people, every 10 years. So, that’s our starting point, that’s the what. Here we go. 

The “why” is where things get a bit more fun. Why do they count the people? Well quite simply, because Article 1, Section 2 (as amended by Section 2 of the 14th Amendment) states “Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed.” DING DING DING! We count the people, so that we know how many of them there are, so that we can assign congressional representation among the several states. There is a #GovCon industry saying about the Census, that it is the only constitutionally mandated federal funding. It’s not hyperbole, it’s right there in Article 1. So, knowing that…

We are currently just one year away from a decennial census, and even pre-shutdown Census 2020 was setting up to be quite a doozie. Reports from everyone from NBC to GAO have been telling us that Census 2020 has been struggling to stay on schedule, to roll out new tech promised to make things easier, and was generally facing a major uphill challenge. 

Here we sit on January 5, 2019 with our Census bureau charged with successfully completing a decennial census by April 1, 2020. The limited testing through dress rehearsals has been fraught with challenges leading to a very small test pool in a very small contiguous geographic area. Couple this with the woes of unsuccessful IT roll outs, printing contractors declaring bankruptcy, not delivering surveys, and a slipping schedule: the Census was already in trouble. Today, the Census is dark. Unfunded and for the most part without the people power to push through the challenges and accomplish the mission well. 

What consequences does that have? Well. I would ask you to take a look back at the constitutional mandate. We count the people, so that we know how many representatives each state should have. The House of Representatives is the most democratic institution in our body politic, purpose built to be just that. That particular part of our democracy is upheld based on the work of one agency – an agency currently dark due to a lapse in funding (Spoiler Alert: It’s the Census). 

As always, this post is public so feel free to share, ask questions, talk about it, etc. I am going to drop a couple of links in the comments that talk about the troubles the 2020 Census was overcoming before the Shutdown.