Nov 142013
 


A couple of years ago I was doing research for a school paper about the U.S. census.  This research involved reading a lot of reports of government oversight agencies, such as the Government Accountability Office and the Inspector General of the Department of Commerce, and more.  Although it had nothing to do with the topic of my paper, I eventually concluded that the Census Bureau is corrupt, and the 2010 census was conducted in bad faith.  That is, though I’m sure 99% of the people working at the Census Bureau only wanted to conduct a proper census, the people in charge – the people making the decisions – had no interest in that.  They were using their positions to make themselves rich.

Today I’m going focus on one relatively small project that the Census Bureau undertook in 2009.  It cost about 1.75 billion dollars.  With your help, I think I can prove it was, for lack of a better word, a scam.  A project designed solely to take money from the public.

Some background on Address Canvassing

The census wasn’t always done by mail.  They used to send census workers out to interview people in person.  In 1970 the Census Bureau started sending forms out in the mail, in order to save money by not having to hire and train all those workers to walk down every street, interviewing people.  Seems reasonable.  One day, somebody at the Census Bureau apparently decided that the Post Office could not be relied on to come up with a list of all the mailing addresses in the country.  So the Census Bureau does the only logical thing: it sends census workers walking down every street, knocking on every door, interviewing people, asking them if the number printed on their door or mailbox is their address, and if not, what is their address?  Do they get mail at their address?  And do they know of any other addresses?

What were they thinking?

Needless to say, this defeats the purpose of using the mail.  If you have to send the workers out interviewing everybody anyway you might as well take the census at that time, rather than send out a form in the mail later.  It’s a bit like walking to a guy’s house to get his address just so you can walk back home and send him a letter asking him where he lives.  When they did it in 2000, it was a last resort.  They weren't going to do it this time.  Then, without explanation, the bureau decided to do 100% address canvassing anyway.  The oversight agencies kept asking the bureau to provide justification for this decision, to do a cost benefit analysis and consider alternatives, but the bureau refused to do so..

For some reason, the Census Bureau insisted on doing Address Canvassing despite the apparent stupidity of it, despite not having done a cost-benefit analysis, not having considered alternatives, not having any evidence that it was beneficial, and despite the objections of the oversight agencies.

Or, at least they said they were going to do it.

Did they verify addresses or not?

I know they did some address canvassing because I saw people complaining about it on youtube.  But it didn’t happen at my house.  It didn’t happen in my neighborhood.  I don’t think they did it for real at all, I think they just, sort of, pretended to do it.  The Census Bureau hired and trained thousands of people and them gave them no work to do.  I read reports written by temporary workers who did get work, claiming there was “no regard to quality” and that they were pressured into not doing the work.  Many census workers said similar things.  “It was like they knew they would not be using what we had done,” said one of them.  The inspector general’s office confirmed this was happening, noted the widespread nature of the problem, and asked the Census Bureau to look into it, which the bureau refused to do.

Despite the widespread skipping of procedures, Address Canvassing came in 25% over-budget., for a total of $444 million.  When you include the cost of the $1.3 billion handheld computers (or “HHCs” in Census-speak) that were not used for anything other than Address Canvassing, Address Canvassing cost the public roughly $1.75 billion.  There’s no way of knowing what that money was actually spent on, because the Census Bureau’s financial records are always un-auditable.  The sole function of the Census Bureau is to collect and store information, and yet decade after decade it remains incapable of maintaining its own financial records.

I don’t think verifying addresses was the real purpose behind Address Canvassing.   I think it was included in the budget for the sole purpose of embezzling as much of it as possible.   I think they did as little address canvassing as they could get away with without making it obvious to everybody that they weren’t really doing it at all.  Sadly, this is what I think of the entire 2010 census budget.  I will lay out the evidence in upcoming posts; it all comes from Inspector General reports and the like.  But there’s a lot more at stake here than just money.  The people responsible for Address Canvassing are responsible for distributing political power throughout the United States, a process which is, for all intents and purposes, unregulated.  I think the reports of the oversight agencies make it clear that the Census Bureau does everything from falsify its financial records to manipulate census results.  I also think it’s clear that nobody reads the reports of the oversight agencies.  The bureau’s 14.7 billion dollar cost estimate was cartoonish.  The 2010 census was a farce.  The corruption is written into the law.  I’ll show you.  But first answer this question:

Have you had your address canvassed?

I’ll bet the average person reading this does has some memory of getting the census form in the mail a couple of years ago, but has no memory of anybody from the Census Bureau showing up at their front door.  Address canvassing happened four years ago, but, if it happened at your house I’m sure you would remember it.  The census worker would not have asked you questions about you, he would have asked you questions about the building.  He would have taken the GPS coordinates of your front door would have tried to ask you questions about the building, such as “is the posted address used for mail,” and “are there additional living quarters in the building?”  Did it happen at your house?   Please only answer if you live in a house, and not an apartment building.  I don’t think address canvassing was supposed to include knocking on the doors of each apartment in every apartment building.  That would have been silly.

Address Canvassing
Did anybody from the Census Bureau knock on your door in 2009 as part of its Address Canvassing project?
  • - 19.2% ( 5 votes )
  • - 80.8% ( 21 votes )

Here is a video I made which goes into the Census Bureau’s financial shenanigans in more detail.  It is not specifically about address canvassing.

“The chief innovation the bureau planned for 1970 was the mail census. It would involve a major new departure in procedures. Heartened by tests done in 1960, officials planned to count the majority of the population with a mail census. Since most Americans lived in metropolitan areas with standard postal addresses, the bureau hoped to use commercial mailing lists to reach these households. This innovation would eliminate the expensive and logistically complex process  of hiring, training, and dispatching local enumerators to count the approximately 60 percent of the population that resided in metropolitan areas.”

“Who counts? The politics of Census-taking in Contemporary America” Russell Sage Foundation Publications (September 1999) Margo J. Anderson (Author) Stephen E. Fienberg (Author) page 35-36

“Next month, the Bureau is scheduled to conduct address canvassing for remaining census blocks when about 140,000 temporary employees will walk every known street in the country trying to update and verify the Bureau’s address list and maps for the country.”

From GAO-09-408T, 2010 Census: Little Time Remains to Address Operational Challenges, (last visited May 14, 2010)

“According to the Census address canvassing manual, when listers encounter a structure in the field, they must determine if that structure contains a living quarters. If so, the lister should knock on the door if feasible. If someone is home and answers the door, the lister should interview the resident. If the house number is posted, the lister should ask if additional living quarters exist in the building. If the house number is not posted, the lister should also ask about the address of the building, whether that address is used for mailing, and if there are additional living quarters in the building.  The lister uses this information to determine if the structure is a single residence, contains separate housing units, or is a group quarters such as a nursing home, college residence hall, group home, or shelter. The lister also determines whether addresses should be added to or deleted from the address list.”

Census 2010: Observations and Address Listers’ Reports Provide Serious Indications That Important Address Canvassing Procedures Are Not Being Followed, U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Inspector General, Flash Report, May 2009, pages 1-2

“In our second interim report, the panel commented (National Research Council, 2003a:66): ‘We assume that the Bureau hopes to avoid a complete block canvass prior to the 2010 census, given the cost of that operation and that it was treated as a last resort in 2000.’ Our supposition was that the Census Bureau would pursue targeted block canvassing—identifying selected geographic areas with sufficiently fast growth or other characteristics to warrant a thorough precensus address list check”

Reengineering the 2010 Census: Risks and Challenges, http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=10959&page=87 (last visited Jan. 4, 2011).

“Continuously maintaining the master address file to permit targeted address canvassing was a cornerstone of Census’s original re-engineered design”

“Valuable Learning Opportunities Were Missed in the 2006 Test of Address Canvassing.”  final Report of the Department of Commerce, Office of Inspector General, March 2006 http://www.docstoc.com/docs/156000650/Download-Report—Office-of-Inspector-General—Department-of

“Then, with little explanation, the bureau abandoned this aspect of the design, and reverted to 100 percent address canvassing” –

“Valuable Learning Opportunities Were Missed in the 2006 Test of Address Canvassing.”  final Report of the Department of Commerce, Office of Inspector General, March 2006, page v. http://www.docstoc.com/docs/156000650/Download-Report—Office-of-Inspector-General—Department-of

“We believe it rash to commit to such an expensive operation as full block canvassing absent both a compelling base in empirical evidence and a determination that targeted canvasses in specific (e.g., fast-growth suburban) areas are infeasible. ”

Reengineering the 2010 Census: Risks and Challenges, 2004. http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=10959&page=98 (last visited Dec. 4, 2010).

“Since Census has not provided any evidence that 100 percent address canvassing produces an address list that is more accurate than one that could be produced with an alternative methodology, we question whether the additional expense of 100 percent address canvassing is justified. The bureau’s challenge—if not obligation—is to identify the most cost effective approach to obtaining an address list of requisite quality to support the 2010 decennial goals for accuracy of census coverage, cost containment, and operational risk.”

“Valuable Learning Opportunities Were Missed in the 2006 Test of Address Canvassing.”  final Report of the Department of Commerce, Office of Inspector General, March 2006, page v. http://www.docstoc.com/docs/156000650/Download-Report—Office-of-Inspector-General—Department-of

“The bureau strongly disagreed with our recommendation to perform an analysis of the costs and benefits of 100 percent address canvassing and consider whether alternative, less costly strategies for developing the address list for the 2010 decennial are feasible.”

“Valuable Learning Opportunities Were Missed in the 2006 Test of Address Canvassing.”  final Report of the Department of Commerce, Office of Inspector General, March 2006, page v. http://www.docstoc.com/docs/156000650/Download-Report—Office-of-Inspector-General—Department-of

“The Census Bureau spent a great deal of money on training for the amount of  work it received. For example, over 10,000 employees earned over $300 apiece  for attending training but performed no work for Census; an additional 5,000  employees received the same money for attending training and worked only a  single day—or less.”

from Testimony  of  Judith J. Gordon  Associate Deputy Inspector General U.S. Department of Commerce Information Policy, Census, and National Archives Subcommittee of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee House of Representatives, Thursday, March 25, 2010

I found reports written by census workers all over the internet.  One important source was a website called mytwocensus.com.

“We were told that if we couldn’t gain access to a building after two visits we had to accept what was in the HHC [handheld computer] as correct. Many of us were tempted to falsify work and accept what was in the HHC as correct…When the address canvassing operation finished up it was alleged that some of the crew leaders and field operations supervisors told their listers since there was no regard to quality that they could skip making contact even going as far as not conducting field work and enter the units at home. There is no way that listers who were reassigned work magically gained access to buildings people couldn’t access for weeks unless they accepted what was in the HHC as true. The crew leaders and field supervisors who finished first were rewarded with additional work. Those who finished last were sometimes ‘written up’ as unproductive and the office terminated their employment.” – (emphasis added) from http://www.mytwocensus.com/2009/10/05/feature-real-stories-from-the-census-bureau/

These comments are from census workers who sent comments to Michelle Malkin’s website.

“I also participated in the address canvassing last summer.  After one week we were past the halfway point and then the problems began.  First we were told to slow down.  Next we began having a one hour ‘progress’ meeting each day.  We were told to take at least five minutes per house.  I could have drawn the map by hand faster.  The last tactic was to start layoffs.” – from http://michellemalkin.com/2010/03/31/another-census-worker-speaks/

“A common theme from the Census workers who’ve written in is the directive from their managers to slow down, stall, waste time, and stretch out their work unnecessarily.  From reader X: I have indirectly been told to not work too fast, that each operation is budgeted to last until a certain date and that there is no reason to move faster and end before the scheduled time… Its like it is deliberately setup and complicated in process so that it forces you to work slower…This is the first job where I am encouraged to be slow and inefficient. From reader M.G.:My wife and two close friends were between jobs at the time and all got hired as enumerators. Their job was supposed to last for 8 weeks and after the first week all of them were told they had to slow down. They did and ended up wasting lots of time, but even so, their 8 week job only lasted 4 weeks.  It was really amazing to hear the stories of inefficiency, waste and horrible planning/management. The team leaders were not “leaders” and wouldn’t have been given management positions if they were in the private sector. The whole thing was one scary joke.- from http://michellemalkin.com/2010/04/02/todays-unemployment-figures-and-more-census-workers-true-confessions/

“Last summer I participated in the ‘address canvassing’ (AC) project. What this entailed was walking around a neighborhood, literally door to door, with a little hand held computer….In an average suburban neighborhood where the houses are somewhat close to each other, it was no problem to do about 35-40 addresses per hour once you learned how to quickly enter data into the computer. The census said that I should be doing about 12-15 per hour. My direct bosses told me that I should NOT be doing 35-40 because it was making them and other people look bad. ” – from http://michellemalkin.com/2010/03/30/e-mail-of-the-day-confessions-of-a-census-worker/

Another site with a lot of comments from census workers was the blog of the director of the Census Bureau, at http://directorsblog.blogs.census.gov/.  The site has been re-organized, and I can no longer find the comments on the site, but I took some screenshots at the time.they knew

“In several cases we observed listers skipping the procedure for knocking on doors. In at least one case a crew leader ignored portions of the verbatim training and instead instructed listers to omit this procedure. We received several additional reports from listers who were specifically told by their crew leader to omit this procedure…Some listers we observed completely skipped roads…”

Census 2010: Observations and Address Listers’ Reports Provide Serious Indications That Important Address Canvassing Procedures Are Not Being Followed, U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Inspector General, Flash Report, May 2009

“Although our observations were not conducted on a statistically drawn sample and therefore cannot be considered representative of the entire operation, the widespread nature of the problem is noteworthy.”

Census 2010: Observations and Address Listers’ Reports Provide Serious Indications That Important Address Canvassing Procedures Are Not Being Followed, U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Inspector General, Flash Report, May 2009

Recommendations To promote an accurate address list and contain costs, Census should do the following: 1. Since the Census Bureau has completed initial listing operations in many areas, conduct an analysis of assignment areas where listing operations were completed materially ahead of schedule to determine whether early completion of production may indicate areas where procedures were not followed. These areas should receive special attention using additional quality control checks in ongoing and upcoming address canvassing quality control operations.”

Census 2010: Observations and Address Listers’ Reports Provide Serious Indications That Important Address Canvassing Procedures Are Not Being Followed, U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Inspector General, Flash Report, May 2009

“Census disagreed with this recommendation, stating it is not feasible given that there were multiple reasons for an area being completed ahead of schedule.”

Census 2010: Observations and Address Listers’ Reports Provide Serious Indications That Important Address Canvassing Procedures Are Not Being Followed, U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Inspector General, Flash Report, May 2009

“The preliminary figure on the actual cost of address canvassing is $88 million higher than the original estimate of $356 million, an overrun of 25 percent.” 2010 Census: Efforts to Build an Accurate Address List Are Making Progress, but Face Software and Other Challenges. Government Accountability Office, Oct 21, 2009

“The contract was originally going to cost about $600 million for over 500,000 hand-held computers. Under the new contract, Harris will produce only 150,000 computers, less than half the number called for under the original contract, yet the amount will skyrocket to $1.3 billion. The result is that the taxpayer is now paying twice as much for fewer than half the number of computers..”  Representative William Lacy Clay, 2010 CENSUS: PROGRESS ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE FIELD DATA COLLECTION AUTOMATION PROGRAM AND THE DECENNIAL RESPONSE INTEGRATION SYSTEM

The $1.3 billion Harris HHC

The $1.3 billion Harris HHC

“Okay, for the benefit of everyone, there were small hand-held devices that had the capability of recording the addresses and doing a few edit checks on the entries of the addresses, as well as taking GPS coordinates. Those were used successfully in this thing we call address canvassing, the effort in the summer to list all these addresses… Looking forward, there are no plans to use those hand-held devices in any further operation of the 2010 Census. The reason for that is, the same judgment that led to their use for address canvassing led to the rejection of their use for more complicated operations where we’d actually be using them to talk to residents and filling out the questionnaire.”

2010 Census Operational Briefing Transcript National Press Club December 14, 2009

1980-1990:

This is from a 1994 GAO report entitled “Bureau of the Census: Management Issues Require Prompt Attention”

“The Bureau has a history of financial management problems.  Before the 1980 Decennial Census, we reported that (1) the Bureau’s budgets in some instances were based on inaccurate or inadequate data and (2) its accounting records did not accurately reflect the planning costs for the Census….Our review of the Bureau’s preparation for and the execution of the 1990 Decennial Census again revealed inadequacies in the Bureau’s accounting system that made it difficult to determine the actual cost of decennial census activities.   In 1987, the Inspector General of the Department of Commerce warned of weaknesses in the Bureau’s accounting system…In February, 1994, the Inspector General issued another report that noted major deficiencies in the Bureau’s internal controls that precluded the Bureau from producing financial reports that were auditable.”

2000:

This is from a 2001 GAO report entitled “2000 Census: Analysis of Fiscal Year 2000 Budget and Internal Control Weaknesses at the U.S. Census Bureau”:

“The bureau had significant internal control weaknesses for fiscal year 2000 that resulted in an inability to develop and report complete, accurate, and timely information for management decision-making….Financial reporting issues included (1) the inability to produce accurate and timely financial statements and other financial management reports needed for oversight and day-to-day management, (2) the lack of timely and complete reconciliations needed to validate the balances of key accounts, and (3) unsupported an inaccurate reported balances for accounts payable and undelivered orders…These findings were in large part due to serious weaknesses in the bureau’s financial management systems.  The bureau has experienced persistent financial management systems problems for many years and has candidly acknowledged the material nonconformance of its financial systems…  In our view, the bureau’s financial management systems did not substantially comply with the requirements of FFMIA [the Federal Managers’ Financial Integrity Act of 1982]”

2010:

In 2010, the failure of one of the Census Bureau’s management systems (called “PBOCS”) prevented the inspector general from verifying any of the Census Bureau’s spending figures:

“According to Census’s weekly updates, as of April 5, U/L production  was 100 percent complete, with $105 million (79 percent) of its $133.6 million budget spent.  However, as a result of PBOCS’ problems, we could not independently verify these figures.

According to Census, as of April 12, the U/E operation had completed  42 percent of its assignment areas for production and 4 percent for quality control, and has expended $33 million of its $124 million budget (26 percent). Again, however, as a result of  PBOCS’ problems, we could not independently verify these figures.

According to Census’s  status report, as of April 12 it had enumerated 46,300 transitory locations (96 percent) and expended $12.5 million (68 percent) of its $18.4 million budget amount for [the ETL] operation. As a  result of PBOCS’ problems, we could not independently verify these figures.

According to  Census, as of April 12 it had spent $45 million of the $87 million (52 percent) budgeted for the GQE operation. Again, PBOCS’ problems prevented us from independently verifying these  figures.”

2010 Census: Quarterly Report to Congress, May 2010, U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Inspector General

“…they were instructed to collect a map spot at or near the main entrance of a structure—usually the front door…” Census 2010: Observations and Address Listers’ Reports Provide Serious Indications That Important Address Canvassing Procedures Are Not Being Followed, U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Inspector General, Flash Report, May 2009

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