April Fools Joke from the U.S. Census Bureau

Census Bureau LogoUnlike most April fools jokes that bring a smile to your face, this joke is bound to make you angry.  I’m speaking of a “joke” that is going to happen on April 1st 2010.  It’s the U.S. Census or enumeration.  Taking a census is nothing new, it’s been going on since 1790.  Only the next one which happens on April Fools’ Day in 2010 is going to be very different than previous ones.  Which brings me to why I’m calling it a joke.  Until recently we’ve been able to take a census of the country with relatively little costs associated.  This time, because of incompetent federal politicians this census is going to cost a whopping $14 billion!  To illustrate how fool-ish that figure is, let me graph it for you.

U.S. Census Costs


Along with the historical Census costs I’ve also overlaid the population to prove that the rising costs are NOT correlated with the rising population.

Census PCYou might ask why the explosive rise in costs this time…  I’ll save you from all the ugly and irrelevant details, and summarize it for you.  Back in 2006 the government had the wise idea of using technology to aid in the census (sounds familiar doesn’t it?… electronic voting machines).  The government awarded a $600 million contract to Harris Corp to build 500,000 hand-held computers to collect the data.  This week the Census Bureau announced that the the hand-held computers are “unacceptable” and failed because of “A lack of effective communication“.  They are scrapping the entire program and reverting back to a paper based system.  Don’t bother asking for a refund from Harris corp.  Due to these reasons and “other” factors the cost has just risen to $14 billion!

Did you ever have an April Fools Joke pulled on you that went overboard, and wasn’t funny?  Did you retaliate?  What should we do to retaliate against the federal government for this joke gone bad?  Leave your suggestions below in a comment.  Then, call your congressman and tell them you are not going to enjoy the joke.

Census 101
Why do we take a census? Because the constitution tells us to in Article I Section 2 of the United States Constitution states “…[An] Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct.” It also states that this must be done to calculate the apportionment of representatives to U.S. Congress.  States are allocated Congress seats based on their population.

What happens if you refuse to answer the census? If you refuse to answer the census you could be fined up to $100.  If you give false information it’s $500.

Why do they do it on April Fools Day? They might have several reasons :-), but the main one being that it says so in Title 13 Section 141 of the U.S. Code.

Leave a comment about what you think of this “joke”.

UPDATE 4/10/09: Census Bureau was just bailed out with one billion dollars.