Silly of me, I know.
Based on the exposure it’s gotten lately, it was apparently far from common knowledge that the Census was happening, or even that it ever existed in the first place. We (that is, somebody in the government) paid roughly $2.5 million to air a Super Bowl commercial about it, responses to which covered the broad range between “Is that the guy from St. Elsewhere?” and “this is as pointless as that Tim Tebow thing.”
I didn’t think too much of this at the time, though, because, as a die-hard football fan, I was far too focused on the Super Bowl and whichever teams were playing1 to pay attention to the commercials.
This commercial came to mind, though, when I received a letter from the U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, U.S. Census Bureau that informed me that
About one week from now, you will receive a 2010 Census form in the mail. When you receive your form, please fill it out and mail it in promptly.In short, the Census Bureau sent out some 115 million letters to tell us that we were about to receive a letter, and, as it turns out, about a week or two after the census forms are received, we’re all to receive postcards to notify us that we’ve all received our census forms.
I understand that the U.S. Postal Service is struggling and could really use the work, but I’m not convinced that we need to receive two pieces of mail—ones that we’re paying for, of course—to tell us about another piece of mail that either we’re about to get or we’ve already gotten (and that we’ve also paying for).
If there are roughly 115 million households in the U.S., it stands to reason that we’re paying for approximately 230 million of these pointless little reminders. I don’t want to sound like a Tea Party member2 or anything, but this seems to me to be a good example of our government spending our money stupidly.
According to the government’s 2010 Census website, this system
was developed to get the highest mail-return rate possible. Our studies have shown that mailing a letter telling you that a form is on the way and, after the forms have been mailed out, sending a postcard reminding you to respond increases the mail-return rate.Now, given that our government3 has kept itself busy by firing our money out of its ass in every conceivable ill-advised direction in quantities that stagger the imagination,4 maybe it’s useless to quibble over a paltry couple hundred million dollars. But it’s a shame to realize that the Census Bureau is operating under the assumption that we have no brains in our heads (and it’s at least as much of a shame that they apparently have studies to back this up). And it’s hard to believe they couldn’t have found a less ridiculous and senseless way of enticing people to return their Census forms.
Just off the top of my head, I’d have to say that it’d probably be at least as effective—and certainly far less wasteful—if the government were to print, on the census-form envelope itself, some sort of statement about how important the census is . . . or maybe a brief, easily-noticeable sentence about the legal consequences about failing to return the form.
Aw, what the hell, just forget it. That’s a stupid idea anyway. It’d never work, and there’s no way such a complex notion could be phrased succinctly enough to fit on an 8.5" x 11" envelope.
1. Red Wings vs. Celtics, I think.
2. Official motto: “We’re insane as hell, and we’re not going to take it anymore.”
3. Under, mind you, not only the current administration but also previous ones. I’m not trying to place blame on any single major party full of incompetent boobs.
4. That sounded pretty Tea Party-ish of me, didn’t it? Damn it.