Accurate Counting – Why it matters

Last week I saw a friend.  He’s the best landscape architect I know.  He knows it too, and prices work unapologetically 30% higher, which caused explaining to clients when I was a construction manager.  They chose his work anyhow.   It was Vail.

While between jobs, I aerated lawns for his company.  He was grateful. Nearly the entire seasonal landscape crew was waiting on H2B “skilled visas.”

He said, “We have more work than ever but our H2B problem is worse,” leaving money on the table with undone work, like just about every other service sector employer we knew.

We did not discuss the border wall, America First, free trade, DACA, or how the conversation has radically shifted in America towards a nationalism, intolerance, exclusion and isolationism in just a matter of months.  The rhetoric energizes some voters, but in Colorado, many economic sectors depend on an influx of workers from across the talent spectrum.  He and I have talked politics.  We would certainly have politely disagreed on this, in spite of the cost to his business.

The shift will also heavily impact Colorado.  I also did not bring up the 2020 Census and why the newly inserted citizenship question when mixed with the current toxic rhetoric and policy is especially disturbing.  It threatens to strangle our economy.

The Commerce Department decision to insert a citizenship question is clearly political, reflecting how politics infects our institutions today.  Accuracy was important to the Founding Fathers. It was enshrined in the U.S. Constitution as the framework for establishing Representation in Congress as well as state legislatures, county commissions, city councils and school board seats shaped by an accurate count of the “whole number of free persons.”

Why does asking about citizenship in the Census matter? Ask instead, does accurate data matter?  Governing on-line on March 28th published “A Census Citizenship Question Wouldn’t Just Impact Blue States,” noting “undercounts could yield drastic effects if some opt not to participate…there will be a substantial impact on rural communities.”

Data should be as non-political even if outcomes clearly have political consequences. The shifting demographics are real.  Bloomberg Politics projects that Colorado, among other Western states will gain a representative based on the actual (including non-citizen) shift in population.  Does another vote in Congress in Colorado rather than in a shrinking rust belt state matter whether it is D or R?  A representative is a voice.  It is power.

An accurate count affects more than $800 billion dollars in federal resources are allocated to states, local governments and individuals based on Census counts, including highway construction.  Twenty Seven percent of Colorado State general fund in 2015 was made up of federal dollars.

Accuracy matters to businesses.  “Companies need good information on the location of potential customers and how much money they might have to spend.  The Census provides the highest-quality and most consistent information on such items” reports The New York Times in “Here’s Why an Accurate Census Count is So Important.”

Using the 2020 Census for political gain, though it might “energize the base,” is structurally damaging, and part of a deeply disturbing trend.  Shake things up, OK.  Do it without blocking research, science and data that is inconvenient to political objectives, and eroding institutions by breaking norms which have stabilized us for many years—like an accurate Census.  Whether it is removing climate data from the EPA website, not tracking or actively not-collecting data on gun ownership or gun violence, blocking good data smacks of the kind of approach prevalent in regimes which have also re-written history when it was uncomfortable, and tried to muzzle the free press, intimidate the judiciary, threaten to jail opponents, and change the rules of the game when in power.

Regardless of data or facts; of course, politicians still have the freedom of their opinions, and the power of persuasion.  Many decisions are made contrary to the data, or the research.  That choice is as perennial as the grass. But not even having accurate data, research or science–or pretending that millions of people who are living, breathing, fueling our economy, and impacting resources; pretending that these people don’t exist is not only cynical, it is dangerous.

Leave the Census alone.

Date posted: April 19, 2018 | Author:

Categories: Jon's Blog