Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Obama's Census Power Grab

Here's Michael Barone on the controversy over Barack Obama's centralization of the Census in the Oval Office:

So now it's been announced that the White House will oversee the Census. Of course, the president has ultimate authority over cabinet officers (that's the unitary presidency theory that Democrats hated up to but not beyond January 20), and I am not prepared to charge that Emanuel or anyone else in the White House is determined to diabolically cook the Census books in search of gains for the Democratic Party or the Black or Hispanic caucuses. And we have the integrity of Census statisticians to rely on; they favor sampling on grounds that commend themselves to academic statisticians, but also have shown, in the 2000 Census, that they will adhere to those standards in the face of political pressures to the contrary. Nonetheless, as someone who got great joy when my parents in 1951 (when I was 7) bought a set of encyclopedias with the 1950 Census figures (I had only had access to the much outdated 1940 Census figures), I'm going to keep an eye on this one.
Barone lays out the unconstitional case against Obama's power grab, but be sure to check out John Fund's piece today at the Wall Street Journal, "Why Obama Wants Control of the Census":

President Obama said in his inaugural address that he planned to "restore science to its rightful place" in government. That's a worthy goal. But statisticians at the Commerce Department didn't think it would mean having the director of next year's Census report directly to the White House rather than to the Commerce secretary, as is customary. "There's only one reason to have that high level of White House involvement," a career professional at the Census Bureau tells me. "And it's called politics, not science."

The decision was made last week after California Rep. Barbara Lee, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, and Hispanic groups complained to the White House that Judd Gregg, the Republican senator from New Hampshire slated to head Commerce, couldn't be trusted to conduct a complete Census. The National Association of Latino Officials said it had "serious questions about his willingness to ensure that the 2010 Census produces the most accurate possible count."

Anything that threatens the integrity of the Census has profound implications. Not only is it the basis for congressional redistricting, it provides the raw data by which government spending is allocated on everything from roads to schools. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also uses the Census to prepare the economic data that so much of business relies upon. "If the original numbers aren't as hard as possible, the uses they're put to get fuzzier and fuzzier," says Bruce Chapman, who was director of the Census in the 1980s.
These kind of power plays are exactly what critics of Barack Obama expected: A new politics of identity, cloaked in the ethereal political messianism of the promise of hope and change. But this is back to the future of affirmative action redistricting and big government spending set-asides.

Maybe Barone needs to take a closer look at that unconstitutionality argument? Maybe we all do?


Trish said...

We should be very afraid. His motive for hijacking the census, cannot be anything but dangerous.