Promises Undelivered

Millions were spent to convince poor minorities that the 2010 census would solve their social problems.

President Obama boldly politicized the U.S. Census. And even though 225,000 Census workers have been let go, as the Wall Street Journal reported July 3, more than 125,000 Census people are still on the payroll. But of much greater importance: Obama has new plans ahead to aid liberal Democrats in November, and especially to help him hold the Presidency in 2012.

Despite his failed 2009 attempt to wrest control of the U.S. Census by shifting it from the Commerce Department to the White house, that didn’t stop the Administration from utilizing the Census process to bolster his voter base.

The largest government advertising campaign in history--$300 million--was spent to convince minority Americans that answering Census questions is the way to get a slice of $400 billion in federal money.

To reach the spread of nationalities representing the black diaspora, including African American, Caribbean, African, and Haitian audiences, DraftFCB, New York, the head agency for the 2010 Census Communications Campaign, signed up Globalhue multicultural advertising agency, plus production and digital marketer RC-CP, and hip hop Disturbing the Peace Records.

Rapper Ludacris has been a large part of the tax-funded $300 million campaign to propagandize the 2010 Census to African Americans. It’s all been about how much largess a community will get from the federal government. Recording artist and entrepreneur Christopher “Ludacris” Bridges helped tell African Americans they had to fill out Census forms to make sure their communities got a piece of the $400 billion federal allotment.

This most expensive advertising campaign in U.S. government history had as its sole purpose: motivating the elusive hard-to-count young, single black males and black single females with children, poor, underprivileged, folks with criminal issues, and immigrants. The “Luda on the Block” radio and home visit tour homed in on five big African American destinations—in Dallas, New Orleans, New York City, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta this spring.

The purpose of the Census is to count everyone in the United States. It is mandated in Article I, Section II of the Constitution.  Certainly all legal efforts should be made to count all Americans regardless of race or ethnicity. Census data are used to apportion congressional seats to states, to distribute federal funds to tribal, state and local governments each year and to decide what community services to provide.

The golden promise that’s been emphasized: If you fill out the Census form and send it back, this will automatically revive your community, improve your schools, increase the number of available jobs and job training, and provide health clinics, emergency medical services, almost anything you want. It’s as if the Census Bureau has concluded that people of color and the poor, as well as some other Americans, are clearly too stupid to understand much beyond government handouts. The message from the Census Bureau—whether on the air or in print--is consistent: File, so you’ll be sure to get as much tax money for your community as possible from Uncle Sam.

Now, there’s a plan to spend $50 million to try to rake in Obama’s political base of minorities and young voters for this year’s mid-term election, according to a June 20 Washington Post story. “It’s a great experiment to see whether we can bring out voters whose only previous vote was in 2008,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md) was quoted as saying. He is chairman of the Democrats’ Congressional Campaign Committee. That $50 million is twice the $17 million it spent in the 2006 mid-term race. Obama especially needs to shore up the minority-young base, having dashed the expectations of anti-war leftists by naming Gen. Petraeus to fight—maybe even win--in Afghanistan.

Reportedly, 90 to 95 percent of African American voters went for Obama in the 2008 election. But he has to fight for their allegiance these days when so many blacks are unemployed and have lost their homes, and while black businesses are hunkered down facing the uncertainties of Obama’s economic policies.

That’s why the spending and greed-inducing tone of 2010 Census messages has been important. It’s still going on. Thousands of people are still on the federal payroll, and still bugging the American citizenry. The U.S. Census Bureau website reported from April through June that many hundreds of thousands of temporary workers were employed at one time or another for the 12 regional Census Centers covering the country. The Census has always—from the first census in 1790—had people go to residences where no one had filed a form. But phone calling was a new way to hire more people. The website doesn’t break down how many workers are taking part in the phone bank system, calling people who have already filled out and sent in their Census forms. Reportedly, 10 percent of those who filed their reports will get follow-up phone calls.

In New York, one evening in June, Erik Gordon answered his jangling phone. A person identified herself as “Charlotte, calling from the 2010 United States Census” said “I’m calling to ask you some additional questions about the Census form that you recently completed.” Mr. Gordon then was assaulted with question after question which he had already answered in his mailed Census form. Another person, reacting to a Census caller was quoted thusly: “My blood pressure got so high I thought I was going to have a stroke. My Census caller was just as brain dead.” (I, too, received a Census phone call in mid-June asking the same questions I had answered on my form, returned months ago.)

Illegal immigrants, even tens of thousands being held at detention stations across the country awaiting deportation, were being counted even though they were gone long before any final tallies are made, say U.S. Immigration officials. Prisoners also are in the count, but their residence named is where they lived before being incarcerated. So, the prison community is deprived of the count and resulting resources that could have paid for their facilities.

The cost of the 2010 Census has been $14.5 billion, compared with $4.5 billion in 2000. Political fat is not cheap.