Michele Bachmann: I Will Break the Law

Oh, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-A Different Part of Minnesota Than Where I Live, what would we do without you? It’s like each utterance from you is a missive from a parallel reality, one altogether different from our own, where up is down, right is wrong, Muslim is Super-Evil Death Muslim, and Census-Takers are planning to seize our precious bodily fluids:

Outspoken Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann says she’s so worried that information from next year’s national census will be abused that she will refuse to fill out anything more than the number of people in her household.

In an interview Wednesday morning with The Washington Times [sic] “America’s Morning News,” Mrs. Bachmann, Minnesota Republican, said the questions have become “very intricate, very personal” and she also fears ACORN, the community organizing group that came under fire for its voter registration efforts last year, will be part of the Census Bureau’s door-to-door information collection efforts.

“I know for my family the only question we will be answering is how many people are in our home,” she said. “We won’t be answering any information beyond that, because the Constitution doesn’t require any information beyond that.”

No, really, she said that:

Of course, Rep. Bachmann is kinda, sorta wrong about what her obligations are under the law:

Shelly Lowe, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Census Bureau, said Mrs. Bachmann is “misreading” the law.

She sent a portion of the U.S. legal code that says anyone over 18 years of age who refuses to answer “any of the questions” on the census can be fined up to $5,000.

But hey, why would we expect a U.S. Congresswoman to follow the law of the land?

Of course, part of Bachmann’s fear is that ACORN has evidently applied to be a subcontractor for recruiting workers to conduct census, which I actually kind of agree is something that shouldn’t happen — ACORN is an organization with a definite political bent, and just as I’d be opposed to, say, the Moral Majority being involved in the census, I think it’s best if ACORN is out, too, simply because it creates the appearance of impropriety.

But that’s a bit different from what Bachmann says worries her:

They will be in charge of going door to door and collecting data from the American public,” she said. “This is very concerning.”

You know what that sentence isn’t? True. Even if ACORN is hired as a recruiter, they won’t be “in charge” of anything. The organization in charge will be the Census Bureau, which is part of the government. At best, ACORN will be a staffing agency subcontracted by the Census Bureau because back during the ’80s and ’90s we decided that the government should be prevented from doing things it can do and that it should be forced to rely on non-profit and for-profit subcontractors, which is why KBR is building electric showers in Iraq.

If Rep. Bachmann wanted to call for us to fully fund the Census Bureau so that they can do their own hiring, without having to bring in outside groups to help, I’d be all for it. Instead, she’s going to claim that ACORN is going to take her family’s personal information and give it to the International Monolithic Muslim Conspiracy, who will then…um…something. It’ll be bad, trust her. And Minnesotans outside of the Sixth Congressional District continue to shake our heads, and wonder if we could convince the area between St. Cloud and Stillwater to secede from the state. But that would just mean Gov. Bachmann right next door to us, right on our border. And with her as the head of a National Guard, I’m not sure she wouldn’t invade.

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21 Responses to Michele Bachmann: I Will Break the Law

  1. 1
    NancyP says:

    ACORN has more credibility in some very poor communities than the feds, and while I agree that it is not ideal to use an advocacy organization to round up employees for Census, it does make great sense to use poor people who live in the neighborhoods being surveyed to gather Census info. In this economy, there are likely to be enough middle-class unquestionably qualified applicants for Census jobs to crowd out poor applicants who may need training. I suspect that the poorest people surveyed may not be all that receptive to talking with some laid-off social worker or school teacher.

    I am sure that La Bachmann has far more than the average number of toilets in the household (actual question: # indoor toilets), and has nothing to be ashamed of with regards to the detailed Census questions.

  2. 2
    Nomen Nescio says:

    …there’s a question about the number of indoor toilets on the census form?!

    i must have repressed that from my memory of the 2000 census. there’s no way i’m answering that one, law or no damn law. why the hells should the census bureau need to know that?

  3. 3
    PG says:

    Nomen,

    Because the Census is how we know how many Americans are living without what most of us consider the basic amenities of modern life. It helps to measure poverty as not just a matter of income but a matter of actual living conditions. If no one asks, we don’t know. If people refuse to answer, it screws up the statistics.

  4. 4
    chingona says:

    Nomen,

    There’s a short form and a long form. Everyone gets the short form (names, ages, races of people in your home), but not everyone gets the long form (which includes the toilet question, etc.).

  5. 5
    RonF says:

    Well, apparently Rep. Bachmann is pretty goofy. It’ll be interesting to see if she actually does break the law, and if so what becomes of it. It may be that only the Census Bureau will know, since your replies on a Census form are confidential for a good long time. If they decide that messing with a Congresswoman is more trouble than it’s worth, that’ll be the end of it. If I get a Census long form I’ll fill it out completely.

    Having said that:

    back during the ’80s and ’90s we decided that the government should be prevented from doing things it can do and that it should be forced to rely on non-profit and for-profit subcontractors, which is why KBR is building electric showers in Iraq.

    And a good thing this is, too. I’d phrase it differently, though. Government should only do what it is necessary for government to do, and anything that can be done by the private sector should be so done. This country was founded, and correctly so, on the concept of limited government, not a limitless one.

    What’s wrong with KBR building electric showers in Iraq? Do you want people who have been trained at great expense to be soldiers and Marines to be doing it? Seems like kind of a waste.

  6. 6
    Ampersand says:

    Because KBR’s goal is profit maximization. Where that corresponds with the military’s goals and with keeping soldiers as safe as possible, great. But when KBR decides that it can cut corners and get away with it because it has a lot of friends in Washington — including Dick Cheney — people get killed for it.

  7. 7
    Myca says:

    I’d phrase it differently, though. Government should only do what it is necessary for government to do, and anything that can be done by the private sector should be so done.

    I’d phrase it differently still!

    Government should only do what it would do better than the free market, and anything that can be done best by the private sector should be so done.

    —Myca

  8. 8
    Laura K says:

    The 2010 census will only have seven questions. In 2000 there was a short form distributed to 5/6 of US households and a long form given to the other 1/6. This is not going to happen in 2010. Everybody gets a short form. Nobody will have to count their bathrooms.

    The American Communities Survey (ACS) is also produced by the US Census Bureau. It takes place every year. A small fraction of US households will receive an ACS form during each year. Those questions look like the 2000 census long form. The ACS does get into details like how many bathrooms you have in your house.

    If you would like to read the questions from the2010 census and the ACS, you can go to this link:

    2010 Census Notebook

  9. 9
    Jake Squid says:

    Government should only do what it is necessary for government to do, and anything that can be done by the private sector should be so done.

    Why have an army? We can just contract that out to Blackwater or whatever they want to call themselves next. Why have elections run by the government? Surely a data processing & software company can do it. Why should the government build roads or any type of infrastructure? We have plenty of construction and engineering companies. Why have taxes collected by the government? There are thousands upon thousands of collection companies.

    The simple answer is that, although many things can be done by the private sector, the private sector does not serve the populace. The private sector serves its owners and shareholders.

    Or, more succintly, Myca’s rephrasing.

  10. 10
    RonF says:

    Amp, if there are issues with KBR specifically, fine. But overall, in the general case I think we’re better served with using private contractors for such things, properly supervised and accountable.

    Jake, as far as building roads goes, I don’t know how it works in your state but here in Illinois private corporations do build the roads, under contract to the State. I can walk 8 feet from my cube and watch a private corporation rebuild the Ronald Reagan Memorial Highway (a.k.a. I-88) six floors below me right now – something I’m sure he would have heartily approved of. It’s also a tollway, which he probably would also have heartily approved of.

    Which makes me think – there are a number of interstate highways that go through or around Chicago. I-55, I-57, I-88, I-90, I-94, I-190, I-290, I-294, I-355 and I-394. The Stevenson, the Dan Ryan, the Reagan, the Jane Addams, the Edens, the Eisenhower, the Tri-State, the Veterans and the Bishop Ford. The ones named for Democratic politicans and social workers are always referred to by name by the local news and traffic outlets, as is the Eisenhower (he pushed through the whole concept of the interstate highway system and it’s had his name for decades). What two are still referred to by number? Yep – the Veterans Memorial and the Reagan. I wonder why?

    Why isn’t the army privatized? Unlike some of the other functions you name the Constitution requires the armed forces to be raised, funded and directed by the government. Also, unlike the pothole fillers in Streets and Sanitation or the auditors in the IRS, the military’s enlisted personnel and officers are directed to be and are under solemn oath to serve the country. I’d have to do some digging, but it’s my guess that privatizing the armed forces would seem to be a violation of the Constitution. That’s probably at least in part tied to the great disgust and anger that was raised up in the colonies (and especially on the part of George Washington) when Great Britain hired mercenaries to help fight us in the Revolutionary War.

    Elections? I do wonder if that would be Constitutional as well. But let’s say that it was. I’d have no problem with contracting out elections. My objection is with the ability to audit them and hold them accountable. And I have yet to see an electronic balloting process that I trust.

    Hm. Privatize tax collection? Why not?

    Myca, I’m not so sure that I don’t agree with your rephrasing. I need to think about how one evaluates and measures the concept of “better” in that context.

    Jake:

    The simple answer is that, although many things can be done by the private sector, the private sector does not serve the populace.

    I will take the liberty of presuming that you are implying a contrast that the public sector DOES serve the populace. On that basis I can make an additional presumption – you don’t live in Illinois. In my experience making that presumption is incredibly and (in the context of the future of this country) dangerously naive.

  11. 11
    Myca says:

    On that basis I can make an additional presumption – you don’t live in Illinois.

    Christ, Ron. This song isn’t about you.

    —Myca

  12. 12
    PG says:

    Eisenhower (he pushed through the whole concept of the interstate highway system and it’s had his name for decades). What two are still referred to by number? Yep – the Veterans Memorial and the Reagan. I wonder why?

    Could you provide a chronology of when each of those received their names? Newspapers generally endeavor to use the names with which current readers will be familiar. Some names never catch on. For example, Interstate 66 east of the Beltway in Virginia is theoretically named the “Custis Memorial Parkway,” but I’ve never heard even traffic reporters use that name. I doubt there’s anything political in it, as “G.W. [George Washington] Parkway” is a commonly used term. (Unless Virginians like George but not Martha?)

  13. 13
    Jake Squid says:

    … private corporations do build the roads, under contract to the State.

    Yeah, that’s true. It was a bad example. I was thinking more along the lines of people who advocate privatizing roads and bridges.

  14. 14
    RonF says:

    Myca, you’re right. This song isn’t about me. It’s about everybody. Illinois government is a blatant example, to be sure. But the difference between Illinois government and government in general is in my opinion a difference in degree but not in kind. Government tends to serve the people who are in it or who have contributed most heavily to it, either by donating campaign funds or by rounding up votes.

    The people who started our government saw in history that any body given the necessary power to govern tended to stray away from serving the public interest and towards serving special interests. Separation of powers, checks and balances, etc., etc. all traded efficiency for an attempt to correct that tendency.

    Making the presumption that government by default serves the public in any state or at any level (Federal or local) seems terribly naive to me. If you don’t like the example of Illinois State government, how would you judge the Federal government under the Bush Administration on that basis?

  15. 15
    RonF says:

    Here’s when they got their present names.

    Kennedy (which I forgot to mention, that’s parts of 90 and 94 and I-190) – previously the North-West Expressway – November 29th, 1963.
    Jane Addams – previously the Northwest Tollway since it was built in the 50′s and 60′s – September 7th, 2007
    Tri-State Tollway – from when it was built in the 50′s and 60′s
    Edens – from when it was opened, Dec. 20, 1951
    Dan Ryan – from when it was first opened in 1962
    Stevenson – previously the Southwest Expressway – Sept. 1, 1965
    Bishop Ford – previously the Calumet Expressway – 1996
    Eisenhower – not clear, but I moved out here in the late 60′s and it was called the Eisenhower then.
    Veterans – part had been in existence sincee 1989 and was known as the North-South Tollway; it was extended about another 50% in length and the whole thing was renamed the Veterans Memorial Tollway November 11, 2007 when the extension opened.
    Reagan – previously IL 5 and then I-88 with no name – 2004, right after his death.

    All the other expressways are referred to by their name. Every other expressway that has changed it’s name is referred to by it’s new name. Note specifically that this includes the Jane Addams Expressway, whose name was changed 3 years after I-88 was designated the Reagan Memorial Tollway. The use of “Veterans” vs. “I-355″ is about 1:2, and I have yet to hear “Reagan” instead of “I-88″ on the radio or on TV. I-88 hasn’t been so designated that long, either – it was Illinois State Route 5 up until 1987, so it’s not like everyone around here was born using that name.

  16. 16
    Myca says:

    Really, Ron, the constant harping on how Illinois is a desolate wasteland of corruption where mutants do bloody battle for radiation-free water just gets old. I mean, hop on your motorcyle, grab your shotgun, and move you know?

    But! To the point! The government, though they may be bad at it at times, is designed to pay attention to and enact the will of the people. Private corporations simply aren’t. This last November, the population broadly decided that the previous group of folks we had in charge weren’t doign the things we wanted them to do … and we voted them out.

    There are not similar referenda on whether or not I think the upper management of KBR ought to continue to receive a paycheck. Why? Because I’m neither their customer nor a shareholder, so as far as they’re concerned, I can go fuck myself. That’s as it should be when it comes to corporations. They exist for their customers and shareholders. But government is supposed to represent anyone who can vote, not just anyone with the money to buy stock, and I think that’s as it should be as well.

    —Myca

  17. 17
    RonF says:

    Yeah, that’s true. It was a bad example. I was thinking more along the lines of people who advocate privatizing roads and bridges.

    Mayor Daley has in recent years privatized both a long toll bridge connecting Chicago to Indiana that’s essentially but not legally part of I-90 and the parking meters in Chicago. Big lump of money up front for very long term leases. Prices went up. Not so much on the bridge, but enormously in the parking meters. People are really pissed. The City Council might actually defy the Mayor and break the contract. Defiance of the Mayor to that degree is absolutely unheard of.

    Privatizing the bridge might work out. But the privatization of the parking meters is a mess. According to the City’s Inspector General, who is a city official but who the Mayor has no control over, the contract – which was pushed through the City Council in just a couple of days after Daley announced it – probably left $1 Billion dollars on the table (which would have increased what Chicago got from the contractor by 50%). Additionally, the contractor wasn’t equipped to handle the contract and in fact has not done so. The contractor is also writing the tickets and lots of people are getting tickets for parking at meters they didn’t in fact park at or at meters that are broken that they are not supposed to be ticketed for. This deal will be in Civics textbooks for years on how not to privatize what had been a governmental function. And of course, the people brokering the bid have political connections with Daley and the Democratic party (notable because that’s who has the power in Chicago, not necessarily that it’s specifically Democrat vs. Republican).

  18. 18
    RonF says:

    I don’t trust motorcycles – not enough metal around me when either I or someone else does something stupid (in all honesty, I have to make that about a 50:50 split). And my shotgun needs fixing – we took the Venture Crew out for a shooting weekend and after about 70 rounds the stock got loose and the pivot pin needs to be re-driven.

    What you say is true, Myca. But as you see with Jake’s example of road construction, there’s no reason why the government cannot hire private corporations to do jobs and then hold them accountable for what they do. Roads get built this way, garbage gets picked up, etc., etc. Consider that it’s a lot harder to tell the customer to go fuck itself when the customer’s response options include issuing subpoenas and search warrants and conducting trials.

    The government should represent anyone who can vote. There’s no reason why our duly elected representatives can’t properly represent us by defining tasks to be performed, determining criteria by which those tasks can be adjudged to have been performed properly or not, and then hiring and supervising private companies to do jobs as opposed to setting up bureaucracies and hiring staffs of State employees to perform functions. I’m not saying that all tasks can be done in this fashion – the common defense comes immediately to mind – but it’s an alternative that should be seriously considered for application wherever it can be. Creating a bunch of new State employees to carry out any task that the government decides needs to be done should not be the default response.

  19. 19
    chingona says:

    Ron,

    I’ve lived in Illinois, and I currently live in a state with much lower taxes and much smaller government. Sucks worse here. Somehow we manage to have worse roads, despite not having the brutal winters. Other public services are minimal, and you can tell the difference.

  20. 20
    RonF says:

    Worse roads? How long ago did you move? The roads are really bad after this last winter.

    As far as fewer public services goes – well, that’s to be expected if the government is smaller. In fact, that’s part of the point. If your taxes are smaller then you get to decide what services you need and pay for them yourself.

  21. 21
    chingona says:

    I know it’s the point, but my point is that you’re saying how awful everything is run there, and I’m saying it’s run worse here. Not just that they do less, but they do a crappy job. And sometimes the services they don’t provide end up making life worse for everyone. We have some of the most stringent Medicaid income requirements in the country and almost no public health clinics, so our emergency rooms are completely overwhelmed, way worse than what I saw in Chicago the few times I or someone I was with had to go in. I can’t buy my way out of that problem if I need to go to the ER, even though I have private insurance from my employer.

    As for the roads, look, it was a shock to me too. I’ve lived here four years, but I lived in Chicago for seven, so I have a fair amount of history to draw from. I don’t know how it’s physically possible for our roads to degrade that much with only one or two freezes all winter, but they do. Maybe built to lower standard? I don’t know.

    ETA: And yes, I understand this is why you’re conservative and I’m liberal and you’re not going to see it my way and I’m not going to see it your way. But Illinois is not uniquely bad and awful among state governments. It’s pretty crappy in its own ways. It works okay in others.