Some questions we're glad Census Bureau won't be asking

It won't be anywhere close to the Y2K Bug, or Monica Lewinsky. It won't even approach El Nino.

But I predict the news story everyone will be sick of hearing very soon will be the 2000 Census.

That's why, of course, I decided to write about it today. Far be it from me to be left out when it comes to beating dead horses.

Everybody is urging us to make sure we fill out our census forms, because if we don't we'll cost our government untold millions of dollars.

Some guy in New Jersey will get our federal money instead. He will be drowning in federal grants, have a four-lane highway built in his driveway, get an interest-free loan to start a small business and be paid $6.3 million from the tobacco companies - and, darn it, that should be our money.

Of course, that assumes you view the federal government as a benevolent father figure, looking out for your best interests and handing out candy if you're good.

In Nevada, the tendency is to look at the federal government as an evil stepfather.

From that point of view, it would be better if it's the guy in New Jersey who is audited by the IRS, has his driveway declared a "roadless area," gets an extra few taxes on his small business and is investigated by the Attorney General because he still smokes even though we've told him over and over again that it's bad for him.

This is just the kind of atmosphere that makes us a little suspicious when the federal government wants to ask us a few questions. What, exactly, will the U.S. Census Bureau folks be wanting to know about me and my household?

Well, I can tell you one thing they won't be asking.

"Are you gay?"

I found this out when I read an article that said the executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Greater Long Beach, Calif., was a bit peeved that the U.S. Census Bureau folks aren't asking people if they're gay.

"It's as if they are saying there's no purpose to knowing how many gays and lesbians are out there," he said.


Frankly, I think this is exactly the kind of question the U.S. Census Bureau folks don't want to be asking because, gosh, we might think they're prying a little bit into our private lives.

For most people - five out of six households, says the U.S. Census Bureau - you will be asked only seven questions: name, sex (that would be male or female, not yes, no or how), age, relationship to the household, Hispanic origin, race and whether you own or rent.

Pretty straightforward stuff.

The other one out of six households will have a microcomputer chip implanted in the back of their necks so that ... no, wait. That's not true. They'll be asked a bunch of other questions, like maritial status, education, language spoken at home (I doubt if "profane" is one of the options), occupation, how many rooms in your house and whether you live on a farm.

The only question that hasn't been asked before is whether you are a grandparent acting as the primary caregiver for your grandchildren. (Probably not an essay, where you would be able to expound on the worthless bum who can't hold a job and left you with the kids from his two previous marriages just because ... but I digress.)

These additional questions get into enough detail to make a few people nervous. But they do stop plenty short of the kind of question that might shock us prudes.

Please check one or more of the following: A) Heterosexual. B) Homosexual. C) Bi-curious. D) Looked one time in the gym shower, but I swear that was it. D) I live on a farm.

Because, you know, once the folks from the federal government start asking those kinds of questions, they won't be able to stop.

Are you left-handed? Why not?

When your mother-in-law comes to visit, what do you hide?

How often do you forget to take out the trash?

The other day, when you were watching "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," and the guy missed that unbelievably easy question, did that make you feel intellectually superior to most of mankind?

Are you insane? If not, then why do you drive like that?

Do you believe Bill Clinton is still president?

Do you cheat on your income taxes: A) all the time? B) most of the time? C) I don't file income-tax returns.

If black helicopters land on your front lawn, would you A) return fire? B) lay down your weapons and salute? C) call Art Bell?

If the federal government declared your neighborhood a National Conservation Area, would you A) walk to work? B) send a shovel to Elko? C) refuse to allow your daughter to marry a federal employee?

As I said, it's fortunate the U.S. Census Bureau is smart enough to leave some things in our lives private. Otherwise, we'd probably be looking at a tax increase in order to fund some special federal programs for left-handed, paranoid tax cheats who are looking for housing on BLM property.

The other alternative, I guess, is that we be allowed to ask the U.S. Census Bureau folks a few questions ourselves. I suggest starting with, "Can you guys do anything about the price of gasoline?"

Barry Smith is managing editor of the Nevada Appeal.


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