Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Thursday, February 19, 2021

The U.S. Department of Commerce may seem like just another anonymous Cabinet-level of Federal bureaucracy, but its role in overseeing the Census Bureau may be fueling the controversy over Republican Judd Gregg’s recent withdrawal as President Obama’s Secretary nominee:

The parties have been at loggerheads for years over how to conduct the census. Most everyone agrees that the traditional method — mail-back surveys and door-knocking follow-ups — fails to count millions of Americans. Democrats argue that the solution is to use statistical sampling models to extrapolate figures for the uncounted people. If minorities, immigrants, the poor and the homeless are the most likely to be undercounted, then such sampling would presumably benefit the Democrats.

Republicans, for their part, argue that statistical sampling is unreliable and that the Constitution mandates an actual count. In 1999, the Supreme Court ruled, 5 to 4, that under current law, sampling techniques could not be used to reapportion House seats from one state to another. But some experts still believe that it could be used in drawing district lines within the states, and to determine money flows.

And since the Constitutionally-mandated “enumeration” is scheduled for 2010, whoever runs Commerce will have a big say on which headcounting method is used — assuming the White House doesn’t muscle its way directly into the process.

Since the undercounting of the above-cited underclasses is the chief issue, allow me to advance (tongue-in-cheekily) a modest proposal that not only would make Jonathan Swift proud, but also is rooted in Constitutional language:

Restore the original “three-fifths of all other persons” portion of Article I, Section 2, and apply it to whatever figure is determined via statistical sampling. So the presumed missing persons would be counted and added to the totals — but only partially. Democrats would see a population boost that would partially represent the formerly invisible demographics, and Republicans would be assuaged by a 40 percent tempering of that increase.

True, restoring this Constitutional clause would require an Amendement — specifically, one that repeals at least part of the 14th Amendment. But hey, small price to pay to get closer to real-time population numbers, right? Besides, the original three-fifths formula was devised as a compromise measure, so its return would again be in the spirit of compromise.

No need to point out that those original “other persons” being fractionalized were slaves; nor what that would imply about the latter-day three-fifthers, should this little scheme come about. As long as the numbers add up!

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 02/19/2009 09:11pm
Category: Comedy, Politics, Society
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