A letter came in the mail today, from the U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Admistration, U.S. Census Bureau. In great big letters above my address, it said “United States Census 2010.”
Oh goody, I thought, it’s our census form! But certainly our census form is going to be more than one page, and this envelope, though it was highly official-looking and with a “Presorted First Class Mail Postage and Fees Paid” mark in the upper right corner, was definitely too light to contain more than one piece of paper.
And of course, it wasn’t the census form.
Here’s what the letter said:
About one week from now, you will receive a 2010 Census form in the mail. When you receive your form, please fill it out and mail it promptly.
Your response is important. Results from the 2010 Census will be used to help each community get its fair share of government funds for highways, schools, health facilities, and many other programs you and your neighbors need. Without a complete, accurate census, your community may not receive its fair share.
Thank you in advance for your help.
Robert M. Groves
Director, U.S. Census Bureau
OK, so I’m generally the last guy you’ll hear complain about government waste. I won’t deny that it’s there, but it’s nowhere near as rampant as some would have you think. I’m not among those who think that a private business is automatically more efficient than the government. Board an airplane — is there a “government class”? Nope, but the plane might have a “business class.”
No one gets rich working for the government.
But seriously, do they need to send me a letter, telling me to watch for a letter?
If I were the kind of person who ignores letters from the government, sending me one more letter isn’t going to change that.
How much did this mailing cost? We have, what, a hundred million or so households in the United States? First-classing this letter to each one of them will cost us a pretty penny — not to mention that hundred million or so pieces of paper and hundred million or so envelopes.
I get it. I know that it’s important to count everybody, and we all need to fill out the form. But take a look at the official Census Web site, and you’ll see the Census sponsoring a NASCAR car, a big March 9 “kickoff event,” the “Census Road Tour,” and more excitement. Not to mention ads during the Super Bowl.
We’re a big country now. We should be able to think of a better way to do this.