Conservatives must stop demonizing the census

The U.S. Constitution requires that the government conduct a census every ten years. Population counts determine federal funding for various programs, as well as the number of Congressional districts allocated to each state, so the public interest in conducting a thorough census is obvious.

The next census will take place in 2010, but some right-wing loudmouths and Republican politicians have unfortunately demonized the effort as an intrusive government plot. Over at Think Progress, Faiz Shakir recaps some of the paranoid chatter from Representative Michele Bachmann (MN-06) and Glenn Beck of Fox News. Shakir also cites radio host Neal Boortz, who told his listeners, “Most of the rest of the [Census] information is designed to help the government steal from you in order to pass off your property to the moochers. They’re looters.”

Not long ago I discussed my worries about the rhetoric of armed resistance coming from the political right, and I’ve been reflecting on this problem since I heard about census-taker Bill Sparkman’s murder. Sparkman was found naked and bound with “fed” written on his chest and his census ID taped to his neck. In rural Kentucky,

Sparkman’s gruesome death has ignited a debate over whether it was a byproduct of harsh anti-government rhetoric on talk shows, blogs and protests. Residents of impoverished Clay County say most people harbor no resentment for agents of the federal government, and they’re baffled by Sparkman’s apparent killing.

Sheriff Kevin Johnson, a native, said most residents feel a measure of gratitude to the federal government.

“We’ve been a poverty-stricken area pretty much all our lives,” he said. “The government’s taking care of 70 percent of people here, through Social Security, SSI, food stamps, Medicare and Medicaid.”

None of those programs could function without the demographic data the Census Bureau provides.

If conservative politicians and opinion leaders keep stoking fears about the government using census data to steal from or perhaps even round up law-abiding citizens, I am concerned that mentally unstable individuals will commit further acts of violence against census-takers next year. Republicans should condemn the hatemongers and make clear that the census is not only permitted, but required under the Constitution.

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A New Number For a New Era: From 9/11 to 350

Eight years ago today, two planes flew into the World Trade Center, another crashed into the Pentagon, and a fourth landed in a Pennsylvania field. The raw power of that day came to be symbolized by a date composed of three numbers. Three numbers that evoked the shock of being attacked, the horror of the sounds and images on our television sets, and the heroism of so many men and women. Three numbers that framed the events of the last decade and seemed like they would define my generation.

But eight years ago, many in my generation couldn’t vote. We didn’t choose the President, his wars, or his policies. In fact, young Americans have largely rejected the politics of fear and division that dominated those formative years of our political consciousness—voting 2 to 1 in favor of Barack Obama. Today we remember the victims and honor our heroes, but we also have a new President, new crises, and three new numbers: 3-5-0. 350.

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Joe the Plumber "appalled" by McCain, (hearts) Palin

Your laugh for the day comes from the Huffington Post, which wrote up an interview right-wing loudmouth Glenn Beck did with Joe “the Plumber” Wurzelbacher.

John McCain made Joe the Plumber famous by dropping his name more than 20 times during the third presidential debate. Although Wurzelbacher is not licensed as a plumber, McCain and Sarah Palin continued to mention Joe the Plumber at rallies, and the campaign even had “I’m voting for Joe the Plumber” printed up on bumper stickers.

Now Wurzelbacher is cashing in with a new book called “Joe the Plumber: Fighting for the American Dream.” Here’s the thanks McCain gets for making this guy a household name:

I honestly felt even more dirty after I had been on the campaign trail and seen some things that take place. It was scary, man […] When I was on the bus with him, I asked him a lot of questions about the bailout because most Americans did not want that to happen. Yet he voted for it. … And I asked him some pretty direct questions. Some of the answers you guys are gonna receive – they appalled me, absolutely. I was angry. In fact I wanted to get off the bus after I talked to him.

Wurzelbacher thinks Palin is “the real deal,” though:

[…] she definitely had energy and she definitely went to work for American people, and it disgusts me on how often they try to bash her just for her sincerity. It’s just, you know, she really wants to work for America and I mean, I wish people would listen to her and let them, and let her work for us. You know, she wants to serve us. She’s not looking for power.

Sounds like somebody would love to be part of Palin’s 2012 presidential campaign.

Huffington Post has a link to the full text of the interview (scroll down the page to find it).

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