Saturday, February 16, 2019

Another Question for the Census

The Trump gang has kicked up a ruckus over its plan to insert a question about citizenship in the 2020 decennial census.  It’s a transparent attempt to reduce the response rate of immigrants, disenfranchising them in reapportionment and government spending formulas, despite the Constitution’s call for an enumeration of “persons”, not citizens.

But why stop at citizenship?  When you think about, there is no government interest greater than its ability to collect taxes, the main obstacle to which is tax avoidance, legal and illegal.  Researchers looking into this problem, not to mention government analysts themselves, struggle in the face of rampant secrecy.

So why not use the census to get a better picture of tax cheating?  Insert just a single question, “Within the past year have you failed to pay your lawful federal, state or local tax obligations?”  Respondents should be reminded that a dishonest answer constitutes a violation of federal law.  The fine is small compared to most tax avoidance, but the last thing most tax scofflaws want is added attention to their financial duplicity.

I can see the confusion when the numbers are tallied in 2021.  “Gee, there are all these big houses, shady streets and golf courses, but according to our data no one actually lives here.”


2slugbaits said...

Why stop with tax questions? Why not ask if you've ever cheated on your spouse? (How would Trump answer that?) Or in the interests of public health, all women should have to provide their honest weight.

Anonymous said...

Given widespread efforts to suppress minority votes and voters it would be appropriate I think to revive a Reconstruction era census question (1870 census) and insert it into the 2020 form.

The contemporary version would reflect the 2nd section of the 14th Amendment, asking all citizens eligible to vote whether their right to do so has ever been "denied ...or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion or other crime."


Unknown said...

The CEO of Amazon might answer with a straight face - "our not paying any tax is perfectly legal'. Of course they wrote these absurd rules as noted by David Cay Johnston in his book "Perfectly Legal".