By Richard Grover
My experience so far with the Census Bureau gives me reason to fear the bureaucratic maze we are probably getting into with our new 2,000 plus page healthcare law. I recently received several requests from people wanting to know why they have not received their census forms in the mail yet. After checking into this problem, here is what I found. First, the Census Bureau insists on checking out the occupancy status of every habitable residence in our entire country. The first step in this process was to send out people with GPS units to verify all the locations and addresses of all residences last summer sometime. Then they com-puterized all this address data and used it to print up address labels for all the questionnaires they send to all these addresses, using computer bar codes to keep track of them. Nobody is allowed to change any of this information on the questionnaires they receive; changes will cause the computer to kick them out. Simple, right? Wrong!
They mailed most of these questionnaires to post offices around the country for delivery, using the physi-cal addresses of the residences. Unfortunately, when the post offices received questionnaires for people who get their mail at post office boxes rather than delivery to their street addresses, they (post offices) returned them back to the Census Bureau as “undeliverable” because they did not have the P.O. box numbers on them! Now, somebody, (enumerators in “Census-ese”) has to go to all those addresses that got returned to the Census Bureau with forms for residents to fill out.
Another situation we encountered in my limited first experience, was that of verifying addresses in mul-tiple residence buildings (condos or apartments). The Census Bureau (CB) assigned each group of enumera-tors (us) an area to canvas with a stack of pre-addressed enumerator questionnaires (EQ). Each area, or block of addresses, are identified with specific boundaries, which are often the middle of a street, road or highway. We were given specific instructions to be sure to enumerate only on the specific side of the street in our assigned block. In my case, about 70 percent of the addresses were on the other side of the street, or in someone else’s block. Rather than allow us to change the block numbers to correspond to the physical addresses, we were told to delete all addresses that were on the wrong side of the street (in someone else’s assigned block of addresses). Now, somebody has to go around to those places and add them back in on the correct block. This is another case of bureaucratic madness, apparently caused by our devotion to making everything “simpler” with computers, which are supposed to reduce paperwork and time while actually having the opposite effect!
When I consider that the CB is one of the smaller Federal Government agencies, with a seemingly simple job, and compare it to the other huge federal departments, such as the new healthcare behemoth with its 2,000-plus page implementing directive, my mind boggles with the thought of the complexities involved.