At census time, stretching the truth may help stretch D.C.’s checkbook.
This year’s census season has irate Republicans suggesting that it’s time for a little nationwide civil disobedience. The math, however, is different in the District. If we ignore the form—or follow Trent Lott’s advice to skip some of the questions we deem intrusive—we risk a municipal undercount that could cost us oodles of the federal resources that are dispersed according to census results. But the census’s other important outcome—the apportionment of political power—is a meaningless carrot in a city that gets taxed without representation. Why line up to be counted when we can’t line up to vote?
So what’s a patriotic D.C.er to do? How about we split the difference? Let’s follow the advice of all those good-citizenship types who urge us to fill out the form. And then let’s lie our asses off.
The more people D.C. has, the more we get—especially if those people have special needs. Got a family of three in your Capitol Hill row house? Make that a family of 23. Answer the employment question by saying that you haven’t had a job since you worked for the Carter administration. For good measure, write that Big Al is illiterate, and that his twin brother, Ralph, needs a new kidney. Tell ’em the guys in the basement need to learn English, that little Pepe needs more park land, and that Great-Grandad upstairs hasn’t walked since he stepped in that giant pothole back in ’92. Who knows what federal road-maintenance millions may be in the balance?
So your form doesn’t exactly, you know, ask about how many furry little bunnies young Mikey owns? That’s OK—just go ahead and volunteer the information. Insert it right next to the item about how many of your home’s impoverished residents are “cute as the very dickens.” It can’t hurt. This is our civic future we’re talking about. For your kids, for your neighbors, for that school down the street that really, really needs a federally funded jaccuzzi, it’s time to do your decennial duty: lie. —Michael Schaffer