Sibby and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachman (wouldn't you like to have those two on a panel?) are worried that the census is going to fine you $5,000 if you don't fill out your census form. The U.S. House's online federal law book shows Title 13 imposing only a $100 fine for refusal to respond and seems more concerned with protecting the confidentiality of your info. The U.S. Census Bureau does say your answers are required. The U.S. Census also says that an amendment increased the fine for non-participation to a maximum of $5,000 (a change that appears to have been made in 1987).
But notice also that Title 13, Chapter 7, Subchapter II, Section 221, clause (c) creates a religious exemption: if it's against your religion, you don't have to answer, no fine.
Plus, this Census blogger (yes, there apparently is such a person) can't find a single instance of the Census Bureau ever enforcing those fines. As Census spokesman Stephen Buckner tells MyTwoCensus.com, “The Census Bureau is not a law enforcement agency. We try to make Americans understand the importance of completing the census, but we don’t try to enforce those penalties.”
The only penalty you'll really receive for not responding to the census won't hit you but your whole community: you'll lower the headcount for your community, and you'll thus receive less federal funding. "Hooray!" shout the Tea Partiers, but remember, even if the Census doesn't know you exist, the IRS still has your number. Ditch the census, and you'll still pay taxes; you'll just get less in return.
Note that even Michele Bachman is smart enough to tell the Census how many people are in her household. If her followers went ape and refused to answer any Census questions, they might put Michele out of a job, as that part of Minnesota could lose a seat in the U.S. House. That doesn't affect South Dakota—we're already down to one at-large seat—but it could screw up our state legislative redistricting. If the Tea Partiers in Sioux Falls and Rapid City all put a big NO on their Census forms, liberal hotbeds like Lake Herman could end up with their own legislative district! Whoo-hoo!
I sympathize with those who prefer not to give the government information. I often leave questions about gender and race blank. But when the Census comes, I will tell them I'm here, along with my wife and daughter.
Refusing to fill out the Census form is an easy bit of civil disobedience. I suppose it might make you feel good, but it will likely be counter-productive. Fill it out, and fry some other fish!
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