Over $400 billion lies in the balance. Over $130 million in advertising dollars was spent to get people to participate. An eager Congress awaits the results of the 2010 Census so they could better serve our country, tend to the shifting demographics and allocate funding fairly across the downtrodden and underfunded among us.

An accurate census count determines how many lawmakers each state will have in the House of Representatives. But what does that mean to a nation who has seen its politicians let them down through partisan rancor, inert policy-making and ulterior agendas?

Considering the political theater in Washington these days, it would be a miracle if Congress could quickly decide what pizza to order for lunch, much less the adept allocation of billions of dollars. The skepticism that many show toward the Census is understandable and in many ways, justified. But is apathy toward this decade’s first census the appropriate response?

This is the 23rd head count in U.S. history and for many areas, the litmus test for how explosive Hispanic growth has been over the past ten years. In Maryland, for example, preliminary Census reports indicate at least a 60 percent growth. Congresswoman Donna Edwards (D-Md.) has spearheaded a full-court press for getting the full participation of Hispanics.

There is nothing in the Census form that asks about citizenship status, said the U.S. Department of Commerce Regional Director Fernando Armstrong. So illegal immigrants have nothing to worry about.

Red flag.

If that’s the case, then is the government willing to shell out tax dollars to those who may not be U.S. citizens? Or are they ready to use this information to perform a simple audit to find out how many Hispanics are here illegally versus those registered? Once that information is handy, what will the government do with it?

Only American citizens have the constitutional authority to determine tax allotments and the number of representatives in the House. So why are U.S. Census takers courting the participation of people who they know have no legal standing to participate? Such dubious outreach claims ring loud in certain circles. Many celebrities, including newest Oscar winner Monique, has implored everybody to go out and complete their Census.

Under federal law, individuals can be fined for not completing census questionnaires. But constitutionally speaking, only the state of the resident and number of people living in your house is required. Nothing about your name, race/ethnicity, sex, age, date of birth, relationship or housing tenure is necessary for tax allocation or political voice.

The fact nothing in the advertisements indicates such is another flag. Color this one maroon.

We, the U.S. citizens, have been bound to a contract with the government since birth. This is an unofficial-official contract that states that we must pay taxes, be a civic asset and know the law. In return, the government will provide us with services (protection, education, medical care), allow us the rights of the land and to a fair trial (habeas corpus).

But everyday there are breaches of this contract in action. Some examples:

  • We are required to pay taxes, yet there is nothing in government-funded schools that teaches us how to fill out a  W-2  and W-4 tax form. Without the aid of H&R Block and Turbo Tax, many of us would be clueless.
  • We’re asked to support the government (“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”) but the government can illegally tap your phone and keep us in the dark about the military acts that tax dollars fund.
  • Ignorance of the law is no defense, but there is little more than a civics class in high school to enlighten us into the crux of the law and the precedences set. Unless you’re a law aficionado, you will remain ignorant of the law.
  • Police officers, the protectors and servers, are funded by the people who routinely find themselves victims of dubious traffic stops and bullets from trigger-happy gentlemen.

The Census, which recently came under the watchful eye of the government, has entered into this contract. Contracts have a way of benefiting the contractor the most, and in the case of government agencies, it’s not any different. The only way to void the contract is to leave the country, which may not be the feasible move. By becoming aware of the contractual imbalances, we begin asserting our rights as citizens.

Instead of using this Census as only a call for privacy/power abuse, we’d be better served to use this as the latest leverage to hold the government contractors to their end of the bargain.

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