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Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. LANKFORD. Here's this wonderful thing that would occur: you would open your mail one day and you would have a packet in there, and you would begin reading through these questions. And your first thought would be: Is this real or is this a scam artist trying to steal my information? Then you would call some office, or it gives you a Web site to contact just so you can see that this is really true, because this is not like the long form that just came to your mailbox; this is the American Community Survey. And what just landed in your mailbox, if you refuse to answer it, someone will call you. And then they'll call you, and then they'll call you, and then they'll show up at your door and check on you and why you haven't done it because this is not like the long form of the census that's gathering basic information; this is incredibly personal information.

And if we can ask these questions as a Federal Government, it begs the issue of what questions can the Federal Government not ask of someone, because the Federal Government does not have the authority to walk into every house in America and ask any question they want to ask about any private activity.

While it has been upheld that we can do the long form, this is distinctly different from the long form, and this is new. This is something that just transitioned in the last couple of years. And I get all kinds of calls in my office saying, what is this, and why are you asking for this.

Three quick things on it. I think this is incredibly inappropriate because it asks way too much personal information.

Second of all, I think it is incredibly inefficient. This form costs the Federal Government $67 per person that fills it out. Now, I can assure you, I've heard lots of people talking about polling data and about doing surveys. I don't know of anyone in politics, anyone in America, that pays $67 per survey that is filled out other than the Federal Government.

So this is incredibly inefficient in the way that we're gathering it. There are cheaper ways to be able to gather. Much of this information is already publicly available anyway; it just doesn't connect it to an individual person.

The third thing on this is it's incredibly invasive. Now, let me just run through some of the questions. We've highlighted a few of them, but let me just hit a couple of the high points and then I'll get a chance to talk to you.

It's not just a few things about your age and about your location; it also asks: Do you have hot and cold running water? Do you have a flush toilet? Do you have a bathtub or a shower? Do you have a sink with a faucet? Do you have a stove or a range? Do you have a refrigerator? Do you have telephone service? How many automobiles, vans, or 1-ton vehicles do you have in your home?

Let me keep going. About how much do you think the house or apartment would sell for if you were to sell it right now? What's the annual payment for your fire hazard and flood insurance on this property? How much is the regular monthly payment on your second mortgage for this property, if you have one? Is the person that lives in this home a United States citizen?

How about this one: How well does the person in this home speak English? Where did this person live a year ago? And give the address for that. Because of mental, physical or emotional conditions, does this person have serious difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions? Does this person have difficulty dressing or bathing? How many times has this person been married? Does this person have his or her own grandchildren 18 or younger living in the home?

It gets better.

How many people, including this person, rode together to work last week? How many times did this person actually leave the home, and what time did they leave the home to go to work last week? Last week, was this person laid off from their job? When did this person last work even for a few days? What was your income in the last 12 months?

And not a range, the actual listed income.

Did you have any interest from dividends, rental income, royalties? Any public assistance or welfare payments did you receive?

It goes on and on and on. This is not just a few simple questions. This is a form that, if I walked up to anyone in this Chamber and said, I'm going to ask you a few questions and I'm going to write these down. Tell me first your income, then let's go to, do you have dividends? Do you have royalties? Do you have a bathtub or a shower? You would look at me and say, Go away--which is what thousands of people in America are saying to this survey.

This exceeds what we should ask as Americans.


Mr. LANKFORD. Let me reclaim my time.

Yes, sir, it is. We started it in 2005 and started rolling it out a few at a time, experimenting with it, and now have increased it. In fact, the administration has asked for 50,000 more a month and has actually asked for $52 million more to increase the usage of this.

I yield back the balance of my time.


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