Summary: Secretive layoffs of census enumerators undermines census count of people of color, immigrants, and to poor, to the advantage of Republicans and to the detriment of the census workers — Editors
Every ten years the government of the United States counts its population and records demographic information about its people. This information not only gives the public an ability to know what their future looks like, it also gives the government data needed on how best to apportion money to the citizenry. If a region of the country increases in population, more grants from the federal government will go there to fund schools, roads, loans, and many other benefits.
Increased political representation is also given to areas with more population. In a nation where the divide between rural and urban and the electoral college and popular vote grows evermore stark with the years, this is of vital political importance. An accurate census count will benefit the areas with the largest cities, which are far more progressive than less populated and more rural areas. Much of the growth in these locales comes from people of color and immigrants, demographic groups who are usually undercounted in normal census years, let alone one with a global pandemic risking our health.
Unfortunately for the American people, Donald Trump just so happens to be president during the 2020 census. A man thrust into higher office with the ignominious distinction of winning the slavemaster’s electoral college as opposed to the majority consent of his people, he has many reasons to wreck the census. Chief of which is the denial of funds for essential services in the areas ruled by his most viable political opposition, the Democratic Party. Not only will fewer services damage the governance and reputation of these regions, but mathematically they will come to have fewer seats in the legislative branch.
Anecdotes abound of how Republican-supporting areas of the country are swarmed with census enumerators, employees of the US Census Bureau whose task it is to knock on doors and secure the most accurate population count possible. Inner city areas and regions with most belief in and fear of the Coronavirus receive comparatively less resources. These places are overwhelmingly opposed to Trump and the Republican oligarchs.
The census was originally set to begin in the early part of 2020. Yet, Coronavirus struck fear into the hearts of the world and accordingly most of the developed world responded with effective public health measures. This did not take place in the United States. Here, Trump declared it a Democrat hoax designed to reduce his political fortunes in the forthcoming presidential election. Thus, the eventual start date of the census for most of the nation dragged on and on.
When the census did begin, it was born in chaos. Many people who ordinarily would have been happy to take questions from a stranger at the door in past years grew paranoid of others. Census enumerators nationwide reported threats of violence, including with firearms (The United States has more firearms in its territory than human beings) and skepticism of the government’s intentions. Many households on the conspiratorial right deemed the census a ploy to increase the Democratic Party’s power in their area and refused to take it out of political principle. Fewer, but still too many leftists refused the census out of memories of raids to break up immigrant families and remove undocumented people from the country.
Even without direct political intervention from the Trump administration, the 2020 census was going to be done poorly. A wise leader and keen bureaucracy would have deemed it best to finish the census in 2021. This did not happen. An original deadline to finish the census was set late into the year. As enumerators knocked on doors, its due date kept creeping up and up, irrespective of warnings from past census employees the count would assuredly be severely damaged.
When September arrived, many enumerators around the nation woke to the terrible news that they were being laid off for “lack of work”. All this in a time when the press was showing the world how incompetent the census leadership was! With many areas not finished, thousands and thousands are laid off. To add grave insult to the already injured workers who personally live in undercounted areas, census management told laid off workers a voluntary resignation would benefit them more than a formal termination.
In the United States, we possess a woeful welfare state that delivers aid so poorly it is quick to remind one of how beholden the state truly is to the capitalists. Thus, what little aid one qualifies for is a precious oasis in a desert of human misery. In an economic crisis that happens in parallel to a medical one, this makes unemployment benefits even more valuable. However, unemployment benefits are unavailable for the vast majority of people who “willingly” resign their last job.
This being the case, census workers have little incentive to resign from what might be the only job they are working amidst high unemployment. To make it easier to get rid of thousands of workers requires convincing the workers to do it themselves. Census supervisors began threatening their employees with the false threat that if they were laid off for a so called “lack of work”, then they would forever be barred from future government service. Believe it or not, NASA will not care if you were laid off from a temporary job years in the past because your job coincided with a worldwide pandemic. They will hire you based on your experience and skills. Census supervisors lied, telling enumerators that a way to avoid this supposed fate was to sign their own resignation letters. In some cases, census management mass produced their own unsigned resignation letters to thrust into the faces of bewildered enumerators.
This effectively meant blackmailing many a desperate and anxious worker into the false choice of either keeping their unemployment benefits in the middle of a crisis or the lure of future employment in one of the better jobs in the United States. While this has sparked a backlash from some workers, it is not yet known where this order originated. Given the previous incompetence of census management and the political benefits of removing census workers as fast as possible to ruin a census count, one may not know the full truth for a while. I believe it is most likely a case of both, as is typical of the Trump administration ever since his odious victory in 2016. As was the case in the late Roman Empire, personality is overcoming competence in the United States, at a measure unthinkable in the halcyon days of the American Empire’s height in the 1950s and 1960s. The time has now arrived where even a basic count of the population has been transformed into a political plaything for the capitalists and their representatives. The many workers who will lose funding and resources in the process are disposable parts of the capitalist machine.