The Trump gang has kicked up a ruckus over its plan to insert a question about citizenship in the 2020 decennial census. It’s a transparent attempt to reduce the response rate of immigrants, disenfranchising them in reapportionment and government spending formulas, despite the Constitution’s call for an enumeration of “persons”, not citizens.
But why stop at citizenship? When you think about, there is no government interest greater than its ability to collect taxes, the main obstacle to which is tax avoidance, legal and illegal. Researchers looking into this problem, not to mention government analysts themselves, struggle in the face of rampant secrecy.
So why not use the census to get a better picture of tax cheating? Insert just a single question, “Within the past year have you failed to pay your lawful federal, state or local tax obligations?” Respondents should be reminded that a dishonest answer constitutes a violation of federal law. The fine is small compared to most tax avoidance, but the last thing most tax scofflaws want is added attention to their financial duplicity.
I can see the confusion when the numbers are tallied in 2021. “Gee, there are all these big houses, shady streets and golf courses, but according to our data no one actually lives here.”