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E-mail of the day: Confessions of a Census worker

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By Michelle Malkin  •  March 30, 2010 04:10 PM

If even half of what this anonymous reader who e-mailed about his experience as a Census worker is true, imagine the squandering of tax dollars taking place on a mass scale. Crikey.

Hi, Michelle:

I would first like to apologize for stealing your tax dollars, but if it wasn’t me, it would be someone else. I am an underemployed 20-something Tea Partier, and after reading about how much government waste was going to the 2010 census, I figured that I might as well “git me some of dat Obama money” until I find something more solid.

…I’m currently in my second tour of “temporary employment” with the Bureau….I’m not participating in or approving of what the census data I collect could likely be used for, but all I am is data entry at the moment.

Last summer I participated in the ‘address canvassing’ (AC) project. What this entailed was walking around a neighborhood, literally door to door, with a little hand held computer. My job was not to enter addresses so that these people could receive their form, but to make sure that the addresses that the first wave of people put into the system and appeared on the computer was actually there. 99% were. Sure there were a few missing that you did have to manually enter, but out of the thousands of address that I checked, we’re talking 20 or less that had to be manually entered. I didn’t have to knock on any doors or ask any questions, unless someone came out and was angry that I was walking around the neighborhood looking at pretty address numbers on door frames. If they were mad, I gave them a little sheet that explained the confidentiality of the census. But mostly, it was me getting paid $15.25/hour plus mileage to take my dog for a walk and pushing a few buttons.

In an average suburban neighborhood where the houses are somewhat close to each other, it was no problem to do about 35-40 addresses per hour once you learned how to quickly enter data into the computer. The census said that I should be doing about 12-15 per hour. My direct bosses told me that I should NOT be doing 35-40 because it was making them and other people look bad. So instead of walking at a snails pace, I just did my 35-40/hour and doubled my time when I submitted my hours. Again, sorry for the tax dollar grab, but I was told not to be so darned efficient or else I’d be cut!

To recap: A first wave of people spent god knows how many hours finding the addresses on every street in America. I’m in the second wave, making sure they did their jobs. Then there were people (Quality Control), who were the third wave, making sure I did my job! I was not fortunate enough to get a QC position.

Let me get into another area. Training. To do the above job, I could have been trained in a single morning learning computer functions and mapping, maybe a little bit of recap after a lunch break. No way it should have gone longer than 5 or 6 hours, being generous. Turn on the computer, find your area that you were assigned, learn how to enter the different kinds of dwellings, and how to use a stylus. But no. We were subjected to a 5 day, 40 hour training period that made me want to tear my hair out. Because what I, a college educated non-moron, could have learned in 5 hours, 80% of my class of trainees were aggravatingly slow and confused by the process. Old people, high school dropouts, flat-out idiots. The census takes all comers. Oh and the stupid questions they ask! Thinking back gives me nightmares. I’m really not turning my nose up at these people, but it just saddened me to see good people struggling with such a menial task.

So much time was wasted on the first day, for the rest of the days, I just sat in the back reading the paper, books, staring at the ceiling. At the end of the training, you are given a written test. You have one hour to complete the exam and only need to get 60%. I flew through it in 15 minutes, missed one question, and was a full-fledged graduate of Census university. For $15.25/hour, plus my mileage at 50 cents per mile to a facility which was round trip about 80 miles. So training alone wasted about 35 hours and 320 miles. That’s about $700 right there. Thanks, taxpayers!

Now to my second wave, which is something called Group Quarters Enumeration. This is something I could have learned to do over breakfast. We got a 3 day training. This one is going to places considered group quarters, i.e. nursing homes, soup kitchens, churches where priests live, and the like. Not apartment buildings or anything like that. And of course homeless, people, let’s not forget that.

This one is about to start. My first assignment is a [redacted] in which I have just learned there are no inhabitants who live there full-time or the majority of the time. After talking this over with my boss and feeling cheated that I’m losing hours since there’s nobody to distribute census forms to, I have been told to drive to this [place] (25 minutes from my house), confirm in person, and drive back. Credit me with half an hour there, half an hour back, and half an hour confirming, and I’m getting an 1.5 hours plus the mileage. What a wonderful use of funds!

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Categories: census