11.04.10

What the Census Man Knew

Posted in Census at 8:12 am by George Smith

From the Associated Press:

The number of people seeking jobless benefits jumped sharply last week, after two straight weeks of declines.

The increase undermines hopes that unemployment claims, after falling four times in the previous five weeks, were on a sustained downward trend. That would signal layoffs were slowing and hiring was picking up. Instead, claims remain stuck at an elevated level.

For logistical reasons having to do with how unemployment claims are processed and the slow pace of payroll tax reporting by the federal government in various states, some of these results must inevitably be due to census workers claims just now working through the system.

Today, DD writes in a big feature for The Register:

The results from the US 2010 Decennial Census are guaranteed by the end of the year. However, those who collected it – called enumerators – already know quite a bit about the state of the nation. There’s no good news …

Census employment was the only bright spot in the US economy this year. It showed solid results when the army of enumerators went into the field. The president mentioned the more positive employment statistics sometime in late May-early June. Paradoxically, since the statistics lagged the real world, by the time he said it, the census was busy laying off as many people as it could in Pasadena.

The rest of the article is here.

Read it. Pass it around.

And don’t forget the comments.

They’re fabulous. If only because they show absolutely nothing has changed.

The election brought out the crazies. And the crazies, with the same political beliefs as the census-dodgers, thought they were going to win big time, sweeping everything in their path.

They did not. And many of the most famous nutcases lost. But they’re still around, fuming and swearing they were delivered a mandate by the people. And the very close result splits in places like Pennsylvania show the great and irreconcilable divisions between our tribes.

The census operation showed a way forward early in the year. It demonstrated how people could be put back to work for productive purpose. It put money in their pockets, money they spent in the regions in which they lived, and it sustained demand as long as it was in place. There are facts.

And then it was gone.

Krugman wrote yesterday:

If Obama had used fancy footwork and 2 AM sessions to pass a big public works program, and this program had brought unemployment down, Republicans would be screaming about the process — and Democrats would have comfortably held control of Congress. Remember the voter backlash against the way Medicare drug benefits were passed? Neither do I.

Census employment, while coincidental to the times, showed a result.

It demonstrated unequivocally how hundreds of thousands of Americans could be put to work to capably do productive work for the country.

The Register article on it is here.

NB: We didn’t care what our co-workers politics were in census-land.

09.29.10

Stumble & Fail — the EP

Posted in Census, Imminent Catastrophe, Rock 'n' Roll, Stumble and Fail at 8:34 am by George Smith


Did he watch it on his gadget?

1. Bedbugs
2. Census Man Stomp
3. Mean Old Future
4. Tom Friedman Blooz


Now, if you want, an EP teaser for US of Fail, a little brother — Stumble & Fail.

Download, burn to CD, print the cover art, larger version here.


Reading material for whilst listening

As the recession shook Americans’ confidence last year, new figures show that weddings for people 18 and older dropped to the lowest point in over a hundred years.

A broad array of new Census Bureau data released Tuesday documents the far-reaching impact of a business slump that experts say technically ended in June 2009: a surging demand for food stamps, considerably fewer homeowners and people doubling up in housing to save money.

The government revealed that the income gap between the richest and poorest Americans grew last year by the largest margin ever, stark evidence of the impact the long recession starting in 2007 has had in upending lives and putting the young at greater risk.

The top-earning 20 percent of Americans — those making more than $100,000 each year — received 49.4 percent of all income generated in the U.S., compared with the 3.4 percent earned by the bottom 20 percent of wage-earners who fell below the poverty line, according to the newly released Census figures.

A different measure, the international Gini index, found U.S. income inequality at its highest level since the Census Bureau began tracking household income in 1967. The U.S. also has the greatest disparity among Western industrialized nations.

Three states — New York, Connecticut and Texas — and the District of Columbia had the largest gaps in rich and poor, disparities that exceeded the national average. Similar income gaps were evident in large cities such as New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Boston and Atlanta, home to both highly paid financial and high-tech jobs as well as clusters of poorer immigrant and minority residents. — AP

09.20.10

Class War and Census Business

Posted in Census, Stumble and Fail at 2:58 pm by George Smith

Krugman has written about naked class war the past couple days — the rage of the rich over the Obama administration and the Bush tax cuts.

The things that stick out are grievance and entitlement. While everyone else has been going to hell, the wealthy, who have not, are disturbed.

Krugman writes:

But 30 years ago people with high but not super-high incomes generally felt ashamed of themselves for griping — or at least, felt that they would be ridiculed if they gave voice to their gripes. Today, all restraints are off. The fuss over Messrs. Henderson and Stein is the exception that proves the rule: they wouldn’t be providing this spectacle if they didn’t normally swim in social circles where complaining that you only have 9 or 10 times median family income is considered totally acceptable.

Pretty soon, we’ll be having serious, completely un-self-conscious discussions in major magazines about the servant problem.

It seemed familiar.

The anger of the rich can be linked to attitudes. They’re worked up because they’re used to being the people who do the doing unto others. And now that they’re being told what for — rather mildly — that they have to pay a bit higher tax, they’re on the receiving end, if only in a small way.

If you worked for the census in Pasadena this summer, you already knew their sense of entitlement and grievance.

The city has a big upper class and a large group who are close but looking enviously upward.

Among them — usually unseen — is the servant class, living in big houses which outwardly look like average homes. But where the interiors have been cut into flophouse group living arrangements, bedrooms made into single apartments or tiny garages turned into apartments where five people live together. Slum living in plain sight.

As census enumerators, we were tasked with going after the non-responders, the people who didn’t send in their census forms.

After about a week of enumeration, the non-responders — as far as my experience went — fell into two general categories.

The poor and damaged lower middle class, people who may not have even been living in the places we were visiting for most of the year. They were battered by the economy, the necessity of having more than one very-low paying job just to survive, regular dislocation and distress.

It was often understandable that they hadn’t filled out the census form. “When did I have the time?” said someone who had indicated they were at work much more of the day than usual.

It was a legitimate point.

When I ran across those heading downward or in poor situations, they were the easier of the two categories of non-responders to deal with.

The other category were from the upper and upper middle classes. They lived in ritzy gated condos and high button apartments, often protected by passively hostile property managers.

It was possible they’d call call the police if you interrupted during the watching of a Lakers game. Conversely, some census workers saw it as a good time to show up when dealing with determined resisters.

Others would scream — “I don’t have time for this now!” or some variation — whatever the time. And blast the door shut.

It was this class of non-responder which owned the sense of entitlement, the attitude that they were too busy, too high up the social ladder to be bothered with the census.

Some would concoct outlandish and windy arguments over the alleged violation of privacy and civil rights.

“I won’t stand for this tyranny!” was one reaction. Another white guy objected strenuously to having to answer the question on race –whether he was, in fact, white. Or something else, a hybrid, anything, the census could even write it in on the spot — his choice, within reason.

“I feel this is an egregious invasion of my personal rights and privacy,” he said.

This was not as uncommon as you might think.

Some would brainlessly belittle census work to your face.

“Census workers are stupid — nothing against you, personally,” said one man who wanted to know what line in the US Code decreed he cooperate with the census.

There were those who worked for “high-tech companies.” Their time was always very precious. Rather than take a couple minutes to answer a simple set of questions at the door, some would waste days hiding in an interior room when you came around, pretending to be on vacation, or — if caught unawares and unprepared to flee — argue with you for longer than it would take to actually participate without complaint.

There were others who told you to get a “real job.” Another wondered if it was illegal for us to show up on Saturday mornings.

After a couple of weeks of this, everyone who worked the census beat had heard every variation many times over.

Since the swells with their addresses in our binders were into dodging the census — keep in mind that, by definition, we were primarily after hardcore census non-responders — you quickly worked out methods to get at them.

The water meter could be given a look on consecutive visits to see if the address was indeed vacant or not. Showing up on Saturday and Sunday mornings often worked — any time on the weekend or on a holiday when you’d expect the haves to be relaxing, getting ready for a party, or holding a big sitdown dinner — like Sunday eve.

Now, before you think of that as harassment, realize it would only occur after we’d left many little courteous notices of visit during more reasonable hours. And been ignored. Some dodgers tried to fake vacancy by allowing the notices to build up at the door, while using a different exit when census workers were thought to be about.

The census commanded enumerators to get the information on non-responders. And this also left us open, even ordered us, to dragoon the neighbors when the swell non-responder hiding next door wouldn’t cooperate.

Consider that for a moment.

In their census resistance, the dodger swells — all the fancy and fine — inconvenienced their equally swell neighbors who were already in the books. Because the latter had completed their census forms and mailed them in on time like good Americans. And you would have to invariably explain to them why you were inquiring about the adjacent census deadbeat — the one who shouted through the door that he would never cooperate or who anti-socially attached his notices of visits to the doors of his neighbors, a stupid bit of trivial malice that never worked.

Infrequently, the befuddled neighbor — not aware he had a sneak living next door or across — would call the enumerator’s number on the misused notice.

“Hello, I’m returning the call from the census,” they would politely say. “However, I mailed in my census return.”

You would ask the address, then consult the book and the day’s questionnaires.

“Yes, ma’am [or sir]. I see here that I didn’t leave that notice on your door. It’s from one of your neighbors. People do that sometimes to try and throw us off. Sorry for the inconvenience. Have a good evening.”

One woman, a property manager, asked me why someone was leaving little blue slips of paper on her door. These were our notices of visit.

“Did you fill out and mail in your census form?” I asked pleasantly.

“No,” she replied. “How do I get them to stop?”

“Call the census taker’s phone number on the blue paper,” I told her. “He’ll take you through the census. It’s easy”

Silence.

My experience with the less fortunate was almost never like the dealings with the have-contingent living in the condos.

Often the former were tired after a long day of unrewarding work. But if you were pleasant, spoke softly and made courteous small talk, telling them the census would only take a few minutes and why it was important, they almost never made a fuss.

One last point: As we started census work, no one expected we’d be met with open arms. “Everyone hates the census,” said one enumerator in my working group. It was a fair assessment.

The TV network that now defends the plutocracy is Fox. And Fox News was informally regarded by some of us as a special enemy. The network spent what seemed like a peculiar amount of time early on trying to discredit the census and encourage non-cooperation by chasing the idea that it had hired loads of criminals or that the census was an example of government malfeasance.


Accordingly, DD has produced a really rocking tune, The Census Man Stomp.

It’s here. Do give it a listen.

It works off the commonly held view among the census non-responders that we were just out to persecute them. By the last verse, you hear what every census worker was thinking but not saying by the last week of the big push.

And, yes, that stuff in the breaks — all the statements from civilians I met on the beat.

Here’s an unintentionally great video of some guy who is just like some of the census dodgers I met. We jumped on such grenades many times a week.

Fox ginning up civil disobedience against the census — here.

Another census resister — this one with a camera. I feel sorry for the census enumerators who had to tackle this guy because he got his rocks off mocking and deviling them.

Here’s another video from the same kook — who doesn’t seem to realize — or maybe he does — that the census keeps sending people out, while getting your name and how many people are living in your house from the neighbors. Who probably looked askance at the dickhead with the camera for turning his stalwart civil disobedience into their inconvenience.

And another video from the same guy. You see the routine — he spends more effort opposing the census, futilely, since the local department has sent enough people — at least three — out to his place to do what we called using a “proxy” — the neighbors or even the various census workers — to fill in the information.

He’s not unlike a couple I met in Pasadena. We had ways of dealing with them. While being very courteous, as these good census workers are, of course.

Resisting the census and passively picking on the census employees, who lived in the same community and were just trying to do a hard job in the most friendly manner, was this guy’s bag.

And he documented it and uploaded them all to YouTube for us to enjoy.

And here’s Ron Paul advocating census resistance.

The Census Man Stomp

I got my government bag
And my address book
You didn’t fill it out
Now I’m gonna hassle you!

I’m on your street
Now I’m at your door!

You thought that you were cool
And that I was just a slob
Now I’m on your street
Now I’m at your door!
x2

I’m from the government
I’m here to hassle you!
Now, do as your told!

How, how, how — how old are you?
x3

I don’t care what you say
Heard it all before
Don’t care how busy you are

I’m here to hassle you
x3

I’m from the government
I need to talk to you
Now, shut the hell up!

Shut, shut the hell up
x4

09.09.10

Bedbugs and Decay

Posted in Census, Stumble and Fail at 1:39 pm by George Smith

Bedbugs are having a party in the US. If you could own them as an appreciating asset, they’d be better than gold.

Which is sort of what a New York Times story had to say on the pests a few days ago.

In hard times, the only people doing well are the rich and bedbug exterminators.

“Bedbugs gave Linda Develasco of Des Plaines, Ill., a new career when she was laid off from her job as a new-accounts manager at Verizon two years ago,” reported the Times. “Having learned about bedbugs in the hospitality industry from her fiancé, who was general manager of a hotel, she bought a bedbug-sniffing beagle named Scooby for $9,700. She recouped the expense within three months by doing one to three inspections each week.”

That story is here.

You will want to read to the part where one exterminator is so happy over bedbug infestation he has to pull over to the side of the road and do a little jig. Bedbugs meant his ship came in big time.

For every story like this there have been at least a dozen on what to do about bedbugs and why they’re multiplying.

The New York Times story gives some inkling and it jives with DD’s thinking and experience.

Keep in mind, bedbugs live with people. And when people are forced to move bedbugs move with them.

The Times story informs that in the catastrophe economy, many apartment managers cut back on exterminations, hoping to save money. And if you’ve been living in an apartment complex, you know the Great Recession has caused a great deal of churn. People move in — a month or two later, they’re gone.

In the short term, apartment managers probably thought they were saving money. But they never counted on bedbugs hitching a ride in inside the packaging and mattresses of the displaced moving in from other places. Or resurgence of the insects once a spraying regime wasn’t suppressing them.

DD worked enumerating downtown Pasadena for the census. It is the most densely populated part of town with most of the people living in apartments, ritzy condos and older homes subdivided into boarding room flophouses.

During the time of the census it was quite apparent to me and a friend working the same beat that the Great Recession was having a real impact. And none of it was good.

There were people moving in and out everywhere. And there was a good amount of vacancy and noticeable deterioration, even in the most outwardly upscale-looking complexes. In such places, the corporate management often fought hard to impede the US Census. They did not readily disclose the number of vacancies in their buildings.

In fact, often they had to be forced into cooperation with the government, either by firmly telling them it was the law that they comply, or by simply going into the places and doing it the hard way — knocking on the doors of all the tenants next door to units which did not respond and questioning them until a complete picture on the address block was assembled.

Corporate property management’s often surprising and dismaying opposition to the federal mandate is a topic for greater discussion in another post. But in the context of this one on bedbugs, some of it had to do with bosses trying to cover up their rates of vacancy arising from the Great Recession.

Scientists are, naturally, keenly interested in why bedbugs have become such a problem. Some have ventured to say that it’s because they have achieved a surprising resistance to pesticides. This is true but also probably not the entire story, which will only emerge in a few years.

DD reckons bedbug success is due, in part, to US fail. The economic slump has ripped up a lot of lives and thrown them into the wind. And those who are renters who have lost lodgings, along with the cut back in sprayings at the same places, have created a great environment in which bedbugs can breed freely and hitch rides on the dislocated.

If you read the New York Times story, bedbug extermination isn’t cheap. In fact, it’s priced as a scarce commodity in a time of need.

No standard renter is going to pay $500 or up for a Terminix man to come to their place and get rid of bedbugs.

They’ll try to do it themselves with insecticides from the hardware store and keep quiet about it. And learn to battle or live with the pests until better days come around.

If they ever do. In the meantime, bedbugs will be doing fine.

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