Libertarians to Commerce Sec.: Follow Bill Belichick’s advice, ‘Do your job’

U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross

Bill Belichick is one of the winningest coaches in professional football, leading the New England Patriots to a record six Super Bowl titles. One of the secrets to his success is asking all of his players to “Do your job.” The Libertarian Party calls on President Donald Trump, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and Congress to follow this advice.

The Department of Commerce has one constitutional job, and Secretary Ross refuses to do it. Article I, Section 2, requires the federal government to count all of the people in the United States every 10 years. By trying to add a citizenship question that would make that count inaccurate, the Trump administration again refuses to do the basic work of government in favor of scoring partisan political advantage.

All of the controversy over whether the president plans to defy the Supreme Court’s ruling on adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census ignores the undisputed fact that adding the question would make the Census less accurate. In court filings, the Department of Commerce has admitted that adding a citizenship question would reduce participation in the Census. The reduced participation would occur in areas where lower population counts would give an advantage to the Republican Party, so President Trump and Secretary Ross have abandoned any pretense of trying to obtain an accurate count as long as they can undercount specific demographics.

The people who would decline to answer a citizenship question are not wrong to distrust the government. Census data is supposed to be confidential, but the federal government has a shameful history of using that confidential information — for instance, rounding up Americans of Japanese descent during the 1940s and placing them into concentration camps.

“With asylum seekers being detained in camps already, it’s not much of a stretch for the government to use ‘confidential’ Census data to round up non-citizens,” said Libertarian Party Executive Director Daniel Fishman. “It’s not just a citizenship question problem. Every extra question asked beyond ‘How many people live in this household?’ reduces participation and makes the Census less accurate.”

Congress can put the Secretary Ross back on track by passing a 2020 Census bill that funds only the collection of that simple question, without all of the other demographic data that can be collected through other sampling instruments like the American Communities Survey, and without damaging the accuracy of the count. It is unlikely that Congress will do its job, because there are advantages for the Democratic Party to ask certain demographic questions on the Census questionnaire.

“The Constitution requires the government to count all the people in the country every 10 years, and we call on politicians from both old parties to stop playing games and just do their job,” said Libertarian National Committee Chair Nicholas Sarwark. “Most Americans are tired of fights between team red and team blue over which one is more awful for the country. They want the government to do fewer things better, which is also what the Libertarian Party wants. Is it too much to ask that the Commerce Department at least do the one job it is authorized to do?”