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From Civic Duty to Feeding Frenzy

Dear Editor:

What has become of us?

I have read with a mixture of disgust and exasperation some of the letters and opinion pieces in this paper relating to the 2020 census. The basic gist of these pieces is this: fill out the census so we can get millions of federal dollars.

When exactly did we trade our status as independent self-governing citizens for pathetic and puerile dependence on federal money? When did we transform solemn civic duties into a mad dash to be the first pig at the federal feeding trough?

To be clear, you ought to fill out the census, though I can certainly sympathize with those who will refuse.

Some will neglect to be counted simply to deny Democrats the opportunity to pick up additional seats in Congress. Others are outraged that non-citizens will be counted in determining representation.

In a state where our governor has hired an “army” of people whose sole job is to find out who you’ve been with, many others are wary of providing the government any personal information.

I certainly share a deep distrust of government, but the census is not some new scheme to track us. It is an essential component of our federal system, enshrined in the Constitution itself. Since the founding of our nation, we have performed the sober and vital task of tallying the population to ensure that representation is relatively proportional and fair.

Apparently we are incapable of understanding that. Evidently, appealing to our avarice is more effective than invoking our civic duty and reverence for our constitutional system.

The notion that we are so helpless and incompetent we need someone else to provide for us is infuriating, patronizing, insulting, morally hollow, and dangerous for democracy.

There are two basic things you should know about federal money: (a) it came from somewhere, and (b) it comes with strings attached.

To the first point, shame on us if we are motivated by the prospect of competing for other people’s money. If, however, we are simply recovering money that came out of our pockets, why are we allowing ourselves to be bribed with our own money?

As for the strings attached, if a marionette had as many strings as a federal dollar, you would be able to control the puppet’s slightest facial movement. There are limits on what the federal government can mandate, but there are virtually no limits on the conditions they can put on receiving federal money.

All of which is just a long-winded way of repeating what your grandma used to tell you: there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

We must fix the corrupt system that has neutered and debased local governments, and transformed politics into a shameless feeding frenzy. The best, perhaps the only way to do this is call an Article V Convention of States to amend the Constitution to set limits on taxing and spending, keep our money at home, and return power and responsibility back to the people. Visit conventionofstates.com to learn more, and get involved.

Seth Essendrop

Bayonne
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