The 2010 census is a mess. As I reported as part of a larger December 2008 story on the federal bureaucracy's failings, the census is on the Government Accountability Office's "High-Risk List" due to "performance deficiencies and uncertain, escalating costs." Doing the census right is particularly important for Democrats and their constituencies — a badly performed census traditionally does a inadequate job of counting minorities and the poor, who tend to be more transitory than the average American. Undercounting comes back to haunt these groups when the census is used to divvy up federal aid and draw electoral districts.
So it's important to have someone in charge of the census who is sensitive to these matters. Well, where is the Census Bureau located? In the Department of Commerce, soon to be headed by Sen. Judd Gregg, a conservative Republican who once voted to defund the department he will now lead.
Thankfully, the White House has made the right call on this, and taken the 2010 census out of Gregg's hands. CQ Politics:
The director of the Census Bureau will report directly to the White House and not the secretary of Commerce, according to a senior White House official.
The decision came after black and Hispanic leaders raised questions about Commerce Secretary nominee Judd Gregg ’s commitment to funding the census.
Gregg, New Hampshire’s senior senator, voted in committee and on the floor for a 1995 Republican budget that envisioned the elimination of the Commerce Department. Of even more concern to black and Hispanic leaders, Gregg battled President Clinton over a request for “emergency” funding for the 2000 census.
"Secretary of Commerce-designate Judd Gregg's record raises serious questions about his willingness to ensure that the 2010 census produces the most accurate possible count of the nation's population," the National Association of Latino Elected Officials said in a release on Tuesday, the day Gregg was named to the post. "Policymakers and planners at all levels of government rely on these data to make important decisions about their services, such as the number of teachers that will be needed in their classrooms, the best places to build new roads, or the best way to provide job training."
Let the man run NOAA. His commitment to the oceans is symbolic of President Obama's belief that people from different parties can share common interests and work together for the common good. But the census, not so much.