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Sharing your info with Uncle Sam & Facebook

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POSTED March 30, 2018 12:58 a.m.

My grandmother wasn’t a big fan of those year-end letters.
The mimeographed affairs — this was in 1965 before clumsy commercial photocopiers started popping up near checkouts in supermarkets making a copy in just under a minute for a nickel — as far as she was concerned were too impersonal and were often written by braggarts.
It’s not that she did not want to hear from people. It’s just that she viewed handwritten letters as more personal and thought it was classless to brag about your good fortune as if you were churning out advertising fliers.
It had a lot to do with her generation. She was left with a ranch to run and nine kids to raise after her alcoholic husband took off during the Great Depression. From everything my mom, aunts, and uncles shared it was more than a struggle. Grandmother never said so. That wasn’t her style. But she had no stomach about others who bragged about their good fortune. Not because she was struggling  day to day to feed her children praying that when cattle went to market they’d get a decent price but because she knew there were a lot of people worse off. She’d help them when she could but she never lorded it over them that she was somehow better off. It wasn’t just good manners. She viewed it as vulgar behavior.
I can only imagination what she’d think about people’s obsession with Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram where a bit too many people let narcissism drive their communications.
She also was a stickler for privacy. Perhaps that answers any question I might have about how she would have viewed social media.
Her position on privacy, however, was deep rooted in a mistrust of the government or, as she would astutely point out, not the government per se but some of the people who worked for it.
She got duped out of getting full value for her Nevada County ranch she ended up selling in the late 1930s. Unbeknownst to her the man who convinced her to finally sell was a government worker with inside information the Army was looking to establish an air corps base. When plans for Camp Beale were rolled out a year or so later along with news the man who sold the bulk of the property to the Army was the same one that bought her ranch and others nearby, grandmother put two and two together.
The difference in the price she got and the man sold it for was $20 an acre — a king’s ransom then for a 200-acre ranch. It didn’t make her bitter as she saw no percentage in in holding grudges.
That said grandmother made it clear that she thought it was never wise to give up much information about one’s self to government representatives. She had developed a healthy distrust. I’m not too sure she would have agreed completely with President Ronald Reagan when he said, “the nine most terrifying words in the English language are ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help’”, but she definitely questioned why the government had to know much about you beyond the proverbial name, rank, and serial number. American citizens aren’t exactly afforded the same luxury of prisoners of war under the terms of the Geneva Convention.
I remember talking with her one day after reading in a newspaper how the government was going to start adding more questions on the Census about what people owned such as television sets.
She thought they had gone too far in asking in a previous census whether people had running water or indoor plumbing — neither of which she had until she was 50 and had moved to Lincoln in Placer County and built a new home with her own hands.
How grandmother would react to the growing storm over the 2020 Census adding the question of whether a respondent is an U.S. citizen would be interesting.
Not only was it asked on every Census from 1820 to 1950 before it was dropped likely to make room for other questions such as a household’s bathroom status, but it is asked annually on the Census Bureau’s  American Community Survey.
The Census’ mission has always been to count every resident regardless of their legal status. Based in the annual ACS survey data that is gathered using sampling methods, about half of the 44 million immigrants in this country are U.S. citizens. The rest are either here legally on visas and such or are here illegally.
The rant of state attorney generals vowing to sue the Commerce Department for adding back a citizenship question that was asked every decade over a 130-year period without a peep of outrage from any state has to do with money.
The fear of politician-lawyers in attorney general offices in states like California and New York laden with a lot of undocumented immigrants is that the information will be used to reduce federal funds for social net programs that are sent to the states based on the head count of U.S. citizens as opposed to just residents.
This isn’t a “Stop Trump” knee jerk reaction by the resistance out of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s office. Unless they believe Trump is getting re-elected in 2020, given the Census data will likely not be available until 2021, this is not about immigration per se as it is money — lots and lots of money.
California could lose billions it receives from the federal government based on the head count of legitimate citizens.
It’s funny how the government reacts when they’re the ones losing money on a deal.

 

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