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Video: Stephen Colbert on the Census Bureau

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Comedian Stephen Colbert last night pilloried proposed legislation that would restrict the Census Bureau from conducting certain types of surveys.

Colbert poked fun at the 2013 Census Reform Act, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C. The bill, proposed in early May, would repeal the agency’s ability to survey for many types of data including for information on agriculture, economic indicators and demographics.  Data from the surveys are used extensively in policymaking, and many industries rely on the information to conduct short- and long-term planning.

Colbert said that the Census Bureau did not have rights to access his information, and joked that the information belonged to Facebook. He compared the Census Bureau’s surveyors to “drunk ex-boyfriends” asking for data relating to income and education.

“This bill may be a tacit rejection of the age of enlightenment, but what’s wrong with the age of en-darkenment?” Colbert asked.

In a statement posted on his website, Duncan said the growing risk of cyberattacks was raising the concern that hackers would invade people’s privacy by accessing the information. 

“The Census Bureau shouldn’t be forcing anyone to share the route they take their kids to school, or any information other than how many people live in their home,” Duncan said.

The Washington Post noted the bill would prevent the public from finding out major indicators like the unemployment rate, or the labor force participation within the population.

Kedar Pavgi is an M.A. candidate at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies. He was previously a Digital Editor at Defense One, and has worked at Government Executive, and Foreign Policy magazine. He has written for The Diplomat, The World Politics Review, and the Foreign Policy Association. He received his bachelor’s degree from the College of William and Mary, where he studied economics and international relations.

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