Politics & Government

Why the 2010 Census costs 20,000% more than 1790's did

KANSAS CITY, Mo. _ Benjamin Franklin, the father of the first U.S. census, which cost $44,000 in 1790, said that "a penny saved is a penny earned."

Were he alive today, Franklin might have a less flattering saying for the bureaucrats who are running the 2010 census, which is costing taxpayers $15 billion and rising.

That's $48 per person counted, compared to $16 in 2000 (about $20 adjusted for inflation) and about a penny in 1790 (or 24 cents after 220 years of inflation).

In March 2008, federal auditors designated this year's census a "high-risk area" of federal spending. Among the reasons: weak management of Census Bureau purchases, including computers and software, and inaccurate cost estimates.

Adding to that expense, The Kansas City Star found, are 28 million Census mailings that bureau officials and the U.S. Postal Service have agreed will simply be thrown away.

That's right. Of the 425 million pieces of mail that began going out last month, as many as 28 million pieces, or about 7 percent, will end up in the nation’s recycling bins.

"That is waste at its worst, and we could have avoided it," said U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican who sleeps on a cot in his office to save money.

Census spokesman Stan Rolark agreed that as many as 28 million letters could be tossed, but said the mailings were needed to ensure that the census reaches as many respondents as possible. He had no estimate of the cost.

Read the complete storyat kansas city.com