Being a political junkie, one of my pursuits is to learn more about the various forms of government we all live with. City and county have been a hobby for years because they’re closest to us and the parts of the political puzzle on which we can have the most impact. The federal animal, though, is quite another situation.

The more you delve into it – sort of like eating sawdust without asking for water – the more of a mess it seems to be. The Pentagon, for instance, takes a lion’s share of our tax dollars but administrators recently admitted they have absolutely no accounting system to identify where those dollars go. The money comes in by the hundreds of billions but there is no assured tracking to see exactly where it all goes. It just – goes. No one knows where. Or how much. Or to whom. Besides Halliburton.

Now, if you want a federal agency that can tell you where everything is, how many, how much, how high, how low, where, when, by whom, to whom, for whom, why, etc. that’s the U.S. Census Bureau. I joined their emailing list some time ago and my inbox overflows daily with detailed output on nearly everything. And I mean EVERYTHING!

From time to time, as appropriate, I use some of the material. Because some of it is quite interesting and provides helpful research. Some of it. Other times, well, let’s just say you have to wonder how many people are employed to put all these sorts of weird facts together. The approaching Thanksgiving holiday offers an excellent example of Census Bureau information you may never have thought necessary.

For example, in 2010, the turkey “crop” in this country was 243 million birds. That didn’t count turkey imports which cost consumers nearly $8 million. Almost all the imports came from Canada. See what I mean about wide-ranging information? Exact count?

Ah, but we’re just beginning. There are the cranberries – 750 million pounds of them. More than 60% came from Wisconsin. Oregon ranked about fifth. Sweet potatoes produced for the holiday weighted in at 2.4 billion pounds. Pumpkin for the pie totaled 1.1 billion pounds. For those who’d rather have cherry pies, our tart cherry production was 266.1 million pounds. Wheat grown for all the bread, rolls and pie crusts came to 201 billion bushels. Snap (green) beans for side dishes came in at 656 million tons.

And where was all this eaten, you ask? Why in the 116.7 million households the Census Bureau counted in 2010.

They even know there are four towns in our country named Turkey – one each in Louisiana, Texas, Arizona and North Carolina. Nine communities are named Cranberry. The one in Pennsylvania is the largest with 28,098 residents. And there are 37 places and townships named Plymouth – as in Plymouth Rock where the first Thanksgiving dinner was probably eaten.

Now, if the U.S. Census Bureau can come up with all this microscopic information about a single national holiday, you have some small idea of the gigantic amount of detail I get about all the really important stuff. It’s overwhelming! Those folks know just about everything.

Now, all this attention to detail in one federal department got me to thinking about the lack of attention to detail in the other.

Suppose – just suppose – we moved a bunch of the Census Bureau counters into the Defense Department swamp where even the number of alligators is unknown. Suppose the folks that counted the turkeys and weighed all those cranberries and wheat and snap beans started counting airplanes, trucks, humvees, military personnel, civilians, bullets, bombs, ships, boots, hats, rifles, machine guns, rain coats and everything else the Pentagon buys, rents, leases or owns. If you can find and weigh snap beans, why can’t you do the same with, oh, say khaki galoshes or submarines?

I’ll bet if someone gave that idea to Mitch McConnell or John Boehner, those two might even come up with a bill or two or three to put right in there with those on abortion, voter fraud, union criminalizing and all those other important national issues they’ve been filling their time with for almost a year now. You know, all those national priority subjects that have kept them so busy they haven’t had time for a single bill on job creation or fixing all those things that caused our country’s credit rating to be reduced three months ago.

Yep, the more you study the federal government from afar, the more ideas you can come up with to make sense of it all. Being in Washington, D.C. just puts you too close to the problem.

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