If the numbers that come out for the 2010 U.S. Census seem a bit off — such as if the population of Scranton is reported to be 49 billion — there’s a good reason:

Big worries for the nation’s first high-tech census should have been obvious when the door-to-door headcounters couldn’t figure out their fancy new handheld computers.

Now, officials say, technology problems could add as much as $2 billion to the cost of the 2010 census and jeopardize the accuracy of the nation’s most important survey.

A congressional agency says the census is at “high risk” of producing an expensive yet unreliable count, and lawmakers are planning hearings.

Census officials are considering a return to using paper and pencil to count every man, woman and child in the nation.

Back to pencil and paper? Great! I’d much rather have my government screw up the old fashioned way. High-tech incompetence can be far more expensive than low-tech idiocy.

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The Census Bureau’s new high-tech hand-held computers, pictured above, have caused major problems for confused government employees

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