Thrift is a virtue. And it's easy to find opportunities for thrift in a society where nearly every household wastes untold sums of money every year.

But for adults, some of life's expenses are worth paying in full. There's an old saying about not spoiling a ship to save a halfpenny's worth of tar. Or, in plainer English, it's too expensive to try to save money on some things.

Maybe the most obvious example is skimping on automobile maintenance. You'll end up paying dearly for it. On a less dramatic level, it isn't worth saving a couple of dollars buying cheap garbage bags that rip and spill their contents on your kitchen floor.

Likewise in government. There's plenty of waste and many areas where big savings are desirable. But if the federal government skimps on its few specifically enumerated powers and duties, it's failing to live up to its mandate.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is telling Congress this week that he needs more money to count the population. Republicans in Congress should comply and find savings elsewhere.

The Census isn't an Obama boondoggle or New Deal invention. It's at the heart of what the federal government is supposed to do. The decennial census is an obligation specified in Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution to determine how many seats each state gets in the House of Representatives.

An "actual enumeration" of the American people is due "within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct" after the first census of 1790.

Whispers around Washington suggest that planning for Census 2020 is a shambles. New technology isn't working as hoped. Processes will need to be modified late in the game. Ross did not create the problem, but it's important to constitutional order that he be given the resources needed to fix it.

It will not pay for Republicans to be cheap. A faulty census will lead to a dubious reapportionment of congressional districts among states, and an even more dubious redistricting. Our democracy can't afford a further erosion of trust.

A botched Census under a Republican president would buttress suspicion that Republicans can win elections but can't govern competently.

The Census is, anyway, not especially expensive. Even with the hike Ross is seeking, it will cost only about $15 billion over a decade. That is less than half a percent of the $4 trillion budget each year.

And unlike many other federal expenses, there is no doubt about its constitutional legitimacy or its necessity for the sake of equal representation in the lower House of Congress.