A quick explanation of how the budget works

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The spending we’ve discussed so far is “mandatory,” meaning the government has to pay it to fulfill its own rules. When somebody becomes eligible for social security payments, for example, the law says they start getting the money, so there it goes…

…What’s left is discretionary spending, meaning the amounts can more easily change from year to year, at Congress’s discretion.

pub. 05/2017

Why the census is really, really important–and in jeopardy right now

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1. Literally every American social program uses census numbers to allocate resources.

Your fire department, your schools—the data gathered in the decadal census, determines, for example, whether new schools are opened or current schools are shut down. Transportation grants and education grants, among others, are distributed proportionally. If the Veteran’s Administration wants to place a hospital for elderly veterans, they obviously want to select a location heavily populated by elderly veterans. If the numbers are off, the hospital gets mis-sited—and the vets don’t get health care.

pub. 05/2017

Why a special prosecutor might keep Trump’s secrets

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A special prosecutor, by contrast, seeks crimes. The criminal law is a heavy tool, and for that reason it is thickly encased in protections for accused persons. The most important protection from the point of view of the Trump-Russia matter is the rule of silence. A prosecutor investigating a crime can often discover non-criminal bad actions by the people he is investigating. If those bad actions do not amount to crimes, the prosecutor is supposed to look away.

pub. 05/2017