But there is a whole other side to Trump’s takeover of Washington: What happens to the government itself, and all it is tasked with doing, when it is placed under the command of the Chaos President? HUD has emerged as the perfect distillation of the right’s antipathy to governing. If the great radical-conservative dream was, in Grover Norquist’s famous words, to “drown government in a bathtub,” then this was what the final gasps of one department might look like.
Everywhere you turn in Trumpland, you’ll find a slew of Thomas’ former clerks in high places. They are serving in the White House counsel’s office (Greg Katsas, John Eisenberg, David Morrell); awaiting appointment to the federal judiciary (Allison H. Eid, David Stras); leading the departments of the Treasury (Heath P. Tarbert, Sigal Mandelker) and Transportation (Steven G. Bradbury); defending the travel ban in court (Jeffrey Wall); and heading the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (Neomi Rao). Thomas clerks are also working with dark money groups to execute Trump’s agenda (Carrie Severino) and boosting him in the far-right media (Laura Ingraham).
What Trump’s proposing is something that has been kicked around since the 1970s, and it’d be a pinnacle achievement for privatization-giddy folks like Shuster and the major airlines. It’d also be a massive undertaking for the U.S., and one that couldn’t be smoothly delivered by a bunch of klutzes.
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.
But to call a presidential abuse of power a crisis of the constitutional system is like calling a bank robbery a crisis of the financial system. It’s not. There are ways to address it.
The problem comes when the relevant actors simply won’t perform their constitutional duties because of other considerations.
Trump’s management preferences, honed in his business, also overrode the recommendation of some transition planners for a White House structured with clear lines of authority and a strong chief of staff. That structure was meant to discipline the president’s mercurial style. Instead, Trump created a White House of multiple and competing power centers, personal rivalries and internal conflict.
“There seems to be this idea that just because you’re receiving food assistance benefits, you stop having cravings,” says Marissa Evans, who covers health and human services policy for the Texas Tribune…
…If you’re going to make judgments about what SNAP beneficiaries are eating, be prepared to make the same judgments about everyone else. For example, if you think the government should be acting to limit what people who receive SNAP can eat, consider whether you’d be in favor of similar government intervention for other households—like, for example, a junk food tax. These aren’t necessarily bad ideas, but class prejudices may influence how we think about them.