With one botched healthcare repeal after another, Trump and Republicans have been struggling to get any legislative accomplishments under their belt. Which is why, of course, they are now putting all of their energy into something just as difficult and horrifying: tax reform. On Wednesday, The New York Times reported that “Republicans also understand that eventual success on a tax plan could ease a lot of the criticism they have come under for their legislative failures and demonstrate they have the capacity to run Washington.”
Aside from the basic evil that huge tax cuts for the wealthy present, the GOP’s laser-focus on tax reform (and healthcare repeal) have left a litter of other essential government programs and functions in its wake.
Take CHIP, which provides some nine million children with healthcare, and a rare program that enjoys huge bipartisan support: Congress missed the deadline to reauthorize the program at the end of September and every day that passes puts those kids at risk. If Congress doesn’t act, 11 states will run out of funding for the program by the end of the year. The GOP, it seems, cannot even pass the very, very low bar of ensuring that children receive healthcare.
And as Politico reported on Wednesday, because Congress has underfunded the Census Bureau, the department has had to quietly delay its Economic Census survey by six months. In other words, Congress’ neglect is impeding the ability for the bureau to collect data to measure the economic health of the nation. This might not seem like a big deal, but the survey, which has been conducted for the last 200 years, and is essential to the basic functioning of the whole American enterprise. From Politico:
As wonky as it may sound, collecting and publishing information on Americans and U.S. businesses is one of the most important roles of the government: Information provided by Washington helps small businesses decide the next town in which to expand, and determines the destination of more than $400 billion in federal spending each year. The government has no fewer than 128 agencies that collect and disseminate numbers, including 13 whose primary responsibility is statistics. Its surveys cover topics from inflation to oil prices to mink pelt production. As technical and dry as they are, the data overall form the backbone of U.S. economic planning.
Then there is the fact that Trump has left a ton of key appointments vacant, which means that numerous agencies are unable to do their jobs effectively. Trump claimed in a Forbes interview on Tuesday that this he did this on purpose, which is either a cover-up for his inability to get anyone to work for his administration or a just a truly stupid decision.
Republicans are focusing on trying to pass some sort of big-ticket legislation like tax reform because they fear they will be punished at the polls for inaction in advance of the 2018 midterms. But in the meantime, they are letting the government crumble around them, without lifting a finger to do anything about it. It’s death by a thousand small neglects.