Wednesday, January 16, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He robbed Peter to pay Paul.

Today, Trump issued an order summoning 2,500 furloughed Department of Agriculture employees back to work—although not back to a paycheck. 

Among other things, this will allow the department to process claims from farmers devastated by the market disruption caused by Trump's trade war. Last year, Trump revived a now-obscure government program dating back to the Great Depression as a temporary bailout to affected farms, but the shutdown had stopped those payments from going out.

The move has some political advantages for Trump: it eases some pressure on Republican members of Congress from rural districts, at the expense of federal workers. Trump seems to think—incorrectly—that federal workers are mostly Democratic voters and therefore fair game.

But it contradicts other Trump administration statements on the shutdown. Recalled workers now cannot earn money at other temporary jobs, as the Trump administration had suggested they do (along with offering to do chores to offset rent, or holding yard sales). And being forced back for unpaid work is certainly the end of the "vacation" that Trump's economic advisor has been insisting that furloughed workers have been on.

Why is this a bad thing?

  • Generally speaking, it's bad policy to make one problem even worse so that you can put a band-aid on another problem.
  • It's not optional for a government to govern, and it can't really be done piecemeal.
  • It's bad to make people work without paying them.