Dispute is the name of the game in today’s politics.
Republicans think the President's efforts to improve the terms of trade between America and other countries, to control immigration from selected countries, to undo Obamacare, to limit economic and social regulation, to strengthen defense and to reduce taxes are steps that will benefit America and are consistent with his campaign promises.
Democrats think the President is systematically dismantling our government by appointing Secretaries of the major agencies who are opposed to what their agencies are charged with doing, lack experience in the relevant disciplines or are intellectually unable to master the tasks with which they are charged. They believe the government should sustain and build upon past regulatory accomplishments, act to prevent further decay of our infrastructure, should sustain and expand government R&D, should broaden the government’s efforts to retrain workers for better jobs and higher wages, and should not seek tax cuts that are inconsistent with sound fiscal policy.
Whatever the validity of these differing points of view, and for all the damage or good that those appointed to high places are doing and will do before 2020, the President’s unwillingness to appoint management at the US Census Bureau and provide funding for the upcoming 2020 U.S. Census will likely have more profound and far reaching consequences than the near term impact of either legislation or executive orders.
The Census matters a lot, for many reasons. Census data determines the makeup of Congress, and provides information which determines the allocation of tens of billions of federal dollars. Moreover, the Census provides essential protection and guidance for both individuals and businesses. Without accurate census information, there would be no way to be sure that government funds for building schools, roads and other public facilities would be accurately allocated. Nor would businesses have accurate data about population densities and trends to help locate stores, assess the probable success of new products, and do other kinds of planning.
Our founders believed that census data is essential to participatory democracy, and wrote the requirement for a census into our constitution.
Unhappily, neither the President nor the Congress have yet taken the steps necessary to properly conduct the 2020 census. The Director of the Census Bureau retired in June 2017, and has not been replaced. Moreover, recent budgetary proposals include substantially less for the Bureau than the approximately $12 billion the retiring Director told Congress the 2020 census will cost. Unless these problems are fixed by early 2018, there will not be sufficient time to test 2020 census procedures and get the hundreds of thousands of people needed organized and in place.
Without census data, the government will lack an essential compass. Since our course is already erratic, the absence of a compass could prove catastrophic.