Why the government shutdown actually costs money

The government shutdown that began on Saturday is likely to slow the economy, inconvenience millions of Americans and leave both President Donald Trump and Congress with a political black eye. But at least shuttering the government for a while will save taxpayers some money, right?

Actually, no.

Shutdowns end up being more expensive than just keeping the government open—and this one, if it’s like past shutdowns, will likely cost tens of millions of dollars a day. Maybe more. And it’s a mystery even to experts just how much.

A shutdown seems at first like it would lead to some quick and dramatic savings. Non-essential employees are furloughed, the government stops writing checks for huge swaths of programs and even essential employees come to work without getting paid.

But in reality it doesn’t quite work like that. Budget experts and past analyses by the White House budget office have found that Continue reading “Why the government shutdown actually costs money”

Trump’s war on regulations is real. But is it working?

In December, standing aside giant stacks of paper representing the morass of federal rules, President Donald Trump literally cut a line of red tape and declared victory in the war on government regulation. His administration, he announced, had repealed 22 regulations for each new rule issued, and cut regulatory costs by $8.1 billion—a headline number for what former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon called the “deconstruction of the administrative state.”

But a closer look at that state during Trump’s first year in office reveals a slightly different story. The vast majority of that $8.1 billion in savings came from the repeal of a single federal contracting rule. The dramatic sounding “22-to-1” statistic is an apples-and-oranges comparison, weighing all deregulatory actions against just a small subset of new rules. And much of the deregulation was done not by Trump himself, but with the help of Congress, which Continue reading “Trump’s war on regulations is real. But is it working?”

3 things Trump did this week while you weren’t looking

The government shutdown loomed large over Washington this week, as Congress returned to confront an immigration impasse that threatens to derail talks over a crucial stopgap spending bill. As the clock ticks toward a midnight deadline, finger-pointing is rampant, and President Donald Trump continues to deal with the fallout from his alleged “shithole” comment.

We’ve been running this series for 31 weeks, and typically this is where we tell you that, behind all the headlines and political furor, federal agencies made a number of key policy changes behind the scenes—except this week that’s not really true. Maybe it was the holiday weekend, maybe the impending shutdown, but agencies made very few noteworthy policy moves this week. And if the government does shut down, there won’t be much next week either: A significant percentage of the federal workforce will be forced to stay home from work. But that doesn’t mean nothing Continue reading “3 things Trump did this week while you weren’t looking”

Is the GOP tax law already working?

The ink was barely dry on the $1.5 trillion tax cut Congress passed last month when President Donald Trump began crowing about its successes. Last week, he bragged at both the American Farm Bureau annual convention and a Cabinet meeting about companies that had already paid their workers bonuses because of it. “Nobody thought about it,” he said last Wednesday. “We just knew a lot of good things were going to happen.”

Congressional Republicans have taken their own victory laps. Last Thursday, just minutes after Wal-Mart announced that it was raising its hourly wage from $10 to $11 per hour, Speaker Paul Ryan’s office blasted out a press release promoting the news; House Republicans launched a website, titled “Tax Reform Works,” tracking new wage hikes and investments.

Democrats, meanwhile, have already declared the whole thing a failure, pointing to recent corporate stock buybacks as evidence that most Continue reading “Is the GOP tax law already working?”

5 things Trump did this week while you weren’t looking

A relatively quiet week in Washington exploded on Thursday after The Washington Post reported that President Donald Trump referred to “shithole countries” in a meeting with lawmakers, suggesting that the U.S. should take in more people from Norway. The comment provoked an immediate backlash at a moment when the administration was trying to sustain its political momentum after getting a major tax-reform law signed. On Capitol Hill, Congress made little progress toward a budget deal, as lawmakers stare down yet another government shutdown deadline next week.

Beneath the firestorm over the president’s language, the Trump administration made a number of real policy moves—including a big one on immigration. Nearly a year into his presidency, Trump continues to rescind Barack Obama’s legacy and enact a new conservative agenda, including one of the most radical Medicaid reforms in the program’s history. Here’s how Trump changed policy this week:

1. Trump ends Continue reading “5 things Trump did this week while you weren’t looking”

In one big week, Trump delivers for conservatives

President Donald Trump’s first week of 2018 was a big policy gift to his conservative base, wrapped with a bow.

Most of Trump’s administration has been defined by the huge gulf between its political theatrics and its real-world impact—a reality-show White House that occupies the headlines without really driving policy, while a serious but less-heralded conservative agenda marches forward behind the scenes at federal agencies.

Not this week. With three huge moves—tightening up marijuana law, opening new waters for oil-and-gas drilling, suspending aid to Pakistan—Trump handed big victories to red-meat conservatives, the kind of wins that GOP voters might have expected from far more conventional candidates.

Strategically the moves were a mixed bag for the GOP: As many commentators have noted, Republicans trying to hold onto their seats in blue-ish states in 2018 are going to have to toe a narrow line, distancing themselves from an administration whose approval rating Continue reading “In one big week, Trump delivers for conservatives”

The Real Future of Work

In 2013, Diana Borland and 129 of her colleagues filed into an auditorium at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Borland had worked there for the past 13 years as a medical transcriptionist, typing up doctors’ audio recordings into written reports. The hospital occasionally held meetings in the auditorium, so it seemed like any other morning.

The news she heard came as a shock: A UPMC representative stood in front of the group and told them their jobs were being outsourced to a contractor in Massachusetts. The representative told them it wouldn’t be a big change, since the contractor, a firm called Nuance Communications, would rehire them all for the exact same position and the same hourly pay. There would just be a different name on their paychecks.

Borland soon learned that this wasn’t quite true. Nuance would pay her the same hourly rate—but only for the first three months. Continue reading “The Real Future of Work”