December 10, 2018
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Under the guise of government reorganization, the Trump administration on June 21 released its reorganization plan aimed at decimating and politicizing government agencies and programs.
“There’s little reason to believe this reorganization plan is anything more than a scheme to eliminate essential programs and public-service jobs, reward or punish political appointees depending on their allegiance to the White House, and privatize government programs to reward political donors,” said AFGE President J. David Cox Sr. “Taken together with President Trump’s directives targeting federal workers, the reorganization plans are an unprecedented power grab and have nothing to do with improving the efficiency or effectiveness of government.”
1. Merge the Education and Labor departments
The Labor and Education departments have very little in common. But under the Trump administration’s proposal, the two very different agencies would be merged and renamed the Department of Education and the Workforce. Make no mistake, “merging” means doing away with crucial programs that some politicians and their corporate sponsors want to get rid of. The Labor Department, for example, holds accountable companies that violate health and safety laws that protect American workers. It enforces the minimum wage and hour laws, protects pensions, and runs job training programs, among other responsibilities.
The Education Department enforces federal civil rights laws in public schools, handles federal student loans, and distribute K-12 education funding.
But even before the official dismantling of the department, Education Secretary Betsy Davos got a head start. In May, she unwound the team that cracks down on fraudulent activities at for-profit colleges where many of her high-profile hires come from. Last year she repealed Obama-era student loan protections against lenders who provide misleading information and charge unexpected fees.
The proposed merger of the Education and Labor departments is a “solution in search of a problem” as there isn’t much overlap between the two agencies, said Seth Harris, deputy labor secretary under President Obama.
2. Dismantle the Office of Personnel Management
The proposal to dismantle the Office of Personnel Management, particularly the plan to allow the Executive Office of the President (EOP) to take over federal personnel policy, is a straightforward attempt to politicize the civil service. The Trump administration has made no secret of the fact that it values political loyalty over skills and competence. If EOP were to take over federal personnel policy, the merit system’s days would be numbered.
3. Move food assistance programs to HHS and rename it
The administration proposes to move food assistance programs for the poor – notably the SNAP food stamp program and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children – from the USDA to the Department of Health and Human Services and rename HHS the Department of Health and Public Welfare. This is to make the “welfare” stigma official and make a case for further funding cuts to the most vulnerable.
4. Consolidate hazardous materials management programs
The administration proposes to move hazardous waste management programs from the Interior Department and USDA to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund toxic cleanup program. It sounds harmless until you realize the administration had proposed to cut the Superfund program by almost one third in fiscal 2018. Because of public outrage, the administration didn’t propose the same cut for 2019, but it might try again considering its pro-polluter stance. Cutting funding for Superfund sites is a huge health threat to all of us as these highly toxic, such as abandoned industrial sites, have been linked to higher cancer risks and other diseases. The Superfund program allows the EPA to identify polluters and require them to pay for the cleanup. Cutting its budget means cutting its enforcement.
5. Privatize the postal service
The administration is eager to hand over our public postal system to private businesses and is set to announce its plan whether to restructure or privatize it in August. This is outrageous considering how the U.S. Postal Service has been crippled by funding requirements that no entity in either the private or public sector has to meet.
Here are stories you need to know this week.
Nearly 72,000 federal employees will begin receiving higher locality payments in January.
On Dec. 6, the House and Senate passed, and President Trump signed, a short-term stopgap bill that funds the government through Dec. 21.