Making Bad Decisions
Terry H. Schwadron
Aug. 14, 2018
Too often, as it turns out, I just disagree with what the government sees as good policy — almost regardless of who’s in the White House. Issues in our complicated society just don’t fit easily into policies meant for slogans.
Actually, that seems pretty consistent for someone with my skeptical nature; I’ve done it through a number of government set-ups.
But the Trump administration distinguishes itself from the rest. It too makes bad policy decisions, but it also goes out of its way to base those bad decisions on bad interpretations of our American values, or by ignoring relevant facts or science, or by relying on solely on political emotion. Apart from an objectionable style and an insulting way of talking about policy, the Trumpists have shown a predilection to choose policies that turn out to be neither fully enforceable nor directed at solving real problems — for me, at least, the actual job for a government.
So, they look and act like a government, without really governing. Actually, as we hear more and more, they act as a government-in-exile from the White House itself, trying not to get bound by tweet-massaged policy calls. As a result, we are neither more united nor more focused on problem-solving than before Trump. So, wage inequality, racial difference, debt, fragile international peace, health issues all continue unabated while this government comes up with policies to hector the poor, or insult women or hound individual immigrants.
I find that even if you were to accept many of the Trump premises for a solution, for there are many more than fit a cohesive pattern, like tax cuts, there is the obvious conclusion even after a few months that the policy did not deliver on what the Trumpists said it would.
That’s a sign of bad policy-making. On the other hand, it all may well make for good politics.
Several recent decisions seem to suggest the bad policy-making continues:
· Voter ID.The New York Times reportedthat under Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions, the department has filed legal motions in support of states that are resisting court orders to allow voter ID requirements, stop aggressive purges of voter rolls and redraw political boundaries that have unfairly diluted minority voting power. This is not a solution to any problem I acknowledge; if anything, we don’t have enough people voting. Our voting percentages even during presidential election years is minimal when compared with that in other countries. We have a duty as well as a freedom to vote, and we should have it be a feature of government, without regard to party affiliation, to promote the vote.
· Immigration.Once again, it took a federal judge to take the government to task for its cruel policy change to limit the validity of asylum laws. Even as the ACLU was in court to oppose the policy, the government decided to deport the subject of the lawsuit, “Carmen” and her daughter, and U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan in Washington had to order the Department of Justice to turn the plane around or otherwise return the plaintiff. This is not only bad policy, but meanness personified. The changes in asylum law is eliminating domestic abuse and gang violence as acceptable reasons; the motivation is to reduce even the requests for asylum. As it has been, fewer than 10% of asylum requests are granted. So, what problem exactly were we fixing here?
· Trade Schools. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos struck againwith an illogical policy to stop enforcing the rules for trade schools that too often cheat their students. In this case, the policy had been meant to force the schools to prove that graduates do indeed get employed, which the many complaints suggest does not happen as advertised.The question raised: Is she in her job to protect trade school scofflaws or the American student population?
There are examples of this kind of thing daily, with policy changes that objectively could be judged as “positive” only from the perspective of freeing industry to spend money as it sees fit. As detailed again recently, the money freed from corporate tax cuts, advertised as helping all and not just corporations, is indeed helping companies who are spending a huge proportion of tax savings on reducing corporate debt rather than job creation.
Yes, I promote a certain skeptical attitude for policies that governments say will be good for me and us. But the Trump administration is showing daily that such an attitude is pretty wise.