Trump Wants to Massively Reorganize Federal Government 'To Make It Easier to Screw the Poor'

Provisions of this "closely guarded" plan reportedly include merging the Education and Labor Departments, and creating a welfare "megadepartment"

Donald Trump. Adapted from Creative Commons images on Flickr by Gage Skidmore.
Photo Credit: DonkeyHotey/Flickr CC

In what critics are calling an "insane" proposal by the Trump administration "to make it easier to screw the poor," the White House is reportedly considering sweeping changes to the organization of the federal government, which could be announced as early as Thursday.

According to the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, as part of this massive reorganization, President Donald Trump may propose:

  • merging the Labor and Education Departments;
  • collapsing all social safety net programs "into a new megadepartment" that would replace the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and redefine benefit programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); and
  • in "an attempt to strangle" the $3 billion Community Development Block Grant Program, relocating it from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to the Department of Commerce.

The looming welfare reorganization, first reported by Politico earlier this month, has been slammed "as a way to institute cuts and conservative policies such as work requirements on more programs," Rewire explained last week.

"Under the guise of reorganizing healthcare programs, the Trump administration wants to make it easier to slash the basics that families rely on, impose broad work requirements, and further infringe on women's personal decisions," Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus Chairs Reps. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) told Rewire.

"Families who rely on these programs do so out of necessity—to feed their families, stay healthy, and keep a roof over their heads," the pair of lawmakers added. "Republicans have shown that they have no respect for either women's economic interests or their healthcare. In Congress, we will fight this dangerous proposal and protect the programs that women and their families need to thrive."

Meanwhile, many observers were critical of the possible Education-Labor merger—which was first reported by Education Week—but they also pointed out that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos "is destroying the education system as we know it, and Labor Department is not doing anything for workers," and concluded, "On bright side maybe DeVos will get fired."

Steven Greenhouse, a former labor reporter for the Times, described the merger as a "downgrade," and called out Trump for failing to live up to the "champion of workers" persona on which he campaigned:

"This is spelling an end to protected unions, public education, protection of students and workers," warned filmmaker Jessica Ellis.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, called the merger "the new parlor game," and referenced Trump's iconic line from his reality televsion show The Apprentice, on which he made a sport of firing people.

Citing draft documents and unnamed sources, the newspapers report that this "closely guarded" proposal has been crafted by Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney—who is also acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)—but "the blueprint for the plan was a 2017 list of reorganization recommendations produced by the conservative Heritage Foundation."

As the Times explains: "Mulvaney's proposal is, in part, a back-to-the-future bureaucratic move. From 1953 to 1979, the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare housed most of the nation's social welfare and economic support programs."

"The changes would require approval from Congress, but it isn't clear that lawmakers have the appetite to undertake a far-reaching reorganization, especially at this point in the political calendar," the Journal notes. "Lawmakers have shown reluctance to embrace such plans in the past, and Congress has limited time for major legislation before the November midterm elections."

Update:

The White House on Thursday released a 32-point plan (pdf) to reorganize several departments of the federal government. The proposal was developed in response to an executive order President Donald Trump issued early last year and cannot be implemented without congressional approval.

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Jessica Corbett is a staff writer for Common Dreams. Follow her on Twitter: @corbett_jessica.