The following is an excerpt from Jordan Weissmann | May 10, 2017 | Slate.com |
While we're all on the subject of government personnel moves, you may have missed the news that Census Bureau Director John Thompson unexpectedly resigned from his position Tuesday. Nobody seems to be quite sure why the man is leaving. But he's doing so in the midst of a battle over funding the statistical agency, which is finding itself starved for cash at the precise moment it has to ramp up for the all-important 2020 census.
This is alarming. The decennial census is critical to ensuring that Americans are fairly represented in Washington, since it's used as the basis for Congressional redistricting. A mishandled census could undercount poor and minority populations, putting some states and many cities at a demographic disadvantage. That alone makes the possiblity that Trump might appoint a political hack to replace Thompson frightening. But, to make matters worse, the administration has reportedly toyed with the idea of adding a question to the once-a-decade survey about immigration status, which some experts believe could scare many households out of responding. When a new director comes in—as of now, the administration doesn't have a replacement picked—it's conceivable that plan may get a new life.
Thompson has been the Census' director since 2013, and though his term technically ended in December, he was expected to stay on for at least a while longer. His goodbye statement didn't offer any real explanation for his move—“My tenure at the Census Bureau has been a richly rewarding capstone to my federal career,” it said. But as Tara Bahrampour notes at the Washington Post, it comes just shortly after Congress handed the Census an appropriation “that critics say is woefully inadequate.” Thompson also testified to Congress last week that a snazzy new electronic data collection system that was meant to save expenses would cost 50 percent more than expected. A Republican committee chair called the overrun “a real source of concern.”
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