Comey Wasn't Most Important Government Loss This Week
John Thompson, director of the US Census Bureau, resigned Tuesday
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted May 11, 2017 2:16 PM CDT
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John Thompson resigned as director of the US Census Bureau this week.   (US Census Bureau)

(Newser) – The federal government learned it was losing an important figure this week. No, not James Comey, but the director of the US Census Bureau. The resignation announcement of John Thompson was overshadowed by Comey's firing, but Wired argues there's good reason to care about it. A former Census head says the loss of Thompson could cause things to "slow down" ahead of the 2020 count at a time they should be picking up speed. The 10-year census is used for everything from allocating congressional seats to determining where new infrastructure is needed. One economist worries Thompson quitting means "we're going to have to make important decisions with less information." Here's what else you need to know:

  • Thompson has been with the bureau since 1975 and director since 2013. He had been expected to at least serve out his five-year term that expires at the end of the year, but instead he'll be gone June 30. The official line is that he is leaving to pursue "private sector" opportunities, reports NPR.

  • The Washington Post reports the resignation was mostly related to funding, or a lack thereof. Census funding typically ramps up in the years prior to the count, but funding approved under the Trump administration is less than requested and far less than what is needed, experts say.
  • The census looks at seven data points that can have big ramifications if poorly counted, according to Vox. That includes data on senior citizens and poverty levels in order to provide appropriate service levels for those in need.
  • The New York Times explains the importance of the census through a Q&A, noting that it's used to draw congressional districts and distribute federal funds while being relied on by federal agencies and private businesses.
  • CityLab reports it's true the census is more expensive than ever—it cost $76 more to count a household in 2010 than in 1970—but that's not really the government's fault. Fewer people are responding to old-fashioned mailed surveys, so canvassers have to be sent for followup interviews.
  • The areas of the census being targeted for cost savings is worrying, according to an opinion piece in the Guardian. So far Republicans and the Trump administration have gotten rid of questions on sexual orientation and are proposing skipping data on "racial disparities," writes Mona Chalabi.
  • A post at Mic argues that the loss of Thompson could be more important than the loss of Comey in the long run. Immigrants and communities of color, who rely on an accurate census to ensure political representation, are already routinely under-counted when the census has proper funding and leadership. "Put simply, the census is how we know what America actually is," writes Jamilah King.

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