It’s Inauguration Day, and the Trump team has spent 80 percent of the federal funding it received to run than transition on filling just 4 percent of key positions.
Just doing some back-of-the-envelope calculations, that’s twenty times what the transition should have spent to fill that many roles – an overspend of 1900 percent per position.
That is the figure tax-savvy analysts should keep in mind when they hear Mike Pence, who today will be sworn in as vice president, boasting that the transition team had come in “on schedule and under budget”. In fact, neither is true. The 4 percent figure, which comes from Politico, refers only to “positions that require Senate confirmation and are considered ‘key’ by the Partnership for Public Service – to say nothing of the 3,000 or so other positions a presidential administration fills”. Meanwhile the New York Times reports that, of the most important 660 executive department appointments, Trump has named just 29.
Aside from being ammunition for whenever Donald Trump claims to be great at saving money or managing things effectively, what this means in practice is that the Trump presidency will begin with a chronically understaffed executive branch backed up by despondent and overburdened Obama staffers. Apparently Trump thought it was “bad karma” to get too involved with the transition – he was too busy doing victory rallies, tweeting about Meryl Streep, and defending himself against rumours about Russian prostitutes.
As well as taking a backseat from his disorganised transition, Trump has also broadcast his intention to take the weekend off after being sworn in, saying:
“Day one – which I will consider to be Monday as opposed to Friday or Saturday. Right? I mean my day one is gonna be Monday because I don’t want to be signing and get it mixed up with lots of celebration.”
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Then there’s what he’s actually going to focus on once he gets to work as president on Monday morning. High on the list are probably some key items from the campaign trail (signalling America’s intention to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, reviewing the Iran deal, reversing 25 executive orders signed by Obama, and getting something together on healthcare that will make the repeal of the Affordable Care Act slightly less of a bloodbath). But those 96 percent of positions are not going to fill themselves, meaning the transition will inevitable spill over into the opening weeks – and possibly months – of the administration. And just handing over a list of names isn’t good enough either. Many of these roles require Senate confirmation, and all need to be fully vetted and approved by the FBI. According to Politico, some new-hires have been told they won’t be able to turn up to work on Monday because of incomplete background checks, and others don’t even know what the their jobs are going to be.
Americans wanted a “businessman” in charge, someone who knew how to “make deals” and “get things done”. But if the Trump administration were a business, it would already be on its way to bankruptcy and liquidation, with a handful of lawsuits imminent, having failed to achieve anything but disruption and chaos. And none of that will change when Trump is today sworn in as the 45th President of the United States.