John Thompson, the head of the U.S. Census Bureau, has just abruptly resigned from his position without explanation.
Thompson’s resignation was framed as a “retirement” in a press release posted on the Department of Commerce’s official website, though he was only in the position for four years, and is stepping down prior to the 2020 Census. Thompson worked at the bureau between 1975 and 2002, before taking a position at the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago between 2002 and 2013. After he was confirmed, Thompson seemed committed to seeing through an accurate and detailed Census in 2020:
“As America forges its data-driven future, the Census Bureau must lead the way by tracking emerging trends, developing more efficient processes, and embracing new technologies for planning and executing the surveys it conducts that are so important to the nation,” Thompson said after his official confirmation by the Senate. “A culture of innovation and adaptability will allow the Census Bureau to serve the public’s needs and meet the challenges of this dynamic new environment.”
The U.S. Census Bureau has sparred with the Trump administration in the recent past over funding for its 2020 endeavor, given Trump’s proposed “skinny budget” that cuts large amounts of funding from dozens of agencies and programs in exchange for $50 billion in new military spending. While the Census requested an additional $290 million in funding for 2018 to adequately prepare for the 2020 Census, Trump’s budget proposed no increase in funding at all for the bureau.
An advocacy group spokesperson told Politico in April that Americans’ perceptions that the Census would use data as a means of persecuting them could make the bureau’s job that much more difficult in convincing Americans to give them accurate information.
“If you imagine that the federal government is asking for personal information and you feel that the federal government is hostile and that if you were to answer this, perhaps they would use this against you,” Terry Ao Minnis, director of the census and voting programs at Asian Americans Advancing Justice, told Politico. “That, of course, will make people less inclined to participate.”
Other controversies have plagued the bureau in recent months. In March, it was widely reported that the Trump administration was considering leaving out questions about sexual orientation and gender identity, which angered the LGBTQ community. While those questions haven’t been a part of previous efforts, the Obama administration proposed adding them for the 2020 survey.
Tom Cahill is a senior editor for the Resistance Report based in the Pacific Northwest. He specializes in coverage of political, economic, and environmental news. You can contact him via email at [email protected], or follow him on Facebook by clicking here.