Today’s News & Commentary — April 13, 2017

Yesterday, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a memorandum calling on the heads of federal agencies to “begin taking immediate actions to achieve near-term workforce reductions.”  This memorandum replaces the federal hiring freeze President Trump put in place after taking office.  The document set a deadline of September 30, 2017 for the agencies to deliver plans to the White House describing how they will reduce staff and accommodate long-term budget cuts in accordance with President Trump’s “skinny budget.”  Mick Mulvaney, the director of OMB, described the move as “a big part of draining the swamp,” which was a “centerpiece of [President Trump’s] campaign.”  Although most administrative agencies face cuts, Mulvaney singled out Defense and Veterans Affairs to increase staffing.

Politico reports that Democratic leaders in the House and Senate are working to create an affirmative economic agenda drawing on the populist ideas of Bernie Sanders.  Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi have had two meetings to discuss the project, and their staffs have met many times.  Democrats have not been in a hurry to roll out their revamped economic platform.  Many in the party are inclined to try and capitalize on the disagreement among Republicans over health care and on the controversy over President Trump’s connections to Russia.  Furthermore, Democrats have already released a major infrastructure plan and a proposal on paid family leave, which has decreased the sense that they need to rush to put forth new policy proposals.

It has been a busy week for the Writers Guild of America, East.  The New York Times reports that a majority of journalists at Gothamist and DNAinfo indicated their support for the union.  These workers join the growing number of writers and editors organizing at online media companies.  DNAinfo acquired Gothamist last month and laid-off a number of writers.  The merger has raised questions about the future of the merged media companies.  One reporter involved in the organizing effort, Katie Honan, explained that “the reason we want to unionize is to have a voice in these decisions.”  Yesterday, the reality television writers represented by the Writers Guild of America, East staged a walkout in their attempt to obtain a separate contract from scripted television writers, who restarted negotiations with studios for a new contract on Monday.  The union reported that at least 100 employees participated in the walkout.  Read more here.