Nonexistent VA Reform Draws Big Cheers

Dave Weigel is attending some Republican town halls today to see what’s on the minds of real Americans in the heartland:


This is a pretty good example of people believing whatever they’re told. Republicans say that they’ve reformed the VA, and everyone cheers. Promise made, promise kept!

So what have Republicans done? You might have missed this, but Congress actually did pass a VA bill a couple of months ago. It allows the head of the VA more latitude in firing workers. Donald Trump, naturally, called it “one of the largest reforms of the VA in its history,” because that’s what Trump calls everything he does, but it was actually a pretty modest and bipartisan bill.

What else have Republicans done? Well, after every other cabinet position had been filled and he had to appoint someone, Trump finally nominated a VA head in January. Was it some toughminded general? Someone who promised to take the place apart brick by brick and put it back together? Nope. It was David Shulkin, who was appointed to the #2 position at the VA two years ago by Barack Obama. Democrats and Republicans both approved him unanimously.

So that’s it. Republicans agreed to promote Obama’s guy at the VA and then wrote a minor reform bill. This is, roughly speaking, nothing. But they say they’ve reformed the VA, so they must have reformed the VA. Who cares if anything actually happened?

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

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It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

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We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

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Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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