President Donald Trump promised to run the government like a business, and the budget blueprint he released last week had one big business-inspired idea baked into it: Testing the evidence. The blueprint promised to figure out which government programs and agencies work, and eliminate the ones that don’t—“using real, hard data to identify poorly performing organizations and programs.”
Mick Mulvaney, the White House budget director, doubled down on that idea in a briefing last week, arguing that the Trump administration wasn’t going to ask for Americans’ money “unless we can guarantee to you that that money is actually being used in a proper function.”
Technocrats on the left and the right know this as “evidence-based policymaking,” and they love the idea. The vast majority of federal programs and agencies have never been rigorously evaluated, and only recently has the government started to get serious about trying to measure its results. Evidence-based policymaking has a lot of support in both parties: The Clinton and Bush administrations both tried to integrate evidence into policymaking, and the Obama administration went even further, reforming many grant programs so that projects that demonstrated effectiveness received more money.