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Tell Me What All Those Cabinet Departments Do

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Discussions swirl about the apparent fact that four cabinet secretary-designees have previously spoken of terminating their cabinets. A lot of us would be delighted if they were the last cabinet secretaries for their respective departments. Hopefully, in the interim they will terminate many of the bureaus and agencies under their control. The question is, does anyone know what the purpose of these agencies has become?

For me this issue came more into focus when my wife came home after having lunch with a friend. Her friend, a well-educated person, asked her what is the difference between the Labor and Commerce Departments and why could they not combine. That was a subject worth researching and reporting back to you, my readers.

Maybe unwittingly my wife’s friend had a point. The cabinet level Department was formed in 1904 as the Department of Commerce and Labor, but was later changed in 1913 to the current Deptartment of Commerce. The separate Department of Labor was formed when the Democrats took over in 1913 under Woodrow Wilson.

The problem with Commerce is for a long while people have not known what it does. It seems like it is the “Chamber of Commerce” within the federal government. In fact, the website states its mission is to create conditions for economic growth and opportunity. Secretaries of Commerce have been perceived as a place to put a rich buddy of the president. That certainly is the case under Trump who has designated billionaire Wilbur Ross. Ross has been attacked as being a really rich guy. The press apparently does not know who is currently the Commerce Secretary. Not too many people do know. Interestingly, Penny Pritzker, the current secretary, is just as rich as Ross and no one howled when she was appointed. But then again no one probably knew she was appointed.

There are a dirty dozen agencies and bureaus under Commerce and I dare you to name more than two. Please tell me the difference between Economics and Statistics Administration and Bureau of Economic Analysis. You probably know what the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Patent and Trademark Office do. Maybe you can say what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration does. But what is the purpose of National Technical Information Service and the National Institute of Standards and Technology? Seems like whatever they are doing is being done elsewhere and only the people drawing a salary in those departments would complain about having to work elsewhere for something meaningful. It is clear at least six of the eggs in this basket could disappear or be downsized. A lot of what they do is being done elsewhere or should be combined or discontinued.

The fact that Woodrow Wilson and his group of progressives thought the idea of labor being combined with commerce was bad for labor, gave a huge signal for our government and country for the next century.

The history of who is the labor secretary ranges all over depending upon the current president. The most recent secretary, Thomas Perez, could not be more different that the Secretary-designee, Andy Puzder. Other than being male and coming from the same planet, they don’t have much in common. Puzder is a businessman who runs one of the largest restaurant chains in the country. Perez, a lawyer, has never had a job in private industry. The labor secretary can define what the president wants to accomplish with the department.

Labor apparently has 19 agencies under it. Their website is very confusing as to what is a bureau or agency under the Labor Deptartment and what is an administrative office. The mission as stated on their website is “to foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.”

Again tell me what some of these agencies do: Women’s Bureau, Benefits Review Board, Office of Labor-Management Standards or Office of Worker’s Compensation Programs. Why can they not combine the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation with the Benefits Review Board and the Employee Benefits Security Administration? Why does the Bureau of International Labor Affairs even exist? If before Puzder becomes Secretary Perez killed off half the agencies and bureaus, no one would ever know or care except the employees of those useless and invasive entities. If Puzder crashed the whole department and shipped off the real agencies doing some work to the Treasury Department, only a group of public employee union leaders would complain.

These two departments were born together. They should have a common interest; when they were separated they were pitted against each other. A good idea would be to combine them, crash half their agencies and bureaus forever, shrink the federal invasive workforce and focus on a combined purpose – to promote commerce that creates more good paying full-time jobs for Americans.

Wouldn’t that be a worthy goal for the Trump administration!

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