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In 1792 when the first administration under the Constitution took office, George Washington had a cabinet of the following positions:
- Secretary of State (Thomas Jefferson)
- Secretary of Treasury (Alexander Hamilton)
- Secretary of War (Henry Knox)
- Attorney General (Edmund Randolph)
Of these departments, Treasury was the largest: Hamilton had a staff of five assistants and auditors, mostly to insure against theft.
Two hundred years later, the federal bureaucracy has grown into a behemoth with a life of its own. In 1995, there were 2,918, 674 federal employees, compared with 780 in 1792. General Motors, one of the world's largest corporations, only employs 700,000. The federal bureaucracy can be broken down into four areas: Cabinet level positions; Independent Executive Agencies (e.g. NASA, EPA, CIA); Regulatory Commissions (SEC, FCC, NLRB); and Government Corporations (the Post Office, Amtrak, the TVA).
The Federal Government and the Cabinet
Currently there are 14 Cabinet departments, whose employees account for nearly 60% of the federal workforce. The largest department by far is the Department of Defense, which includes the military services (The Bureaucracy). And while stories of $60 hammers were once rife in the Pentagon, cutting the military is a task no public official is willing to take. Even suggesting such a move would make a presidential election candidate open for attack, that such a thought would leave the United States vulnerable to a global threat.
What then of the rest of the Cabinet? It would perhaps be a matter of eliminating the following departments from Cabinet Status:
How much of the business conducted by these agencies could be better left to the states? The 1994 budget for HHS was larger than the Department of Defense.
Federal Government and the Regulatory Commissions
A second way of reforming the bureaucracy would be to eliminate the Regulatory Commissions. Take for example the FCC, the Federal Communications Commission. According to its own web site, the FCC is "charged with regulating interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable". For most people, the FCC regulates what they can see on television networks and hear on the radio. But with the advent of cable television, the standards that remain on the four networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox) seem antiquated when more people receive HBO than do not. Who is the FCC protecting from profanity and nudity these days? Should not the decision about what to watch or listen to be left up to the individual? Cannot the argument be made that the FCC actually infringes upon our First Amendment rights?