09 January 2009


The things you learn while half listening to confirmation hearings. Tom Daschle has been tapped to be the new Secretary of Human Health and Services. It seems that his ex-compatriots in the Senate are really looking forward to being serviced by him.

Given he used to be the top dog amongst Democratic Senators, it's no surprise really that the hearing has been convivial and breezy. That's invariably the case when Senators are getting 'grilled' by their ex-co-conspirators. They confer a great deal of respect upon each other, much of it seems totally unearned from an outsider's perspective.

But, that's not what this post is about, one of the Senators threw out there that HHS has a staff of 67,000. Much of what they do is important, but it's also duplicative of similar work being done at the state level, and it would be a breath of fresh air if we as a nation tried on for size a bit of that good old federalism for a change.

This "cabinet" is in charge of a veritable alphabet soup of organizations, many of them of dubious authority, responsibility, and necessity at the federal level.

As the various "cabinets" have seen their influence and importance within presidential administrations diminish, the number of titles and departments within each "cabinet" has flourished. I hope we'll see some change in this trend during the upcoming years of "hope and change", but I'm not holding my breath. Seems like the Obama Administration is strolling in with the goal to federalize as many responsibilities as possible, and they are going to use deficit spending and a torrent of money printing to fundamentally undermine local authority by making any responsible state or local government that doesn't gorge themselves at the federal trough disadvantaged when compared to their spendthrift and irresponsible neighbors.

This notion that we must burn tons of federal money on local and state 'shovel ready' projects to jumpstart the economy in the near term is short sighted and bound to lead to horrendous effects down the road. Many of these projects are lengthy, and will outlast the current recession, but the public debts we are planning to accrue will limit our flexibility to either shrink the federal government later, or respond to unforseen challenges that may crop up in the future.

The fact that just one of our "cabinets" has 67,000 employees is a symptom of the overall problem. The federal government is bloated at all levels, the productivity revolution that has changed the economy in every other sector has completely bypassed the government. Instead of leading us out of a recession, all that bloat is going to do is delay any potential recovery. It's what happened in the 1930s with a series of ill conceived projects back in the New Deal days, and the Obama Administration's New New Deal has the potential to be equally or even more disastrous.

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