Instead of appointing a person to lead the Commerce Department, President Obama and Congress should work together to eliminate the department completely and use the savings to pay down the debt. The Commerce Department is ripe with duplicative waste and inefficiencies and that’s one of the main reasons why most Americans don’t know who Bryson is or what exactly Commerce does. The department has almost zero impact on actual commerce, job creation, or anyone’s daily routine.
According to its own website, the agency has a budget of approximately eight billion dollars and employs nearly 47,000 people. Many of its functions are unnecessary or easily merged into other departments.
Take one, a program in the Commerce Department called the Economic Development Administration (EDA) that costs hundreds of millions of dollars. Not surprisingly, the “economic development” benefits are dubious and the program has turned into a corporate welfare slush fund for members of Congress. Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina has identified EDA grants that went to a wine tasting room, a tourism promotion program in the Northern Mariana Islands, and an “innovation conference center” in Arkansas.
But that’s not all. The Commerce Department also spends millions of dollars in subsidies for fishermen as well. For example, the Cato Institute estimated that in 2010, the Commerce Department spent $74 million on Pacific salmon state grants and $35 million on fisheries promotion. The fishing industry should be allowed to rise and fall on its own two feet, and not receive taxpayer subsidies at any time – much less when we’re $15 trillion in debt.
We have a United States Trade Representative who is supposed to be in charge of promoting trade. However, the Commerce Department also has an agency called the International Trade Administration, which hands out wasteful export subsidies that are already duplicated (many times over) by other government agencies. Cato estimates that its elimination in 2010 would have saved taxpayers $389 million.
Yet another example of wasteful spending is the Minority Business Development Agency inside Commerce. If we want to help minority businessmen, we can do it the same way we can help every businessman: eliminate burdensome regulation, pass free trade agreements that open up new markets, and cut the corporate tax rate. We don’t need to pay the staff of a bureaucratic agency to accomplish that.
Move the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration into the Department of Agriculture, or eliminate it. Move the Patent and Trademark Office into the Justice Department. Eliminate the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the National Technical Information Service. With so much money to be saved, why isn’t this a no-brainer for Congress?
Politicians in Washington have been asking the wrong questions for years. For too long the Democrats have spent every dollar that wasn’t nailed down. The Republicans haven’t quite spent every last dollar, but they’re almost as bad as the Democrats. Only a fool would believe that the current rate of spending by our government is sustainable. Instead of asking how we slow the rate of growth of government, why don’t we actually get serious about cutting government by ending and reforming government agencies?
The United States Department of Commerce, now left without anyone to argue for it, sure seems like a good place to start.
Chocola, a former Republican Congressman from Indiana, is the president of the Club for Growth