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Let Every Federal Department Justify its Existence Constitutionally

July 26, 2010

The executive departments of our federal government read like an alphabet soup of bureaucracies entwining and entangling themselves into every area of our lives. The litany of "on-the-books" divisions and subdivisions does not even count the unaccountable czars, advisors and otherwise nebulous bureaucrats whose only business it is to annoy the American people and to demand of us affiliation and information to which they have no constitutional authority.

Imagine if each cabinet secretary had to come before Congress and justify, on constitutional grounds, the existence of his or her department...

USDA Department of Agriculture. Created under President Abraham Lincoln in 1862 to help farmers who needed good seeds and information to grow their crops. Farmers couldn't find this information any other way? And today's USDA is the only entity that can monitor the quality of our food?

DOC Department of Commerce. Founded in 1903 as the Department of Commerce and Labor, which later became its own department in 1913. As with so much that sounded good at the time but is later found to be a public policy mutation in need of a justification, this department most likely would not have passed muster with the Founders.

DOD Department of Defense. One of the few mandated and approved by the Founders. Originally created as the War Department, the name was changed after WWII. Today, we find ourselves with fewer troops under arms than many of our most dangerous enemies, including the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is one of the few departments we should not only continue funding but which should be beefed up.

ED Department of Education. Originally created as part of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare in the Eisenhower fifties, Jimmy Carter carved out the federal Department of Education to make it a separate cabinet post in the late 1970s as a pay off to the teacher's unions for helping him win his one pathetic term. There is no constitutional justification for it, and it should be abolished.

DOE Department of Energy. Another Carter boondoggle, this agency was created with one ostensible goal in mind: reduce America's dependence on foreign oil. Enough said?

HHS Department of Health and Human Services. Again, this massive entitlement bureaucracy grew out of Ike's HEW and was given its own agency by Carter. The largest federal agency, it is now so huge that it would probably require a team of constitutional experts to determine whether any part of it can be justified. Its two largest expenditures, Social Security and Medicare, should be privatized.

DHS Department of Homeland Security. Although the Constitution gives Congress the authority to create new agencies, it also puts limits on what government can do. Created during the George W. Bush administration after 9/11, the jury is still out on whether this agency is constitutional.

HUD Department of Housing and Urban Development. Have you seen any of our inner cities lately? This department was created in 1965 and should be abolished yesterday.

DOJ Department of Justice. Although the post of attorney general dates back to George Washington's first cabinet, Congress did not create the Department of Justice until 1970. Since a main responsibility of the executive branch is to enforce the laws, DOJ can stay.

DOL Department of Labor. An excuse to promote labor unions, especially during Democrat administrations. Dismantle it.

DOS Department of State. Foreign policy being the constitutional province of the executive branch, the Founders saw DOS as an important part of the Republic. Of course, it would be nice if more of the bureaucratic lifers who work there were patriotic Americans.

DOI Department of the Interior. Created in 1949, I'm sure there was justification for it at the time. However, over the last century, it has overreached in the area of taking private property.

DOT Department of Transportation. Established in 1966 during Lyndon Johnson's Great Society years. It would have been hard for the Founders to imagine jet air travel in the 21st Century; still, it is difficult to make the case that federal involvement with America's transportation issues has been a plus.

VA Department of Veterans' Affairs. One of the newer agencies, VA was created in 1989. If protecting the nation is job one for the federal government, then taking care of the veterans who sacrificed to preserve our freedoms should be a legitimate federal issue.

Finally, there is the Treasury Department. Washington's first treasury secretary, Alexander Hamilton, would frown on eliminating his job. Of course, he never knew Timothy Geithner.

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Copyright ©2010 Doug Patton

Doug Patton describes himself as a recovering political speechwriter who agrees with himself more often than not. His weekly columns are syndicated by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Readers are encouraged to email him at dpatton@cagle.comand/or to follow him on Twitter at @Doug_Patton.