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Reducing government, yeah right.

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1richardbsmith
Jan 14, 2012, 11:52am Top

http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/01/13/president-obama-announces-...

This was a fairly big announcement yesterday. I am interested in what you think about the specifics of consolidating some of the immediate proposal "consolidating six agencies into one more efficient agency to promote competitiveness, exports and American business......U.S. Department of Commerce’s core business and trade functions, the Small Business Administration, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the Export-Import Bank, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency."

And also perhaps the larger idea of reducing government duplication among agencies - is it a problem, is there a remedy, can it be done.

We can discuss political motivation for this, whether this is a campaign slogan or might become an actual initiative, but I would like to know what can be done and what might be possible to make government work better.

2lawecon
Edited: Jan 14, 2012, 1:41pm Top

I am certain that it will turn out equally as well as the reorganization of the INS into ICE or the combination of multiple agencies into the Office of Homeland Security. After all governments always reduce their size and become more efficient. As we all know, they exist for the purpose of service not profit. But, thankfully, we can be assured that no bureaucrats will lose their jobs over this reorganization. That would be inhumane and totally against any goal of government.

3theoria
Jan 14, 2012, 1:41pm Top

It's an "actual initiative" and a political move that challenges Republicans' claim to be the sole proponents of "smaller government." When budget cuts and/or downsizing is proposed (see the defense budget) by the Executive branch, the Republican Congressional leadership resists.

4lawecon
Jan 14, 2012, 1:43pm Top

I have some participations in this very nice bridge spanning San Francisco Bay that you might be interested in as an investment.

5richardbsmith
Edited: Jan 14, 2012, 1:55pm Top

theoria,
It is a brilliant political move - forcing the Republicans to either get on board with the President or be against smaller government. Even the timing was savy, distracting from a debt increase announcement.

I am less sure about a real initiative, and less sure about the specifics chosen.

Does anyone know much about the workings and duplications of the listed agencies. Stormraven maybe?

6Carnophile
Jan 14, 2012, 4:17pm Top

Is the proposal to meddle less, or just to meddle more efficiently?

7richardbsmith
Edited: Jan 14, 2012, 4:57pm Top

That is a good question. Is the consolidation of the agencies listed a good idea, apart from being a brilliant political maneuver.

Are there redundancies that can be combined among these agencies? Are we talking 1 document replacing 2 documents as a result?

8lawecon
Jan 14, 2012, 9:41pm Top

~8

Maybe next The President can suggest a Master Plan for improving public education. No, wait. That has been done repeatedly in the past, the last time in "No child left behind."

Ah, how did those "reforms" turn out?

9BruceCoulson
Jan 16, 2012, 4:11pm Top

Bureaucracies, like waistlines, tend to expand.

10StormRaven
Jan 17, 2012, 8:51am Top

Does anyone know much about the workings and duplications of the listed agencies. Stormraven maybe?

The specific overlaps of those agencies? No, I don't know if they have specific redundancies, but I would not be surprised if they do. (Except for the SBA, which is mostly a domestic facing agency, so I'm not sure why they would be included in this consolidation).

The difficulty in making these consolidations is that the savings don't come right away. First you have to consolidate the agencies in question, which takes time and costs money - more money than just running the agencies for a while, because you have to continue with their functions while they consolidate. Then most of the supposed cost savings are usually in the form of reduced personnel costs (and overhead for maintaining those personnel like office space). But most agencies that consolidate don't just go in and fire a whole bunch of federal employees (for a variety of reasons), but rather downsize via attrition, so personnel costs go down slowly over time. Not only that, if you wanted to achieve cost savings, you could do that much more quickly, without bothering to do any consolidation - for example, you can downsize office space by encouraging teleworking and so on.

And this all assumes that the agencies in question will achieve some reduction as a result of the consolidation. In my experience, it often turns out that the disparate agencies actually did different things (shocking no one but Congress and those ideologically tied to the idea that the federal government is full of duplicative waste), and to continue to do those functions, the new agency actually needs to personnel that made up the old unconsolidated agencies. So it turns out that INS actually did different things than the Coast Guard, and consolidating them into DHS saved diddly and squat (not that saving money was the main reason for the creation of DHS, but it is an apropos example of a consolidation that didn't save any money).

11richardbsmith
Jan 17, 2012, 9:52am Top

So maybe then consolidation is less needed than some effort to identify redundancies and consolidate those specific areas?

12StormRaven
Jan 17, 2012, 10:05am Top

11: Assuming there are redundancies. I'm not saying that government agencies don't have overlapping responsibilities, but they are a lot less common than some people think they are.

13richardbsmith
Jan 17, 2012, 10:21am Top

then perhaps we are left with a brilliant political maneuver?

14StormRaven
Jan 17, 2012, 10:38am Top

13: Almost all changes to the budget that are highlighted like this are mostly political maneuvers.

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