If We Can't Scrap It, Let's Put It in Charge of the Economy
Over at Foreign Policy, Daniel Rothkopf says Judd Gregg's vote to abolish the Commerce Department should count in favor of choosing him to run it. Rothkopf, who was a senior Commerce official in the mid-1990s, recalls coping with shutdowns prompted by the budget disputes between President Clinton and the Republican Congress:
We were asked to identify "essential personnel" who would be asked to come in to work in any case. That was tough enough. Harder still was recognizing after a while that you could probably shut the whole operation down and it would be six months before you got a letter of complaint from a constituent who noticed.
Rothkopf favors scrapping the department and assigning its necessary functions, such as the Patent Office and the Census Bureau, to other agencies. But he says "monkeys will fly out of Judd Gregg's behind long before this happens." As a startling second-best option, he thinks this "bureaucratic hodge-podge held together by those old Washington stand-bys of inertia, habit, and the self-interests of Congressional appropriators" should be given "an expanded role," since "it's the only place with anything like the capability" to carry out the Obama administration's No. 1 job: "to rebuild our economy." That sounds to me like another argument for abolishing it.