Department of Commerce

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross Can't Stay Awake During Meetings. Does That Mean It's Time to Put His Whole Crony Capitalist Department to Rest?

The Commerce Department is a major dispenser of corporate welfare.

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If the head of a department can't stay awake during meetings, is there any good reason to keep his department around? That's the question we should be asking in the wake of Politico's exposé of a deeply dysfunctional U.S. Department of Commerce.

The problems reportedly start at the top, with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. "He's sort of seen as kind of irrelevant," one unnamed advisor told Politico. "The morale is very low there because there's not a lot of confidence in the secretary." According to the source, routine meetings with senior staff have largely ceased because of Ross's tendency to fall asleep during them.

This same lack of stamina, Politico says, is why Ross has been reticent to testify before Congress, preferring to send his staff instead. This has reportedly angered lawmakers, who have interpreted it as disrespectful.

A Commerce Department spokesperson pushed back against much of Politico's reporting, claiming that Ross is a "tireless" cabinet secretary. But even if this organ of the government is run with military-like efficiency, there's still a good case for getting rid of it altogether.

Similar to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Commerce Department is a hodgepodge of agencies, some important, others less so. A few are actively harmful.

Much of the department's activities involve funneling federal subsidies to private business projects. Its Economic Development Agency (EDA) has given out grants from the wasteful ($35 million for a money-losing convention center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa) to the absurd ($1.7 million for a venue in New York that plans to host performances of dead comedians via holograms).

"In the four decades since its creation, EDA has funded professional football practice facilities, model pyramids, wine tasting rooms, and other clearly wasteful projects," reads a 2012 report from the pro-market Competitive Enterprise Institute. The report also criticizes the EDA for measuring projects' success by the number of jobs created (as opposed to value created) or by the amount of public investment a project attracts (which has seen the EDA give out awards to local governments for raising taxes).

The Commerce Department also enforces protectionist trade policies through its International Trade Administration (ITA). Domestic industries can petition the ITA to investigate whether foreign companies are engaged in "dumping" (selling at below-market prices) in the U.S. market or are receiving export subsidies from their home governments.

Should both the ITA and the U.S. Trade Commission—an independent body outside of the Commerce Department—find evidence of these unfair trade practices, the Commerce Department can order anti-dumping and countervailing duties to be placed on foreign imports.

The ITA has long been criticized for being biased in favor of U.S. industries, using opaque math to justify duties on foreign competitors. The agency has been on the front lines of the recent trade war with China, finding that everything from Chinese steel to Chinese quartz allegedly warrants anti-dumping duties. And that's just from July.

Not everything the Commerce Department does in tied to crony capitalism. It also administers the Census and is in charge of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. But as with the Department of Homeland Security, we'd be better off if the Commerce Department were disbanded and its most objectionable agencies abolished. The more useful branches can be spun off as independent agencies or folded into other, less dysfunctional departments.

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  1. Can’t Stay Away During

    FFS, *edit* your shit. Its getting embarrassing.

    1. It’s Wiki proofreading. The commentariat does it.

    2. Maybe if you’d just buy the magazine, they wouldn’t be totally dependent on Koch money every year.

  2. Isn’t the fact that it’s a Crony Capitalist Department reason enough?

    1. How many energy credits can Elon Musk give you to stop asking such questions?

  3. Crony Capitalist seems to fit:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilbur_Ross
    “…In the 1980s, Donald Trump was in financial trouble. His three casinos in Atlantic City were under foreclosure threat from lenders. Ross, who was then the senior managing director of Rothschild Inc., represented investors in the casino. Along with Carl Icahn, Ross convinced bondholders to strike a deal with Trump that allowed Trump to keep control of the casinos…”

    1. Carl Icahn is one of the greatest names of all time.

  4. routine meetings with senior staff have largely ceased because of Ross’s tendency to fall asleep during them.

    Libertarian moment!

  5. This has reportedly angered lawmakers, who have interpreted it as disrespectful.

    He’s worth something then.

  6. I have a tendency to fall asleep reading Reason articles written by CHRISTIAN BRITSCHGI (among others around this increasing insipid endeavor) maybe that’s a sign Reason should shut down?

    1. maybe that’s a sign Reason should shut down?

      At the very least they should stop forcing you to come here and read their articles. That’s just downright dickish.

  7. So, unnamed sources says this is happening, and we’re supposed to take that as definitive? Because unnamed sources are always reliable, especially when contradicted by people willing to go on record?

    My God, just how gullible are you, anyway?

    1. Christian is just reporting what Politico’s article says, then opining on it. He’s not actually doing any reporting on the actual facts, so basing it all on an unnamed source is totes cool. At least here at Reason these days.

  8. Who cares if he sleeps? How’s Commerce doing now compared to his predecessors? Are patent examinations more timely, for instance?

    1. A little bit, yeah.

  9. I’m sure Britches demanded RBG something something when she fell asleep during a State of the Union.

  10. This is very soft soap and selects only miniscule drags on the Federal budget and only Commerce Dept. What about oil subsidies, Big Pharma drug subsidy that prevents Medicare bidding, nuclear energy astronomical subsidy insurance. What about the biggest elephant in the closet, ‘quantitative easing’ monetization for Wall St., wars to support military manufacturing and oil grand larceny? Christian, it is time you write about the substantive isses of our day that are glossed over by MSM. Rock the boat, Man! Welfare mothers and Medicare for All are a fraction of USA welfare if one bothers to compare bananas with bananas. AOC is a hero for pointing out that QE for her poor constituency and Green ND is fair game when compared to QE for Wall St. and military.

    1. Sikhotealinz
      July.22.2019 at 11:41 pm
      :This is very soft soap and selects only miniscule drags on the Federal budget and only Commerce Dept. What about oil subsidies, Big Pharma drug subsidy that prevents Medicare bidding, nuclear energy astronomical subsidy insurance. What about the biggest elephant in the closet, ‘quantitative easing’ monetization for Wall St., wars to support military manufacturing and oil grand larceny?”

      Did you get your tin foil hat from Amazon or are you among the imbeciles who claim they are a MONOPOLY!!!?
      Regardless, fuck off, slaver.

    2. You barely hinted at global warming. Your post needs more global warming. And reparations, don’t forget reparations!

    3. That’s pretty good. OBL’s delivery is a bit more natural, but I think that with time your parody will improve.

  11. The Progressive Congressional camp should come out of the closet, of course, about commoners getting equal share of growing debt because creation of currency apparently worked to fuel China’s astronomical growth and continues to float US Treasury bonds. It is up to Libertarians to kill all forms of QE; ally with Progressives on the 80% agenda they share and base all subsidies on equitable non-lobbied parasitism. First balancing of Budget should done by closing 900 foreign adventurism bases to fuel New Green infrastructure investment. Infrastructure is investment; military is disinvestment with no secondary recapture (Econ. 101).

    1. Fuck off, slaver.

    2. … to fuel New Green infrastructure investment money pit.

      FIFY

  12. “But even if this organ of the government is run with military-like efficiency…”
    I hope your just clowning us with your “efficiency” example

  13. I am amazed by the content quality of the blog the writer has done it well. Bullguard Support Number UK

  14. I remember another federal official noted for falling asleep during boring meetings.
    He broke the back of the USSR.

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