Politicians Have Abolished the Abolition of Federal Agencies


Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and other prominent Democrats want to abolish the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency commonly known as ICE. Rep. Mark Pocan plans to introduce a bill that would eliminate the agency, which dates to the administration of George W. Bush. Whatever the merits of abolishing ICE, taxpayers might note that calls for the abolition of any federal agency have been rare. 

During the recent presidential campaign, Sen. Ted Cruz called for the abolition of the Internal Revenue Service, and he has a strong case. The IRS is by far the most powerful and intrusive agency in the federal government, known for targeting advocates of lower taxes and more accountable government. The IRS gets workers’ money before they do through withholding and in the case of an audit, the IRS makes the presumption of innocence disappear. As Sen. Cruz notes, a flat tax would eliminate the need for the IRS in its current form. 

Politicians have more enthusiasm for creating new federal agencies. The previous administration launched the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau during a recession, charging that Americans were unable to manage their financial affairs without bureaucratic assistance. The CFPB is funded by the Federal Reserve and therefore unaccountable to Congress. That alone should justify its elimination. 

The federal Department of Education was a payoff to teacher unions for supporting Jimmy Carter in 1976. The Constitution gives the federal government no role in education but politicians have not seen fit to eliminate this bloated, wasteful agency. Likewise, the “Intelligence Community” boasts 17 federal agencies, none of which was able to prevent 9/11, mass murder at Fort Hood, and the attack on the Boston Marathon, among others. Even so, politicians do not seek to trim the number down to, say, three or four intelligence agencies.

The Trump administration wants to eliminate 19 federal agencies, including the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Legal Services Corporation and the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, which “coordinates efforts to fight homelessness among nearly 20 federal agencies.” As Milton Friedman observed, those are easy to start but practically impossible to eliminate. As taxpayers have learned, that applies to whatever level of failure, fraud, waste, and abuse the federal agency generates. 

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K. Lloyd Billingsley is a Policy Fellow at the Independent Institute and a columnist at The Daily Caller.

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