What Does the Department of Commerce do Again?

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013 and is filed under Blog, Issues

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We’ve been focusing on a theme over the past few weeks about the need to downsize government, not just cut random spending.  We need to start eliminating entire departments and agencies.  A good place to start is with the Department of Commerce.

However, the real question is this: if the Department of Commerce would fall in the forest, would anyone miss it?  That is the question the Club for Growth is asking.  Chris Chocola, the president of the Club, notes that the DOC has gone without a secretary at the helm for 256 days.  Has anyone noticed the difference?

In case you never came face to face with anyone from the Commerce Department, here is how Mr. Chocola explains their impact on commerce:

Take one, a program in the Commerce Department called the Economic Development Administration (EDA) that costs hundreds of millions of dollars. Not surprisingly, the “economic development” benefits are dubious and the program has turned into a corporate welfare slush fund for members of Congress. Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina has identified EDA grants that went to a wine tasting room, a tourism promotion program in the Northern Mariana Islands, and an “innovation conference center” in Arkansas.

But that’s not all. The Commerce Department also spends millions of dollars in subsidies for fishermen as well. For example, the Cato Institute estimated that in 2010, the Commerce Department spent $74 million on Pacific salmon state grants and $35 million on fisheries promotion. The fishing industry should be allowed to rise and fall on its own two feet, and not receive taxpayer subsidies at any time – much less when we’re $15 trillion in debt.

We have a United States Trade Representative who is supposed to be in charge of promoting trade. However, the Commerce Department also has an agency called the International Trade Administration, which hands out wasteful export subsidies that are already duplicated (many times over) by other government agencies. Cato estimates that its elimination in 2010 would have saved taxpayers $389 million.

Yet another example of wasteful spending is the Minority Business Development Agency inside Commerce. If we want to help minority businessmen, we can do it the same way we can help every businessman: eliminate burdensome regulation, pass free trade agreements that open up new markets, and cut the corporate tax rate. We don’t need to pay the staff of a bureaucratic agency to accomplish that.

Move the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration into the Department of Agriculture, or eliminate it. Move the Patent and Trademark Office into the Justice Department. Eliminate the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the National Technical Information Service. With so much money to be saved, why isn’t this a no-brainer for Congress?