Nothing speaks to political power like commanding an empire worth billions. Congressional leaders are powerful, but sooner or later they have to answer to the people. The heads of Cabinet departments don’t have to worry about that. Even if they get invited to a Capitol Hill dog and pony show to explain failures, cover ups, or the waste of taxpayer money, they know that the person they answer to is the president (see: Cabinet Members Should Be Held Accountable). What keeps President Obama happy? Campaigning.
For Cabinet members, political power means campaigning.
Can you guess which Cabinet secretary said this?
The American people deserve leadership that focuses on growing the economy — not holding it hostage. Let’s keep our eye on the ball by passing immigration reform, which has bipartisan support and would inject a trillion dollars into the economy, and investing in infrastructure upgrades that would create thousands of middle class jobs right now.1
How about this:
However, this is only a temporary stop-gap as many millions of undocumented immigrants are still left in an unstable place within the economy. Congress must get past its dysfunction and act on comprehensive immigration reform to fix our broken system. President Obama is going to continue to fight for that because it’s the right thing to do for our economy, our security, and our nation’s families.2
One leads the Department of Labor. He should be focused on why so many Americans aren’t going back to work. The other oversees the Department of Education and is responsible for doling out billions in school funding and grants. Neither have anything to do with securing our borders or administering our immigration laws. Both are tireless Obama campaigners.
Axing Cabinet departments solves the wrong problem.
With the urgency of dealing with Washington’s spending crisis deferred until next year, a new Congressional Budget Office report looks at ways to slash government spending. Included in several hundred pages of ideas is getting rid of Cabinet departments. Is this the right solution, or do we need to look harder at Cabinet secretaries?
Our Health and Human Services secretary oversees an $848 billion empire.3 When the time came to deliver for taxpayers she had three years to figure out how to get a website up and running. All that money didn’t make a difference. What came first was making the president look good with lots of Obamacare propaganda to cover for the out of the gate failure.
Arne Duncan’s department is a favorite target when we talk about saving federal money. The CBO pointed out:
The Departments of Commerce, Education, and Energy are among those most frequently mentioned in comments about eliminating Cabinet departments.4
Even Duncan admits in his defense of Common Core Standards that states have stepped up to the plate when it comes to improving education, so what do we need an education secretary for? Congress can pass aid for schools and account to voters for what they approve. When money is short we don’t need a highly paid government official haranguing taxpayers about why they should pay six-figure teacher salaries (see: Will Taxpayers Support Raising Teacher Salaries 165%?).
Holder defines a post too furious, too powerful, and too partisan.
Eric Holder does not command the tax dollars enjoyed by Health and Human Services’ Sebelius, but he may wield the biggest partisan club in the Obama administration. From voting rights to immigration laws Holder has exemplified Cabinet level partisan policymaking and has held on to power despite his gun-running scandal.
The CBO is barking up the right tree when it talks about whacking spendthrift departments we can do without, but how do we curtail the power of Cabinet secretaries whose only accountability to the people is through the president? The president can hire all the advisers he wants. When it comes to handling our money campaign promises and reelection plans should not determine where the buck stops. Only Congress should draw that line. We are still waiting for lawmakers to summon the courage to accept that responsibility and hold Cabinet members accountable.