The Executive Branch: A Modern Day Mammoth

Co-Equal Branches -- HardlyRemember your high school Civics class?  To avoid confusion with Honda Civics, nowadays they usually call it “American Government.”  In that class, we learned that during the Constitutional Convention of 1787, Articles I, II, and III of the United States Constitution established three branches of government:  The Legislative Branch, the Executive Branch, and the Judicial Branch.

Perhaps, if your teacher was really sharp, you were also taught that the Judicial branch’s power was initially perceived as weak, but John Marshall’s 1801-1835 era as the 4th Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court established the Judiciary as an independent and co-equal branch of the federal government.

Three co-equal branches?  Really?  Perhaps they were co-equal during the 1800s, but what happened??

Well, along came the dawning of social progressivism starting at the beginning of the 20th century, and the resultant steroidal growth of the Federal Government.  Here’s a graph I created to show this immense growth since just before WWII.  You’ll see the steady increase in population, and the healthy increase in Gross Domestic Product (GDP), but in the right-hand column you’ll see the unhealthy flood of government spending that began in the mid-1930s.


Growth of the U.S. Federal Mammoth, by Decade

(Adjusted for inflation, showing all years in 2013-equivalent dollars)

(Adjusted for U.S. population growth, all dollar figures are “per person”)

(Sustainable level of spending shown by orange & red splats in the right column at 19% of GDP)

Click to enlarge

Explosion of Mammoth Federal Spending Exceeds Sustainable Percentage of GDP

Keep in mind that I’ve made sure to account for inflation and population growth.  The only thing causing the explosion of federal spending you see in the right hand column is the out-of-control growth of the scope and nannyism of the Federal Government since the Great Depression.

So, what in the world is all this money per person spent on?

Here is the 2013 organizational structure of the three branches of the U.S. Federal Government (see an org chart here).  The outline is lengthy, so just skim it.  But please be sure to notice the massive sprawl of the green-highlighted Executive Branch.


Structure of the U.S. Federal Government

  1. Legislative Branch – a two-chamber (“bicameral”) structure

a.  U.S. Senate

b.  U.S. House of Representatives

c.  Approximately a dozen support services serving both chambers, including the Congressional Budget Office, the Congressional Research Service, and the Government Accountability Office

2.  Executive Branch – led by a single, directly-elected chief executive

a.       President of the U.S. – Commander in Chief

i.      Vice President of the U.S.

ii.      Executive Administration

1.  Approximately a dozen Executive Offices, including the White House Office, Office of Management & Budget, and National Security Council

2.  Fifteen Executive (“Cabinet”) Departments, each led by a Secretary who is appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate

a.  Dept. of State (est. 1789)

          • Includes 7 agencies

b.  Dept. of the Treasury (est. 1789)

          • Includes IRS, US Mint, Consumer Financial Protection, Public Debt, Engraving/Printing, and 4 other bureaus

c.  Dept. of Interior (est. 1849)

          • Includes Bureau of Indian Affairs, BLM, Fish & Wildlife, USGS, Nat’l Parks, 4 other agencies

d.  Dept. of Agriculture (est. 1862)

          • Includes Food Safety/Inspection, Forest Service, 22 other orgs

e.  Dept. of Justice (est. 1870)

          • Includes ATF, DEA, FBI, Bureau of Prisons, USMarshalls, Immigration Review, Interpol, Parole, US Attorney’s Office, and 7 other offices

f.  Dept. of Commerce (est. 1903)

          • Includes Census Bureau, Export/Import, NIST, NOAA, NWS, Patent Office, and 16 other orgs

g.  Dept. of Labor (est. 1913)

          • Includes Bureau of Labor Statistics, OSHA, and 7 other offices, bureaus, and administrations

h.  Dept. of Defense (est. 1947)

          • Includes Air Force, Army, Marines, Navy, Joint Staff, 8 combat commands, 16 defense agencies (including DARPA and NSA), 13 other centers and schools

i.  Dept. of Health & Human Services (est. 1953)

          • Includes CDC, Medicare, Medicaid, FDA, NIH, and 11 other administrations, agencies, and centers

j.  Dept. of Housing & Urban Development (est. 1965)

          • Includes Ginnie Mae, FHA, and 9 other offices

k.  Dept. of Transportation (est. 1966)

          • Includes FAA, Highway Administration, Railroad Administration, NHTSA, 8 other administrations

l.  Dept. of Energy (est. 1977)

          • Includes 16 labs, offices, and administrations

m.  Dept. of Education (est. 1979)

          • Includes 12 offices, boards, and centers

n.  Dept. of Veterans Affairs (est. 1989)

          • Includes 3 agencies

o.  Dept. of Homeland Security (est. 2003)

          • Includes FEMA, TSA, Coast Guard, Immigration, Customs, Border Protection, Secret Service, and nine other orgs

iii.      VariousIndependentFederal Agencies, including:

        1. Central Intelligence Agency (est. 1947)
        2. Office of Director of National Intelligence (est. 2005)
        3. Environmental Protection Agency (est. 1970)
        4. Fed. Communications Commission (est. 1934)
        5. Fed. Deposit Insurance Corp (est. 1933)
        6. Fed. Election Commission (est. 1975)
        7. Fed. Reserve System (est. 1913)
        8. Fed. Trade Commission (est. 1914)
        9. General Services Administration (est. 1949)
        10. Nat’l Aeronautics & Space Admin (est. 1958)
        11. Nat’l Labor Relations Board (est. 1935)
        12. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (est. 1974)
        13. Securities & Exchange Commission (est. 1934)
        14. Small Business Administration (est. 1953)
        15. Social Security Administration (est. 1935)
        16. US International Trade Commission (est. 1916)
        17. US Postal Service (orig. est. 1792; current reorganization est. 1971)

…and 53 other agencies & commissions

3.       Judicial Branch

a.  U.S. Supreme Court – directly established by the Constitution

i.      Lower courts (established by legislative statute)

        1. U.S. District Courts
        2. U.S. Courts of Appeal
        3. Many other circuit & special courts, and judicial services


Based on that outline, what would you guess the 2013 split of the federal operating budget between these three “co-equal” branches of the Federal Government is?

Would you guess 80% Executive, 10% Legislative, 10% Judicial ?

Not even close.  Guess again.

90% Executive, 5% Legislative, 5% Judicial?


98% Executive, 1% Legislative, 1% Judicial?

Still wrong.

99.67% Executive, 0.13% Legislative, 0.20% Judicial?

That’s right.



Sobering, huh?  If you didn’t before, now you understand that the Federal Government has become absolutely dominated by the explosion of the Executive Branch.  In my next article, I will pose the next logical question:  Who is accountable for the management of the mammoth Executive Branch?

The Massive Executive Branch of the U.S. Government(graphic credit)


About Necessary and Proper

Jeff believes in the Individual's ability to excel when liberty and freedom of choice are protected. Also believes in the Community's ability to take care of the vast majority of its own issues and needs when the federal government leaves the Community's resources and sphere of control alone. State and local choice produce better results than centralized federal control.
This entry was posted in Our Political Economy, Politics in Practice, Theory of Gov't and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to The Executive Branch: A Modern Day Mammoth

  1. The Ed says:

    And Congress is responsible for funding the executive branch. Go figure.


  2. It’s even more complicated than that. Many of those “independent” agencies are not executive branch at all, but authorized by Congress while acting independent of Congress for the most part. Many commissions are authorized by Congress, the director is selected by one president, but the presidents don’t actually have the authority to remove them, so often these directors stay in power for decades and when Congress or the President decide there’s something fishy, they can’t be removed, so the problems continue beyond just that administration.

    What Congress created, however, they can call to task — if they will. Have you researched the REINS Act? It hasn’t a prayer of making it through the current Senate, but when things change, we can ask for it to be submitted again.


    • Hello, Fair Lady Fairbanks….

      Yes, I’m going to discuss this idea of “independent” agencies. No, they’re not as accountable and manageable as they should be. But I don’t feel they’re as “independent” as the current President and his Press Secretary would like us to believe, with scandals falling from the sky all around them right now.

      I will look into the REINS Act. Thanks for the heads up.


      • Well, definitely there is a flavor of plausible deniability there. Congress created these agencies and yet pretends they are Executive Branch agencies — I suspect some congresspeople don’t even realize they aren’t — and yet the bureaucrats in these agencies act like they take their orders from the president — so long as they agree with his policies. Then, if they don’t, he finds out he’s not actually in control of them. The FCC, the FTC, and the EPA are all congressional independent agencies that are technically outside of the Executive branch. That’s why nothing ever seems to be accomplished in reigning them in. Even if you have a regulation-adverse President, he isn’t actually in charge of the agency. It’s crazy and it’s incredibly unconstitutional.


        • Thanks for the info. Hey isn’t it past your bedtime? Oh wait…you’ll hit the sack when the sun goes down, in 2 or 3 more hours, right?
          – Jeff


          • It’s only 9:30 here … Alaska being way far west. I’ll actually go to bed about 11 or midnight. There’s a neighbor using a chain saw, so it’s not going to happen any sooner than that.

            But, yeah, the sun is in the and more than a hand’s width above the horizon.


  3. tannngl says:

    Brilliant, Jeff. Reblogging this.


  4. tannngl says:

    Reblogged this on tannngl and commented:
    Who knew? The executive branch of our federal government is mammoth. You’ve got to read this!


  5. bullright says:

    Excellent article, particularly the chart. Follow the money. Wow.,


    • Hi Bull.
      I originally gathered and formulated this information to set the stage for another point I want to make about the Obama Administration’s behavior in the current scandal-fest, in addition to the “Remote Control President” point I already made. But this preamble grew so large that I split it out as a separate article, which I will follow up soon. First I’ll probably post an article that Ed already has finished though. I hope you’ll stay tuned. I really appreciate your loyal following. Take care.
      – Jeff


  6. Pingback: 6/24/2013: North American Jurisprudence as Sausage-Making: WHO INTERPRETS The CONSTITUTION? | United States of WHOLE America

  7. Pingback: 7/4/2013: July 4th Is Reader Participation Time, Y’all! | Necessary and Proper Gov't

  8. Pingback: 7/6/2013: Barack Obama’s Legacy: “Mr. Accountable?” Er…Not So Much | Necessary and Proper Gov't

Chime in! Leave Jeff a comment...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s