Remember 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
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
- 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. Various “Independent” Federal Agencies, including:
- Central Intelligence Agency (est. 1947)
- Office of Director of National Intelligence (est. 2005)
- Environmental Protection Agency (est. 1970)
- Fed. Communications Commission (est. 1934)
- Fed. Deposit Insurance Corp (est. 1933)
- Fed. Election Commission (est. 1975)
- Fed. Reserve System (est. 1913)
- Fed. Trade Commission (est. 1914)
- General Services Administration (est. 1949)
- Nat’l Aeronautics & Space Admin (est. 1958)
- Nat’l Labor Relations Board (est. 1935)
- Nuclear Regulatory Commission (est. 1974)
- Securities & Exchange Commission (est. 1934)
- Small Business Administration (est. 1953)
- Social Security Administration (est. 1935)
- US International Trade Commission (est. 1916)
- 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)
- U.S. District Courts
- U.S. Courts of Appeal
- 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?
99.67% Executive, 0.13% Legislative, 0.20% Judicial?
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?