Trump will propose combining the Education and Labor Departments

In the past, government reorganization efforts have been spotty at best. In the late 1970s, the Carter administration came up with the brilliant idea to take dozens of education-related programs from several departments and place them under the authority of a new Department of Education.

We know how that worked out.

Now according to the Wall Street Journal, the Trump administration is looking to eliminate a lot of duplication of programs by combining the Departments of Education and Labor.


Citing a person with knowledge of the proposal, the Journal said the plan follows a review of Cabinet agencies that looked for ways to shrink the federal government.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters.

Congress would likely have to approve the merger, and it was unclear whether lawmakers would be in favor of a major governmental reorganization with November elections looming.

Republicans have long complained about the size of the federal government and many have taken particular aim at the Education Department, which they see as intruding on local and state authority.

President Donald Trump also plans to propose as early as Thursday moving many social safety net programs into a new “megadepartment” that would replace the Health and Human Services Department, The New York Times reported, citing administration officials briefed on the proposal.

Among the programs to be moved to the new department is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, which serves more than 40 million low-income Americans, the Times said. SNAP currently is run by the Agriculture Department.

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney is the architect of the plan, the newspaper said. OMB did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters.

Looks good on paper. But the impetus of the bureaucracy to aggrandize itself by expanding, rather than shrinking their departments may doom the well meaning effort to failure.

The initial 1980 budget for the Department of Education was about $6 billion. The 2019 budget request from Trump is about $62 billion, down from the $68 billion spent in the last Obama budget. What started as an effort to reform government ended up creating a monstrous bureaucracy. What's more, during that period, American kids lost ground to their international competition as scores in reading, math and science fell.

So despite the massive increase in spending, the education of our children has suffered. Whatever the combined education and labor departments will be called, it's hard to imagine things improving dramatically.

Similarly, it's an open question whether combining government welfare programs under the auspices of one government department will improve their efficiency or save the taxpayer some money. Any such effort is welcome, however, and who knows? Perhaps the right cabinet secretary can realize the savings envision by the Trump administration.

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