At The Department of Forgotten Cabinet Secretaries

As the Obama administration heads into the last day of its first working week, exactly nobody is poised at the edge of their seat wondering who the next Commerce Secretary will be. The reason is that nobody cares about the Department of Commerce. The only important sub-cabinet job — the head of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration — has already been filled by Jane Lubchenco (an excellent choice).

Jonathan Zasloff suggests doing away with the department altogether:

In the run-up to the 2012 Election, President Obama should propose abolishing the department. It would be his equivalent of Bill Clinton’s support of school uniforms and V-Chip: small, symbolic gestures that send a sort of cultural signal. You can trust the Democrats to run the government frugally.

Of course it’s hard to actually save very much money doing this, since you wouldn’t actually be eliminating the department’s main sub-agencies. NOAA would be a good fit inside the EPA or the Department of the Interior, the Patent Office could be spun off as an independent agency or sent to Justice (or even Education; I think several countries put their patent agencies inside their education ministries) and the Census Bureau and the other statistical agencies could go hang out with the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And actually the price of carrying out the reorganization might well exceed the monetary savings. Still, political symbolism isn’t always about doing things that make sense.


At any rate, as long as the Commerce Cabinet Crisis continues, I’m going to profile one Secretary of Commerce per day until Barack Obama finds his man. Check this space tomorrow for the first edition.