Stephen Reader covers politics for It's a Free Country, WNYC's interactive politics site. He joined the station in 2010 and has also worked for Studio 360, WNYC's Peabody Award-winning show about art, culture, and creativity.
While Republican presidential candidates continue to call for smaller government and fewer federal agencies, Barack Obama this morning proposed to consolidate six departments focused on business and trade.
"Today I'm calling on Congress to reinstate the authority that past presidents have had to streamline and reform the executive branch," Obama said. "It's the same sort of authority every business owner has to ensure his or her company keeps pace with the times."
The president's main proposal was to combine the federal government's various trade entities into a single organization, providing a kind of one-stop shop for business owners, from the time they need to file a patent to the time they want to expand overseas. Obama called the current structure "a mess," and said he would also elevate the Small Business Administration to a cabinet-level agency.
Trade agencies were only one example of government inefficiency, Obama said. The president again cited the example of the Department of Interior being in charge of salmon in fresh water, but the Commerce Department being in charge of salmon when they're in salt water, which he pointed out during last year's State of the Union. He also mentioned the Department of Homeland Security, which he said reports to over 100 different congressional panels. "That's not adding value. It's not making us safer."