• U.S.

BUREAUCRACY: Ever-Bearing Hatchery

2 minute read
TIME

Taking over the Federal Government after two decades of New Deal and Fair Deal, the new Republican Administration expected in January 1953 that businesslike management of the nation’s affairs would shrink the swollen federal payroll. But last week Congress’ Joint Committee on Reduction of Nonessential Federal Expenditures reported that in fiscal 1957 the executive branch’s civilian payroll crept up to an alltime peak of $11 billion, more than $1 billion above the 1952 level.

Pay boosts accounted for the entire increase: the number of executive-branch employees (aside from foreigners employed overseas) actually shrank by 7% during the five-year span—from 2,577,000 to 2,394,000. Despite this long-range shrinkage, forces are at work to maintain the federal bureaucracy as an ever-bearing hatchery, e.g., a burgeoning population (up 9% since 1952) and constant demands for more and more federal services. Last year the executive branch added 30,000 employees—the Post Office took on 12,611 new workers to handle the increasing torrent of mail; the Civil Aeronautics Administration had to cope with the swelling flow of air traffic; the Patent Office hired new employees to pare down the growing backlog of patent applications.

This week a whole new flock of federal employees is being hatched to take on a new U.S. duty: checking chickens. With the full-feathered approval of all the big birds in the Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration and the chicken business, Congress passed and the President signed a new law that gives the Federal Government instead of private industry the responsibility for checking the purity of poultry at processing plants. In the past, 550 Department of Agriculture inspectors have checked poultry only if processors asked and paid for the service, an operation that cost the industry $3,500,000 a year. Under the new law, there will be more chicken checkers checking more chickens,* adding nearly 1,000 employees to the federal payroll and $10 million a year to the taxpayers’ bill.

* Leading to the question: “How many chicks should a chick checker check if a chick checker should check chicks?”

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