“It’s the economy, stupid.” If that isn’t already the Department of Commerce’s informal slogan, it should be. While the President usually gets the credit, or blame, for the health of the economy, it’s the Department of Commerce that is specifically charged with keeping the economy growing.
Commerce, as it’s called for short, is partly a business development wing of the federal government. That means facilitating global trade, finding new markets for American goods, promoting American companies abroad, fostering innovation at home, issuing trademarks and patents, and more. Employing over twenty sub-agencies, and nearly 50,000 staffers, the Department of Commerce also tracks economic data to assist government decision making, encourages environmental stewardship, carries out the national census, tracks oceanic and weather conditions, and even standardizes weights and measurements. (Not to worry, traditionalists: the U.S. is not going to convert to the metric system anytime soon).
You would think with a to-do list including “job creation, economic growth, sustainable development, and improved standards of living for all Americans,” the Department of Commerce would have plenty of fans in Congress. But ever since its contentious divorce from the Department of Labor in 1913, politicians of all stripes have called for the Department to be disbanded, reorganized, split in half, demoted, and worse. Somehow, the agency still manages to get out of bed in the morning.