Two diametrically opposed governance philosophies exist today which can be characterized as big government on the one hand and limited government on the other. Unfortunately, big government is winning.

Both parties are guilty, though the current administration seems like its goal is to grow the government into such obesity that we’ll never return to health. (Remember when President Bill Clinton told us “the era of big government is over!” Well, President Barack Obama wasn’t paying attention.)

As big as the government has grown, however, here’s a surprising fact: there are fewer federal government workers today than in the 1960s. This is true, even though much of today’s bureaucracy didn’t even exist then. How? The number of workers owing their jobs to federal money has vastly expanded while the number of federal workers has decreased. Ten years ago, we had over 16 million state and local government workers administering federal policy as a part of their jobs. (Undoubtedly, this number is higher today.) This allows the federal government to save over 4 million dollars of payroll by burdening state and local governments with these costs.

That means far fewer civil servants interact directly with the public as much as so-called street level bureaucrats, so that the modern federal employee is a professional and manager. Plus, the numbers of political appointees and senior executives has quadrupled. This leads to a bureaucratic rat’s nest where managers manage managers.

In the 1960s there were 17 layers between the president and a street level bureaucrat. In 1992 the number was 32. Imagine what it is today! New titles were created such as assistant, associate and deputy, among others. Most independent agencies of the federal government are classified as executive agencies. To manage the growth of the bureaucracy, presidents have surrounded themselves with many layers of staff organized into the Executive Office of the President of the United States.

The Federal Register is a “road map” to track growth of the federal bureaucracy. A daily publication, it provides the rules, regulations and other legal notices issued by federal administrative agencies available to the public. During its first full year of the Federal Register (1937), it consisted of 3,450 pages. During the war years (1942-1945) the Register expanded from 11,134 to 17,553 pages and stayed in that range being as low as 7,952 pages or as high as 20,036 pages until 1970. Then, the 1970s came and the bureaucracy swelled. In 1974 the number of pages was up to 45,422 and the following year 60,221.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, in 1976 several new separate categories were added: 1) presidential documents; 2) rules; 3) proposed rules; 4) notices; 5) corrections; and 6) blank or skipped pages. After the mid 1970s the lowest number of pages was 50,998 in 1984 and the highest was in 2010 with 81,405 pages. (The numbers for 2013 are not yet available. Perhaps they are still counting the pages.) It shouldn’t be hard to imagine a Federal Register of 100,000 pages.

How reasonable is a conversation about red tape reduction? Though politicians promise this during election cycles with predictable regularity, these processes are usually quite slow and the end result is that a government employee who was fulfilling a petty function loses some of their administrative power or a lower level worker loses his job. Unions usually resist government job losses so the red tape stays in place.

As the federal government “thickens” and gets further away from the people it is supposed to serve, our nation slowly becomes unrecognizable. What will be left of our federal system when state governments become nothing more than instruments of the federal government? This is the very opposite of our founder’s vision for America, which is a nightmarish scenario that should mobilize all opponents (we the people) of the statist’s grand plan to extinguish state autonomy over time. If we (the people) allow this to become reality the states will be nothing more than rubber stamps for the federal leviathan.

About The Author

Mark was a co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, and served as the national coordinator. He left the organization to work more broadly on expanding the self-governance movement beyond the partisan divide. Mark appears regularly on television in outlets as diverse as MSNBC, ABC, NBC, Fox News, CNN, Bloomberg, Fox Business and the BBC. He’s highly sought after for the tea party perspective from print and electronic media outlets, from the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, L.A. Times, Washington Examiner, Politico and the The Hill. Mark blogs at, and his opinion editorials regularly run in many of the leading political newspapers both on and offline. Mark has a BA in English from San Diego State University and graduated with honors from University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law in 1988. He practiced real estate and business law for almost a decade. For the last eleven years of his legal career he specialized in Internet advertising law. When not fighting for the future of our nation, Mark is an avid horseman, and lives in rural northern California with his wife Patty and two children.