A number of departments and agencies were created or have evolved to serve different groups who are affected by government regulatory actions and who organize to try to influence policy.
Poor people may be included to which the government has decided to respond.
Departments that are sensitive to the concerns of specific groups are more focused on what is good for the nation as a whole.
The USDA was established in 1862 to help U.S. agricultural interests.
It began by providing research information to farmers.
Politicians talk about cutting back on agricultural subsidies, but no one expects the USDA to change its focus to look out for the farmer.
The Departments of Labor, Commerce, Education, and Veterans Affairs have similar stories to tell.
There are four types of organizations in the federal bureaucracy: cabinetlevel departments, independent agencies, regulatory boards and commission, and government corporations.
Making the job of understanding the bureaucracy more difficult, some agencies can fit into more than one of those classifications.
Congress creates hybrid agencies that act like government corporations, for instance, which makes it difficult to classify an agency as one type or another.
Except for the head of the Department of Justice, who is called the attorney general, the heads of departments are known as secretaries.
The president's cabinet is made up of department heads who are appointed by the president to give advice on critical areas of government affairs such as foreign relations, agriculture, education, and so on.
The areas are not fixed and presidents can propose different cabinet offices.
Although the secretaries are political appointees who usually change when the administration changes, they sit at the heads of the large, more or less permanent, bureaucracy we call departments.
Cabinet heads have more prestige and status than other agency leaders.
The establishment of a cabinet department is a sign that the government recognizes the policy area as an important political responsibility.
The cabinet level is where groups fight hard to get their causes represented.
Environmental groups tried to get the EPA raised to the cabinet level during Bill Clinton's administration.
The fact that it was not elevated, despite Clinton's campaign promises on the matter, was a sign that the business and development interests that opposed environmental regulation were stronger politically.
Even though the EPA is not a cabinet-level agency, its director has been asked by some presidents to meet with the cabinet, giving him or her cabinet rank and thus more status, even if the agency is not so elevated.
The White House chief of staff, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, the U.S. trade representative, and the chair of the Council of Economic Advisers were all in the Obama administration.
There are agencies outside the cabinet departments.
The independent agencies have a single head that is appointed by the president.
Their areas of jurisdiction are more narrow than those of the cabinet departments.
Congress doesn't follow a plan for how to make an independent agency.
Given the mix of political forces of the moment--that is, given what groups are demanding what action, and with what resources--it expands the bureaucracy to fit the case at hand.
The agencies are called independent because of their independence from the cabinet departments.
Some agency heads serve at the president when Congress does not agree with the current president, because it tends to insulate new agencies from presidential control by making appointments for fixed terms that do not overlap with the president's, or removing budgetary oversight from the Office of Management and Budget.
Independent agencies have different freedom from judicial review.
Regulations aim to protect the public from industrial or economic danger.
The Securities and Exchange Commission regulates the trading of stocks and bonds on the nation's stock markets, while the Food and Drug Administration regulates things such as how drugs must be tested before they can be marketed safely and what information must appear on the labels of processed foods and beverages.
Regulation usually pits the individual's freedom to do what he or she wants, or a business's drive to make a profit, against some vision of what is good for the public.
As long as governments exist, there will be trade-offs for citizens' collective lives.
The parties disagree on whether regulations are a good thing or a bad thing.
How each trade-off is made among freedom, profit, and public safety is a question of ideology and public policy.
The initial roll-out of HealthCare.gov was hampered by technological problems, but once the bugs were worked out, the system took off.
20 million Americans were newly insured by the end of 2016 and many were able to stay on their parents' plans.
The number of agencies in the federal government that issue and enforce regulations about what citizens and businesses can and cannot do is a moving target.
It's not surprising that regulation gets out of hand given the scope of the undertaking.
Whether or not a clear case can be made for restricting action, if an agency exists to regulate, it probably will.
The average cheeseburger in America is subject to over 40,000 federal and state regulations, specifying everything from the age and fat content of the cheese to the temperature at which the burger must be cooked.
Those on restrictive diet need to know what they are eating, and we don't want to be ripped off by getting something other than what we paid for.
Others seem silly.
We sympathize with those who claim that the regulatory function is getting out of hand in American government because adult federal employees are paid to measure the speed of ketchup.
The regulatory agencies are largely independent of political influence and are located within the departments of Health and Human Services.
Most independent regulatory agencies are run by a commission of three or more people who serve overlap terms, and the terms of office are usually between three and fourteen years, so that they don't coincide with presidential terms.
Commission members are usually confirmed by Congress with a bipartisan vote.