There are literally hundreds of federal government agencies. Most Americans have never heard of the vast majority of them, much less know what they do or how many people they employ or how much money they spend. Only a few receive regular attention, such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, to name two.
Some thinks tanks publish annual reports on agency budgets, personnel, and pages of regulations in the Federal Register. Some focus on the always politically popular themes of waste, fraud, and abuse. Others investigate specific outrageous activities of this or that agency. Some highlight conflict between federal agencies and the congressional committees that oversee them, especially when the president and Congress represent different parties.
Consumer reports on commercial products have been around for decades. Consumer Reports was widely regarded as the bible for rating manufacturers of similar products or evaluating new products coming to market. Today potential purchasers can browse numerous web sites to compare features and prices of almost every product for sale anywhere in the world. Any company selling a defective or shoddy product is likely to be exposed, lose sales, suffer a fall in its stock price, and lose its reputation. Some firms never recover from bad publicity.
Since the Great Depression, the federal government has steadily intruded on the private affairs of firms and individuals. Sometimes government intervention is positive, other times negative. But rarely do bad performance lead to mass layoffs, reduction in the budget and scope of an agency’s activities or shutdown of a government agency. Reports of inspectors general in agencies have little to no effect on their activities.
What’s missing are comprehensive consumer reports on all government agencies that are widely accessible to the public to supplement annual reports and anecdotes that constitute most reporting—a Wikipedia for agencies (Wikiagency). The academic political media industrial complex is quick to criticize any firm for the slightest error, but there is no counterpart to the often more damaging misconduct of government agencies.
Your friendly proprietor hopes that someone or organization will pick up this suggestion and start a Wikiagency to expose misconduct and force the hundreds of government agencies, thousands when state and local governments are included, to justify every dollar and employee of their activities. And, also force Congress to reduce agency budgets, programs and personnel when they misbehave or fail to carry out their proper lawful duties.