I loved the premise of David Broder's "So, Now Bigger Is Better?" [Outlook, Jan. 12]. I was fascinated to read that "two years after taking office, [President] Bush is presiding over the biggest, most expensive federal government in history," and I eagerly read on in search of the evidence that would substantiate Broder's claim. I became chagrined, however, when I could not find definitive proof of that assertion.

The size of Bush's federal workforce is listed at 2.6 million in 2001 and 2002 -- smaller than President Reagan's 3 million. Broder also tells us that the Bush administration's spending is at 19.6 percent of GDP, down from at least 22.3 percent in the Clinton days. Yes, Broder mentions the president's plans for agencies "to be created and/or expanded" above and beyond the 2.6 million mark. And he asserts that "the growth of the federal government's influence cannot be measured in terms of money alone," providing examples of federal intrusion into state and local policy. Yet none of that is sufficient to prove that the current federal government is truly the biggest or the most expensive ever.

-- C.C. Gachet


The figures regarding the number of federal employees accompanying David Broder's "So, Now Bigger Is Better?" are misleading.

According to the definitive text on the matter, Paul P. Van Riper's "History of the United States Civil Service," civilian employment in the federal government peaked in July 1945 at 3.8 million regular employees plus an additional 330,000 working for a dollar a year or without compensation. This means the federal civil service has been far larger in raw numbers and relative to national population than Broder indicates.

-- David H. Rosenbloom