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Upsizing Federal Law Enforcement

In his 1996 State of the Union address, Clinton promised to end the "era of big government." But while federal agencies from the Department of Energy to the Labor Department are being downsized, federal law enforcement appears to be moving briskly in the opposite direction.

The Clinton administration's fiscal 1997 budget calls for a 13.7 percent increase for the Department of Justice, which would boost its funding to $18.6 billion. In the past 16 years, the Justice Department has expanded its work force from 55,000 employees to 94,000 and its budget has grown by nearly 600 percent. After adjusting for inflation, that increase still comes to about 300 percent since 1981.

There are currently more than 41,000 criminal investigators working for 32 federal agencies. One of the fastest growing is the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). This year the House approved a bill that will transform the Border Patrol into one of the nation's largest police agencies, with the hiring of 1,000 agents in each of the next five years.

During fiscal year 1995, $6.7 billion was spent on domestic drug enforcement, more than $1.3 billion of it going to the FBI and DEA. The DEA will spend some $33 million over the next five years on sophisticated digital equipment that will enable its field agents to greatly expand the use of telephone wire taps.

All of this is indicative of who the "our" is in the political rhetoric about "getting big government off our backs." Government is indeed getting off the backs of corporate America, and it's landing on the necks of immigrants, working people, the un- and underemployed, and poor people.

Sources: Law Enforcement News, Washington Post

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