Why has the president’s staff grown so much in the last seventy years?
There are two main reasons why the president’s staff (also known as the White House staff) has increased in size so much over the last 70 (80 would be a better number to use) years. One reason is the increasing size of government. The other reason is the politicization of the bureaucracy and the presidents’ desire to have staff who are loyal only to them.
Beginning with the New Deal, the size of the federal government in general has increased dramatically. Before the New Deal, the government was not very involved in regulating the economy and other aspects of American life. Since then, government has gotten much more involved. We have all sorts of government programs that are meant to improve health, help the environment, promote education, and the like. With the exploding size of government in general, it makes sense that the size of the White House staff would increase as presidents need staffers who are expert in a wider variety of areas.
The other factor comes from the fact that the regular bureaucracy is not under the president’s direct control. While bureaucratic agencies are part of the executive branch, Congress also has a great deal of influence over them. In addition, most of the bureaucrats are civil servants who the president cannot simply remove from office at will. This means that the president cannot count on bureaucrats to support him (or someday her) unconditionally. This is where White House staff comes in. These people are hired directly to the president and answer to no one else. Therefore, they do not have any conflicting loyalties and will always support the president. In today’s world, with a more politicized bureaucracy and more polarization between the two parties, presidents feel more of a need to have people who are directly loyal to them. This is the second reason why the size of the president’s staff has increased so much.