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Friday, June 8, 2012

Staff and Deliberation

At The Washington Times, Luke Rosiak argues that the inexperience of congressional staff is bad for deliberation:
The most powerful nation on Earth is run largely by 24-year-olds.

High turnover and lack of experience in congressional offices are leaving staffs increasingly without policy and institutional knowledge, a Washington Times analysis of a decade of House and Senate personnel records shows — leaving a vacuum that usually is filled by lobbyists.

Most Senate staffers have worked in the Capitol for less than three years. For most, it is their first job ever. In House offices, one-third of staffers are in their first year, while only 1 in 3 has worked there for five years or more.

Among the aides who work on powerful committees where the nation’s legislation takes shape, resumes are a little longer: Half have four years of experience.
Theaverage legislative counsel in the House made $56,000 last year, less than in 2007. While pay for parking-lot attendants in the House increased from $26,000 to $49,000 in the past decade, pay for staff assistants, who make up the bulk of the House’s workforce, rose from $26,000 to $30,000. That puts them in the bottom fifth of the region’s college-educated workforce.
It means that young workers have proximity to enormous power while surviving on a meager budget — dual forces that come together to push congressional staffers through the “revolving door” to highly paid K Street lobbyists. In the revolving door, former congressional staff and members use their personal connections and insider knowledge to attempt to pull the levers of power on behalf of a paying client. A former congressional staffer is among the most valuable assets a company desiring legislative change can buy. 
But it also means that staffers are often forced to rely on lobbyists while they still work for Congress, sometimes for the purest of reasons: While lobbyists with decades of experience in energy policy or other arcane areas are common, such depth of experience is nearly nonexistent on Capitol Hill. Though 10 years of experience in a home-state office, which handles constituent services and other less stressful concerns, is not rare, a person with a decade of experience is few and far between in Washington.