Here's a humorously titled article about the proliferation of Congressional staff that make most of the decisions Washington instead of our duly elected leaders. A different way to look at "big" government... not just spending too much money to do too much, badly, but also simply bloated with bureaucrats.

There are now more than 17,000 staffers on personal or committee staffs, a work force bigger than an Army division. Political scholars James Bennett and Thomas DiLorenzo believe that in reality many of them make up a "network of tax-funded 'constituent service' aides whose actual job is to subvert the electoral process--that is, to give incumbents unfair advantages over their already underfinanced challengers."

As long ago as 20 years ago, the growing power of staff attracted the attention of Sen. Barry Goldwater. He took the opportunity to single staffers out for attention in his 1986 "farewell address": "Today's Hill staffers write most of the legislation and speeches, they do all kinds of work that the members of Congress should be doing," Goldwater warned. "It is safe to say that the U.S. Congress is now run by paid staffers, not by people elected to do the job."

The growing power of the staff has in turn fueled the dramatic increase in the number of Washington lobbyists, who perhaps not without coincidence also number about 30,000, twice as many as six years ago. Staffers who leave Capitol Hill often hit the jackpot as high-priced lobbyists or consultants. The sheer complexity and size of government now mean it's often impossible for members to know how to understand and navigate it, so they often turn over that job to their staff or former staffers turned lobbyists.

Anyone who doesn't believe staffers exercise that kind of power on a day-to-day basis should talk to Mark Bisnow, a former aide to such senators as Hubert Humphrey and Bob Dole. "Just watch senators on their way into the chamber for a vote," he told me several years ago. "Many will quickly glance to the side where aides stand compressing into a single gesture the sum of information their bosses need: thumbs up or thumbs down."

Maybe our Congressmen wouldn't have so much free time for instant messaging their pages if they actually had to do real work.



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