An article by Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. in the Washington Post of January 13th pointed out a crucial failing in the organisation of Congress that I was unaware of, and which I’m sure the general public know nothing about. This is the fact that the number of policy staff available to Congressmen has been allowed to decline so that in hearings and meetings with businessmen the elected men and women have no access to knowledgeable staff who are familiar with individual industries, their issues and technologies. Independently garnered knowledge is at a premium and the elected representatives don’t have it available.
The dismissal of the policy and technical staff began with Newt Gingrich, who, like the rest of the Republicans, wanted to reduce the size of government. He cut the numbers by one third, particularly staff at the Government Accountability Office, the Congressional Research Service and the Congressional Budget Office, defunding completely the Office of Technology Assessment. Bills are now drawn up without analysis or alteration.
Who helps out? Why, lobbying companies with vested interests. Sometimes legislation has been forced through without the appropriate committee even having time to read it (the 2017 Republican tax bill is a good example). The other beneficiaries are lawyers, who earn fat fees correcting or interpreting second rate bills. All helps to “make America great again” – yes?