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Friday, January 28, 2005

Government Waste?

I like to think that I'm as against government waste as the next guy. If the government is going to take my money I hope they are using it for something worthwhile.

That being said, I have to disagree with Amy Ridenour's National Center Blog when she opposes cost of living increases for Congressional staff.

First, the complexity of government is of a magnitude greater now than it was in the late 19th or even early 20th century. While I wish this was not true, and the libertarian in mean bemoans the fact, I don't think we can turn back the clock and return to an era where it was even remotely physically possible for a Representative or Senator to read (much less respond to) all of her mail. Senator Boxer represents a state with 36 million people. Can we really expect one person to keep up with all of their cares and concerns?

Indeed, a certain minimum number of staff members are needed just to handle constituent response issues. Mrs. Marple didn't get her Social Security check? Someone needs to call the appropriate agencies, file a complaint, bitch and moan, and follow up. I think this is a necessary function of representatives in government and I wouldn't sacrifice it just to save a few dollars on staff costs.

A certain minimum number of staff members are needed to handle the ever increasing complexity of legislative issues. Staff does research, helps write laws, follows the news, helps keep their representative informed. Staff provide a necessary level of expertise for representatives. All of these are necessary functions of government.

Of course, Amy Ridenour isn't saying that we should cut congressional staff entirely. A reasonable reduction might be in order. But who gets to decide what is reasonable? Shouldn't our representatives have the primary say over the support they need?

In today's world I don't think Congress could function without a professional cohort of staff to educate and assist our elected representatives. Staffers are highly skilled people with a great deal of education in jobs that demand a high degree of energy. A small cost-of-living adjustment seems entirely fair and reasonable.

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