Is it possible that politicians and their staffs not paid enough for the work they do?
That’s an argument that’s been floated by United Republic ally and Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig in his book Republic Lost. And yesterday, in a blog post for The Atlantic, Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry elaborates on how one of lobbyists’ biggest assets for members of Congress is the “legislative subsidy” — lobbyists can be an important source of information about issues and legislation:
What to do about the legislative subsidy?
It seems to me that the obvious answer is to pay elected representatives and their staffs vast amounts of money.
Legislators crave the legislative subsidy simply because they don’t have the staff to research whether proposed tax X would really kill eleventy zillion jobs. Legislative chiefs of staff are “owned” by Abramoff as soon as he tells them he has a job for them in several years because they’re getting paid a pittance.
What if every member of Congress had a, say, $20 million staff-and-research budget? What if a congressional chief of staff made $1 million per year, and what if each congressman had an army of staffers to research policy and draft bills, as opposed to a skeleton staff? The legislative subsidy would just become irrelevant. Or at least, congresspeople would be on equal footing vis-à-vis well-funded lobbyists. And the cost would be a drop in the bucket compared to the federal budget — and even less compared to the social and economic cost of carveouts and tax breaks.