Voters often respond with loud approval when the government decides to tighten its own belt, but a recent analysis suggests such cuts might be doing more harm than good.
According to the Sunlight Foundation – an organization with a stated goal to “catalyze greater government openness and transparency” – recent and future House cuts threaten the quality of work being done in Congress, and risk higher dependence by politicians on lobbyists.
In early 2011, the House of Representatives voted to cut its operating budget by 5%. That has resulted in a 7.4% cut in salaried staff (948 positions), a 62.5% cut in computer spending and a 30.7% drop in office supply spending. And the 2012 Legislative Branch Appropriations Act will cut into House pockets even deeper, with the branch set to hack off another 6.4% in spending.
The Sunlight Foundation’s Lee Drutman sounds off on the potential effects:
“This will have consequences. With each cut to salary and staff, and each reduction in office resource budgets, it becomes that much more challenging for the House to do its job. As staff struggle with declining resources and scramble to work harder to compensate for lost positions, they become that much more dependent on outside lobbyists to help them.”
A harrowing contrast to the potential gains. As Drutman told CNNMoney:
“The cuts are such a tiny fraction of the overall budget. And the reality is it makes it harder for them to do a decent job.”
While most anyone is aware that staff and equipment cuts can hinder work production, most frightening is Drutman’s point about lobbyists. Lobbyists already are relied upon Congressional staffers for policy advice, which puts the lobbies’ interests into play. More cuts in House staffing likely would exacerbate the potential problem.
— Kyle Woodley, IP.com Assistant Editor