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Please begin with an informative title:

Been wondering why the people we elect sound like such morons once they get into Congress? The answers are in the latest edition of the Washington Monthly: The Big Lobotomy -- How Republicans Made Congress Stupid:

A debilitating brain drain has actually been under way in Congress for the past twenty-five years....

In 1995, after winning a majority in the House for the first time in forty years, one of the first things the new Republican House leadership did was gut Congress’s workforce. They cut the “professional staff” (the lawyers, economists, and investigators who work for committees rather than individual members) by a third. They reduced the “legislative support staff” (the auditors, analysts, and subject-matter experts at the Government Accountability Office [GAO], the Congressional Research Service [CRS], and so on) by a third, too, and killed off the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) entirely. And they fundamentally dismantled the old committee structure, centralizing power in the House speaker’s office and discouraging members and their staff from performing their own policy research....

Why would conservative lawmakers decimate the staff and organizational capacity of an institution they themselves control? Part of it is political optics: What better way to show the conservative voters back home that you’re serious about shrinking government than by cutting your own staff? But a bigger reason is strategic. The Gingrich Revolutionaries of 1995 and the Tea Partiers of 2011 share the same basic dream: to defund and dismantle the vast complex of agencies and programs that have been created by bipartisan majorities since the New Deal. The people in Congress who knew those agencies and programs best and were most invested in making them work—the professional staffers, the CRS analysts, the veteran committee chairs—were not going to consent to seeing them swept away. So they had to be swept away.

Of course none of this cutting has had any effect on the size of government - just on the ability of its overseers to understand the complexities of the world in which it functions and to make policy that actually uses the capabilities of government for the betterment of the people.

The other main effect -- surprise! -- has been to advance conservative power:


You must enter an Intro for your Diary Entry between 300 and 1150 characters long (that's approximately 50-175 words without any html or formatting markup).

The first effect is an outsourcing of policy development. Much of the research, number crunching, and legislative wordsmithing that used to be done by Capitol Hill staffers working for the government is now being done by outside experts, many of them former Hill staffers, working for lobbying firms, think tanks, consultancies, trade associations, and PR outfits. This has strengthened the already-powerful hand of corporate interests in shaping legislation, and given conservative groups an added measure of influence over Congress....

Over the years, as Congress’s in-house capacity for independent policy thinking atrophied, the House GOP largely ceded that responsibility to Heritage, which has aligned itself with the Tea Party since former Senator Jim DeMint took the helm in 2013. The think tank became the only outside group that was allowed to brief members and their staff at the influential weekly lunches of the Republican Study Committee, the policy and messaging arm of House conservatives....

In the great era of congressional oversight of the 1960s and 1970s, the resident expertise of lawmakers and staff enabled far-reaching, informed policy making on both domestic and foreign arenas. Since the Gingrich revolution of 1994, not so much:
Gingrich’s first move in 1995 was to dismantle the decentralized, democratic committee system that the liberals and moderates had created in the 1970s and instead centralize that power on himself. Under his new rules, committee chairs were no longer determined by seniority or a vote by committee members, but instead appointed by the party leadership (read: by Newt himself, who often made appointees swear their loyalty to him). Subcommittees also lost their ability to set their own agendas and schedules; that too largely became the prerogative of the leadership....

The point of this centralization of power was to give the leadership maximum control of the legislative agenda and to jam through as many conservative bills as possible....But over time it also had the effect of dumbing down the institution....

Beginning in 1995 and continuing to the present day, the leadership often dictates to committees what it wants bills to look like or drafts them outright. So instead of learning deeply about a given subject, debating various policy options, engaging in the nitty-gritty of a topic over the course of years and sometimes decades, committee members nowadays are often asked either to reverse-engineer a piece of legislation based on party leadership’s description of what kind of bill they’d like to see or to simply vote on a bill they did not write to begin with. Is it any surprise that, under those circumstances, deep policy knowledge, curiosity, and innovation have gone out the window? “What’s the payoff for doing a good job? If you take your job seriously as a chairman, who gives a shit?” says Bruce Bartlett, who worked as a congressional staffer in the 1970s and ’80s for Representative Jack Kemp, Representative Ron Paul, and the Joint Economic Committee....

You can see the effect in the shabby, politicized work product coming out of many committees. In May, for instance, the House Energy and Commerce Committee released a survey conducted by its GOP staff purporting to show that only 67 percent of people who signed up for health insurance on the federal exchange had paid their first premium—a number that, if true, would have embarrassed the administration. In fact, the survey gave a false impression by counting as nonpayers people who hadn’t yet been billed. Insurance company executives later testified in public to the committee that their estimated payment rate was 80 percent. “Republicans were visibly exasperated,” reported The Hill, “as insurers failed to confirm certain claims about ObamaCare, such as the committee’s allegation that one-third of federal exchange enrollees have not paid their first premium.”

There's much, much more. It's a long article, but well worth reading for a history of how and why the Republicans destroyed the great legislative body that is the US Congress, as well as for the authors' ideas on what it will take to reverse the lobotomization of Congress and restore that august body to some semblance of usefulness and sanity.
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