Along with industry colleagues, I spent a few days last week in Washington D.C. I took part in a “fly in.” A fly in is DC lingo for hiring a lobbying firm to set up meetings with congressional staffers to discuss issues pertinent to your cause. We participated with a direct mail group, who has a vested interest in Post Office reform legislation that is currently going through committees in the House. We also discussed tax reform and trade. Of course, our visit coincided with what turned out to be a non-vote regarding the repeal of Obamacare.
Donald Trump and I both learned something last week: the swamp is here to stay. The president learned how hard it is to get a bill passed, even with his own party in power. I was and still am astounded at the machine that is Washington D.C. There are literally millions of square feet of office space for congressional staffers. I tried to find data on how many people work for Congress. After seeing a lot of data, my blood pressure was getting too high. As a result, I decided to end that search. My best estimate (from a few years ago) is between 7,000 and 8,000 people work for Congress. I know some of those work at offices in their home districts/states, but a lot of them are “on the hill.” And they’re all on the federal payroll. That’s a lot of money out of the pockets of the good ol’ American taxpayer. Most of those staffers eventually graduate and guess what they do? They become lobbyists! Who do you think they listen to? You don’t have a voice in Washington unless you’ve got a pocketbook! There are over 12,500 registered federal lobbyists in the US. That’s a large army figuring out how our tax dollars are spent and what regulations are good and bad.
(My source: https://sunlightfoundation.com/policy/documents/keeping_congress_competent/. Note the data is from 2010!
Unless some real reform is done regarding lobbying, nothing will change. The machine is too entrenched and too large. Destroying it is the only solution. No one who participates has an interest in doing that. Those that pay lobbyists get their voices heard. They don’t want that changed. Lobbyists have a pretty good gig. They don’t want that changed. Congressional offices do not have the resources to understand what bills really mean (and I think many of them have no clue about business). They need someone to educate them. They don’t want that changed.
Money makes the world go around. That is a gross understatement when it comes to our federal government. Trump motivated voters with his “drain the swamp” mantra. Based on what I saw last week, there isn’t a siphon large enough to make that happen.