Working on the Hill: There’s Good News And, Mostly, Bad News About Staff Salaries
Kevin Kosar, a Hill veteran who is now vice president for research partnerships at the R Street Institute, sees little change in the obstacles faced by congressional staff.
“Is it any wonder that staff turnover is high? A studio apartment in the dodgy parts of town will run $1500 or more a month; if someone in their 20s can afford a car, it costs as much as $2,000 a year to insure,” Kosar said.
“Everything here is expensive. Declining purchasing power leads many staffers to quit Congress to join lobbying shops and the executive branch, both of which pay better,” he continued.
The turnover means institutional memory and the knowledge and experience that come with tenure in a position are often lacking on congressional staffs. That’s not good for the elected officials, the staffers or, most importantly, the taxpayers.
“The more you work at anything, the better you get at it. This holds true for being a congressional staffer. This is why staff turnover is bad for voters, it means we get less effective and less competent representation,” Kosar explained.
And if you have ever answered incoming calls in a congressional shop, you know the challenges that come with getting an earful from an angry caller.
“The life of a staffer is anything but cushy. You can be fired at the drop of a hat. You have little if any control over your schedule. If your member loses reelection, you lose your job. Oh, and voters and everybody else wants something from you but regularly trashes your employer, Congress.”