Trump’s attempt to "drain the swamp" will make matters worse in Washington

Since the 1980s, Washington has steadily de-invested in its own professional capacity, leaving members of Congress with fewer and less-experienced staff than they had in the past. Over the last several years, staff salaries have actually declined, while turnover remains high. From 2006 to 2016, the median term for a Senate chief of staff was 2.5 years, and for a House chief of staff, 2.8 years. The problem suggests its own solution: Expand policy resources in government, including paying to retain and attract experienced and knowledgeable people.

Washington requires lawmakers, legislative staff and bureaucrats who have the time and know-how to actually think through policy on their own. This means countering simplistic “drain the swamp” ideas. Just plain common sense isn’t enough to make good laws. Keeping experts on congressional staffs isn’t a waste of taxpayer money. And ordinary citizens — especially those who do not need a government paycheck, like Donald Trump — won’t do a better job or be more likely to resist special interests than those with experience and expertise.

It is true that “citizen legislatures” and “non-professional politicians” cost less in direct terms. And convincing voters that their legislators and administrative agencies need more resources will be difficult, especially in an era when public officials are viewed with distrust and disdain. But the evidence is increasingly clear: Disproportionate special interest and lobbyist influence comes from the simple fact that on many issues, these lobbyists are the only ones investing in crucial policy resources.