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CONGRESS LIVES IN ITS OWN BUBBLE

Sure, there's a recession, but if you think things are rough all over, you haven't been to Capitol Hill lately, where the era of high income, growth and full employment never ends.

Congress lives in a bubble. In their little world congressmen are happily removed from the unpleasant realities of recession. The crowning irony is that they are largely responsible for the downturn, thanks to ruinously high taxation, profligate spending, and inept tinkering with the productive energies of the people they are meant to serve.In 1960, Congress employed 6,791 support staffers - cooks, mail carriers, travel agents. Last year, the figure was 19,371. This includes committee staff, which has more than tripled in the last 30 years. All told, Congress' 535 members employ 37,388 staff members, 14,000 more than 10 years ago.

But that, apparently, isn't enough. This year, Sen. Claiborne Pell, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, increased his committee's spending 17 percent so he could hire eight new staffers in addition to the 59 his committee already employs.

Funding increases were sought from committee to committee. In the House, reports the Heritage Foundation, the only committees that didn't enjoy increased funding were Ethics and Intelligence - too bad, since Capitol Hill is experiencing a shortage of both.

These huge staffs further their bosses' political careers by writing speeches, handling constituent complaints and indirectly fashioning re-election strategies. They can be well-paid; it's not uncommon for a senator's speech writer to make $60,000 a year.

As the above suggests, Congress' bubble is a lush, verdant idyll. We recommend that it be defoliated as soon as possible.