Posts Tagged ‘Term Limits’

Ten Reforms to Save America: Reform Number Two

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

What Most of Them Need

If we are to save this country, we must begin to clean out the permanent political class that infests Washington DC.  Some of our elected officials serve across generations, and while some may make the argument that it’s not always a bad thing, I can think of too many reasons it’s awful.  Once in power, if the politician can sustain power through one or two re-elections, the politician begins to accumulate favors, but also accrue debts to be paid in favors, whether to lobbyists or other members.  The longer they stay, the more powerful they become, and with that power frequently comes arrogance.  At some point, what typically happens is that they forget about you until the last two months of an election season.

The only way we’re ever going to tackle this is by limiting their terms, their benefits, and their various perquisites.  For those who would argue that this somehow limits voter choice, I thoroughly reject their claim.  This is to suggest that any of these people are indispensable, but I know that for every long-serving member of Congress, there are thousands of people in their home states or districts who are equally qualified, diligent, and ambitious enough to do the peoples’ business. It’s time to drop the charade:  There isn’t a single one of them that couldn’t be easily replaced with another competent American.

I would argue that rather than simple term limits, we limit total federal elected service.  (We’ll get to the un-elected folks in another article.)  I propose that we limit elected federal service to a maximum of sixteen years. You can serve three terms in the House, one in the Senate, and one as President or Vice President, or any other combination that adds up to a maximum of sixteen years.  These terms need not be consecutive.  This should be a lifetime limitation. The limit is hard, meaning that if you seek re-election to your office, but your limit on years will expire before your term, you will still leave office upon the expiration of your limit.  In that way, if you had been elected to three terms in the House, and then one in the Senate, if you sought re-election for a second term in the Senate, you would be eligible only to serve the first four years of that second Senate term.

The idea is to restore the notion of a citizen legislature, and also to return more power to the states.  This proposal would accomplish this by making the political farm teams of state and local politics far more important to the nation as a whole.  It would also negate a goodly bit of the accumulated power that some long-serving members now wield.

The other thing we could add to make this interesting is to write into the necessary amendment that sixteen years of service does not make one eligible for retirement benefits.  I think we would all be better served if the politicians could derive no back-end benefits from their service.  To be honest, I can’t understand for the life of me how we let them construct such endless benefits for themselves.  Limiting their service ends any “moral” claim they might make to such benefits.

The other thing is that I would expressly forbid grandfathering of years already served.  At the point this amendment would take effect, any already having attained sixteen years or more of service would be ineligible for re-election.  You want to get rid of the bums?  This is the way to do it, and this would get rid of most of them. Are you sick of Harry Reid? Mitch McConnell?  Nancy Pelosi?  John Boehner?  Yes, this would rid us of these all.

The greatest two benefits of this system would be to eliminate the extensive kingdom-building in which politicians engage, and destroy the incentive to do so in the first place.   The real system is comprised of people many of whom use their time to consolidate their stranglehold on their office, and once they have it firmly in hand, to use their office to enrich themselves.  I don’t think we should let them linger there so long.

If you want to save the country, this step is critical.  Nothing spoils our nation so much as the competition for dollars to fund earmarks that are effectively vote-buying schemes of one description or another.  We should cut this off, and the way to do that is to say that there is no such thing as unlimited elected service.  Let them return to private life as our founders intended.  To those who say this will cheat democracy, I continue to dismiss their claim.  I am fairly certain that an overwhelming majority of my readers are at least as fit to serve as those who now occupy those offices.