Saturday, August 20, 2011

Reconsidering term limits for Congress

Our federal government is a mess, and most people have a dim view of the way our political leaders are performing in Washington.

The frustration people are feeling transcends party politics. Most people hold both Republicans and Democrats in very low regard. The challenges of our country are daunting, and the folks in Washington are clearly clueless on what to do.

Polls show President Obama's approval rating is well below 50 percent, and the feelings are the same for Congress.

So, where do we go from here? Obviously, there is no simple solution for what is going on, and our problems will not be solved overnight. Still, there is one action we can take that will start us in the right direction.

It is time for us to reconsider having term limits for members of Congress both in the House of Representatives and the Senate. After all, the president is limited to only two four-year terms, which means no chief executive can serve more than eight years. Why should not Congress have similar restrictions?

Members of the House are elected to two-year terms while each term in the Senate is six years, but there is no limit regarding how many times people can be re-elected. Is this unlimited ability to be re-elected causing some of the problems we are seeing? I believe so.

No matter how well intentioned some of our leaders are when they are elected, it seems their emphasis changes once they reach Washington. Instead of primarily focusing on the people that elected them, they appear more pre-occupied with becoming a good delegate for the party they belong to.

It is as if they fear upsetting their colleagues in Washington more than they do the public. And that is flat-out wrong.

It might also explain the hardening of the arteries that we are seeing in Congress. The more a person is re-elected, the more power he or she attains. If there is anything we know about power, it is that people will do just about anything to keep it once they have it.

Seniority is often a driving force when it comes to the power an elected official has, but that is not always a good idea. We see that a lot in the workplace. While it is important to have co-workers who have a lot of experience, we also know performance should remain the primary factor when considering who has power and who does not.

Call me crazy, but the same way of thinking should apply in Washington. While this seems like a simple concept, we know that it is not the way it works there. The 'power of incumbency' plays a major role when a leader is up for re-election, and the public knows how the system works up there. Therefore, incumbents have a leg up when trying to remain in office.

With term limits, all of this would be swept out the door. Instead of worrying about getting re-elected and maintaining power, our leaders might be more focused on legislating our country's problems because they know they will eventually have to leave anyway.

The topic of term limits used to come up a lot back in the 1990s. When the Republican Revolution occurred in 1994, one of the planks in their 'Contract with America' was to pass term limits. The 'Contract' had 10 items in it, and nine of them were voted on and passed.

Which one did not? Of course, it was the one regarding term limits.

In the past, I opposed term limits, but now, I believe it is the only way we can clean out Washington. The public will not do it, so we should legislate it.

1 comment:

Ten Irish said...

I was for them when the "Contract" first came out. The Supremes also shot down a presidential line item veto back then. I'm still for that, too, but maybe wait until Mr. O is gone, because I want to cut the EPA's budget by 10% every year for at least five years, in real cuts, not baseline reductions in proposed spending.