A lot of people seem to think we will get better government by making sure no one in congress gets to stay there for a long time. I don’t know why anyone would assume inexperience will produce better government. In no other field of endeavor do we prefer newbies to experience. Would you want an inexperienced surgeon? Would you prefer a lawyer fresh out of law school? Why do you want amateurs making your laws? It’s illogical to assume that in government, unlike any other profession, less knowledgable people will do a better job than those with experience. If you think about it, it doesn’t really make sense.
The less attractive you make the job, the lower will be the quality of candidates. It’s axiomatic. This holds true for any job in any field. Government is not exempt. A job with no future is not a job for which the best and the brightest will apply.
The lack of term limits in the Constitution was not an oversight by our Founding Fathers. They thought long and hard about this issue, especially since the Articles of Confederation had these same ideas that people on social media are currently proposing.
In practice, these ideas worked so badly that our newly formed country was falling apart. Elected representatives came to the capital (New York), hung around awhile, then went home. They had no motivation to stay. The job had no future and they weren’t getting paid enough (often no salary at all) to cover their costs while were away from home, much less support their families. So they left. Just wandered off. It turns out that if you don’t pay people and don’t give them a chance to build a career, they have no motivation to do the job. That’s why term limits were soundly rejected by the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. These are ideas that were tried and failed miserably. Now, the goal was to get professionals to run the country, ambitious men who would make government their career. It was not a casual decision. They were right.
Research has shown that money is not the first or even the second most important motivator for a worker. It turns out the biggest motivator is job satisfaction. People will work incredibly hard to get a chance to feel good about the work they do. Number two on the list? A sense of belonging, companionship, fellowship with other workers. Everyone needs a family and for most people, relationships at work are as important as relationships at home, sometimes more important. Many people … these days, maybe most people … spend more awake hours at work than at home. However you feel about that, it’s still true.
In third place, there’s money. A lot of money is nice, but for most people, satisfaction and friends come first.
Term limits remove any chance for an elected official to establish a career in government. No matter how good he or she is, no matter how hard he works, it’s a temp job.
The current salary (2011-2012) for rank-and-file members of the House and Senateis $174,000 per year. A third year associate at a good law firm will do that well and after six to twelve years (one or two senate terms), a competent attorney in a major market will make more.
In case you didn’t already know, senators and representatives have to maintain two homes, one in their home state and the other in DC. This comes out of their pockets; no reimbursement.
No one goes into politics for the money. If they want to earn big bucks, a government salary isn’t the ticket.
Term limits effectively remove motivation to do the job well or for that matter, at all. Most people who run for office have a law degree. They’d earn more staying home. They aren’t doing it for power because freshman congressmen and senators have no power.
Most important, writing laws is not a skill you learn in college or law school. It takes years of practice to understand how to write a law that will stand up to scrutiny by the courts or for that matter, to other members of congress. You don’t just waltz in from Anywhere, USA and start writing laws. There’s a hell of a learning curve and even with practice, great legislators are rare.
Above and beyond the skill it take to write legislation, it takes even longer to gain sufficient seniority and influence to be able get something passed. Frank Capra movies notwithstanding, first term congressmen are not major players.
So why do you think anyone would want to run for office?
If you eliminate money and power, what’s left is just what you would expect. They think they have something to offer and want to serve. They believe in public service. They may turn out to be stupid, inept, wrong-headed and ultimately corrupt, but they start wanting to serve the people who elected them.
Most hope they will be able to build a career in the political arena. Some are winners and you get a Tip O’Neill, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Bob Dole, Ted Kennedy or one of the other senior legislators who gets the stuff done that needs doing. Every legislator you can name connected to important legislation was a multi term representative or senator.
Term limits would eliminate any chance of ever having great legislators.
What you then will end up with are a bunch of amateurs fumbling their way around congress, trying to figure out how it works. As soon as they get good at it, they are out. Does that make sense? Really?
If you think your congressman or senator is doing a lousy job, it’s up to you to replace him or her with someone you believe will do better.
If you don’t elect them, they won’t be in congress. It is as simple as that. Term limits are called elections. Throw the bums out. Vote for the other guy. Term limits were an awful idea in 1788 and they are just as bad in 2012.
Among the biggest concerns Democrats had about Barack Obama in 2008 was he didn’t have enough experience, hadn’t been in the senate long enough. With term limits, no one would ever have enough experience. Where would we get candidates suitable to be President?
If you think we have a pathetic field of candidates now, set term limits and see how bad it can be.
We don’t need term limits. We need better candidates. We need dedicated men and women willing to learn their craft, who have good ideas and can work with others to get America’s business done.
Our government does not rest on the Presidency. It rests on 435 congressmen and 100 senators.
The President doesn’t run the country. Congress writes legislation and votes it into law. Ultimately, it’s you, me, our friends and neighbors who choose the people to make laws, pass budgets, approve cabinet members and Supreme Court justices. The President can offer appointees for approval, but he can’t force congress to accept them.
The 535 members of congress are chosen by us and if you don’t like one, don’t vote for him. If someone gets re-elected over and over, you have to figure that a lot of people vote for him or her. You may not like him, but obviously other people do. That’s what elections are about. It doesn’t necessarily work out the way you want, but changing the rules won’t solve the problems. The only thing that will make a difference is to make the job more, not less attractive, so that more good and dedicated people will be willing to go into public service. Otherwise, you’re just creating a job that no one will want.