TERM LIMITS ARE A REALLY BAD IDEA – Marilyn Armstrong

So you believe term-limits will solve our political problems.

Interesting.

Why would you think that? Are “old timers” in Congress the problem as opposed to the bloated egos and narrow minds of Tea Partyites and Trumpets? How about those right-wing religious nutters? Most of them were just recently elected, have no understanding of how government works, and to top it off, care nothing for America.

 

Exactly what problem do you think you solve by making terms shorter? Is that likely to attract better quality candidates? Will it convince people to vote for better candidates? Doesn’t our most recent presidential election prove that people will vote for a bad candidate even when all logic and reason should tell them he or she will not serve their interests?

So you believe we will get better government if no one in congress gets to stay for a long time. Why would inexperience result in better government? Would you choose an inexperienced surgeon? A lawyer fresh out of law school? A barber who has never cut any hair? In what field do we prefer raw recruits to proven veterans?

Oh, right, the presidency. How’s that working for you?

Why do you want amateurs making your laws?


Our founding fathers specifically excluded term limits. Their experience under the Articles of Confederation (the document that preceded the Constitution) proved to them that good people are not interested in temporary jobs for lousy pay in a distant city. The people elected to office under the Articles walked away from their positions — or never took them up in the first place.

There saw no future in it.

When the Constitution was drawn, its authors wanted to tempt the best and the brightest to government service. They wanted candidates who would make it a career. They weren’t interested in amateurs and parvenus. The business of governing a nation has a learning curve. It takes years to get the hang of how things work, how a law gets written. How to reach across the aisle and get the opposition to participate.

The Articles of Confederation contained exactly the ideas people are promulgating today. They failed. Miserably. Do we need to learn the same lesson again?

The absence of term limits in the Constitution is not an oversight. The writers of the Constitution thought long and hard about this problem.

A little more history


Under the Articles of Confederation, our country fell apart. Elected representatives came to the capital (New York), hung around awhile, then went home. Why stay? The job had no future. Their salaries didn’t pay enough to cover their costs while serving and nor pay enough to keep their families alive.

Term limits were soundly rejected at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. They were right. The Constitution aims to get professionals into government. Term limits remove any hope of building a career in government. It becomes a hard temp job without a future.

Myth Busting 101: Congress isn’t overpaid


Maybe they are paid more than you and me but compared to what they could be earning elsewhere, they are paid poorly. What you cry? How can that be?

Most members of Congress are lawyers. The 2011-2012 salary for rank-and-file members of the House and Senate was $174,000 per year. A third-year associate at a good law firm will do that well and after six to twelve years (1 – 2 senate terms), a competent attorney in a good market makes much more.

Senators and representatives have to maintain two residences, one in their native state, the other in DC. If you think $174,000 will support two houses and send the kids to college, you are living in a fantasy world. Which is why many members of Congress have other income streams.

Curiously, our Founding Fathers expected congressmen, especially senators, to be men of means. They felt only wealthy people would be able to afford government service. And they would be less susceptible to bribery. On the whole, they were right. What they didn’t foresee was how many kinds of corruption would be available. Bribery is the least of our problems.

Skill and experience count


Writing a law that can stand up to scrutiny by the courts and other members of Congress takes years. You don’t waltz in from Anywhere, USA and start writing laws. Moreover, great legislators are rare in any generation. A sane electorate doesn’t throw them away.

We are not suffering from an entrenched group of old-time pols stopping the legislative process. We are suffering a dearth of the old guard, the folks who understood how to work with the opposition. It’s the newly elected who are stopping progress.

Sadly, our savvy, experienced Senators and Congressional professionals got old and retired. Or died. They have been replaced by imbeciles.

Above and beyond the skill it takes to write legislation, it takes even longer to gain seniority and peer respect. Frank Capra notwithstanding, Mr. Smith doesn’t go to Washington and accomplish miracles. Newly elected congresspeople hope to build a career in politics. With luck, one or two of them will become a great legislator, a Tip O’Neill, John McCain, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Bob DoleTed Kennedy or any of the giants. Anyone you name connected to important legislation was a multi-term representative or senator.

Term limits eliminate great legislators


Term limits guarantee a bunch of amateurs — or worse — fumbling their way around Congress. As soon as they figure out where the toilets are and get reasonably good at their jobs, they’ll be gone. Does that make sense? Really?

Garry and Tip O’Neill

If you think your congressman or senator is doing a crappy job, replace him or her with someone you believe will do better. That’s a fine example of term limits.

Don’t elect them if you don’t believe in them


We have term limits. They are called elections.

Throw the bums out. Vote for the other guy. Term limits were disastrous in 1788 and they haven’t improved with the years. Watch the news to see how our wonderful, inexperienced government is doing. If that doesn’t argue against the treasured (but stupid) belief that what Washington DC needs are outsiders, I don’t know what will convince you.

We have outsiders.

Assuming we survive 45s reign and are still a democracy, we will need intelligent, knowledgeable people to set America back on course.

We don’t need term limits. We need better candidates, better representatives. We need men and women willing to learn the craft, who have ideas and can work with each other and other nations to get America’s business done. Our government does not rest on the Presidency. It rests on 435 congressmen and 100 senators.

The President isn’t supposed to 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.

Whatever is wrong with Congress, it’s OUR fault


The 435 members of Congress are chosen by us and if you don’t like yours, don’t vote for him or her. If someone gets re-elected over and over, you have to figure a lot of people voted for him or her. You may not like him, but 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 that problem. Make the job more — not less — attractive. Treat candidates better so qualified people will want to work in government. Otherwise, you’re creating a job no one wants.

Be careful what you wish for.

Ultimately, it’s all about America. Partisanship, special interests, regional issues, party politics, and personal agendas need to take a back seat to the good of the nation. We need to agree what that means, at least in broad strokes.

If we don’t know what we want from our government, we won’t get it. Term limits won’t fix the problem, because that’s not what’s broken.

Vote for people who believe the good of the country is more important than their personal agenda.

Vote for intelligent people who understand compromise, who have an understanding of law, justice, and believe in this country and what we supposedly stand for.

That will produce a change you will like.



Categories: American history, Congress, Election, Government, Marilyn Armstrong, Politics

Tags: , , , , ,

19 replies

  1. Oh, man…..I love this. I have tried to express the same sentiments many times, with less success. Thank you!

    Like

    • I post an updated version of this regularly because people seem to think that the problem is people staying too long. The problem is not them staying too long. The problem is that they are stupid, stubborn, bad people and oddly enough, getting elected doesn’t make them better. If we don’t want them there, stop electing them!

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  2. Amen. Term limits are another attempt to limit democracy – another step toward Hamiltonia. As to pay – the SOB who runs Disney gets $65,000,000 bucks for turning the company from middle-class family friendly to a company catering to the elites. How many elected reps get that kind of money?

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    • I agree. People act like our pols get paid millions. They don’t. They may make DEALS that earn them a lot of money, but they sure don’t get it as salary. A lot of our “best” people were rich to begin with. If you want to make BIG money, politics is not the best way to go, That’s what CORPORATE corruption is for. $65,000,000 is so much money it makes my head spin.

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  3. Term limits, in some cases, should be mandatory. I support them because this is Utah and some of our representatives in house or senate have been there since shortly after Christ was born. Talk about out of touch!! One of them (the most famous perhaps) was elected *snort* when I was a teenager. That makes him an OLD FART who has been in office too long and is senile now (I suspect). He makes bad decisions routinely and having lived in the Washington DC area for most of his ‘career’, is out of touch with his constituency. Badly out of touch. Not to mention he’s now rich (very rich), and that makes him further insulated from the issues in Utah. I have never voted for that guy, because he’s the ‘other’ party and I sort of hate ‘good old boys’ of any flavor. I don’t see any decent candidates, old or young, in the current crop here though. Maybe that’s why that dust spouting old geezer keeps getting re-elected. Sorry about the soap box. But geezus Louise….spread the wealth and power AROUND a little would ya?

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    • So people should stop VOTING for them. That’s not a term limits issue. That’s a “get the voters to do the right thing” issue. Every two, four, or six years, we have elections. If you keep electing the same assholes, you can’t blame the assholes. They aren’t the ones voting them into office. Term limits may stop a few doddering oldies, but they also prevent people from learning the trade and getting good at it. I keep saying the same thing: DO something to unseat these people. They do not elect themselves. Only your voters put them in office, so either someone likes them a lot more than YOU do, or they are paying off a lot of people. My guess is that a lot of people like them for whatever reason. Deals get made. He supports groups and they support him back. But that is politics and only the voters can make that stop.

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  4. How about, instead of term limits, we impose a mandatory retirement age, say 70. No candidate can run for office if they are 70 or above or will reach 70 during the initial term of the office they seek. By the way, I am over 70, so don’t you dare call this suggestion “ageism.”

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  5. We have five years, but we’re still in a right mess now. Right now I think we should definitely forget term limits, as you rightly say, it doesn’t help. It’s irrelevant really. I reckon we should just throw the lot of them out and start again. 🙂

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    • I keep saying it over and over: If we don’t vote for them, they will go away. It’s a get the voters to understand their best interests issue and term limits are a distraction. They don’t solve any problems. We can re-elect NEW morons to replace the OLD morons. We’ve done it before and sadly, we will do it again.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yep, totally agree. It’s the same here. Funnily enough, we’ve just had a load of local elections here and the two big parties have bombed out big time – Result! Who knows, maybe they’ll all go away after all and we can start again. I think it was better in the old days when members of parliament weren’t paid – they did it altruistically. I reckon paying them is where we went wrong in the first place. It’s all gone downhill from then.

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  6. We don’t have term limits in Canada. We have career politicians who become so out of touch with the people that they haven’t a clue what is going on in everyday society. We’ve had people in office who have never held an honest job in their life and by some fluke won an election and never looked back. It’s only after many years of corruption and out right stupidity that we finally get the gumption to throw the bums out. This is no way to run a country either.
    Leslie

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