Thursday, August 27, 2009

Bringing Home the Bacon and the Downfall of the Republic

Until recently I have always been luke-warm on the concept of term limits for Congress, believing that, under term limits, personal corruption would increase, and the loss of institutional memory would have negative effects. Also, there are a few good Congressional members who put their country first, and I would hate to lose them.

However, after experiencing the corruption by the last Republican Congress of the principles that got them elected - and now the unbelievable shenanigans of this current Democrat Congress, I have changed my mind. The selling of one’s vote for dollars is inexcusable, but it pales in significance to the selling out of a system of government that has preserved our freedoms for over 200 years.

Under our current system, the arrogance of seniority shown by Members like Barney Frank and Barbara Boxer, and the bribery of constituents with federal dollars in order to hold onto power has become an epidemic. Representatives and Senators vote to spend billions in order to bring ‘pork’ to their states to retain office, and they tie strings to the money so states will give up Constitutional protections to get the money. Seat belt laws are one tiny example of this insidious diminishing of our freedoms.

Every college that accepts federal aid loses some freedom of action and subjects itself to innumerable rules and regulations that have no place in a free society. The same is true for every hospital and for every other important institution of American life. We have lost the concept of a republic and have substituted for it an all-powerful federal state. In our greed for federal dollars we have surrendered, and in their quest for power, our Congressmen have applied the coupe de grace.

We have already lost many of the safeguards our Forefathers created, and we have lost much of our freedom. We have to reverse the trend, or we will no longer be a free people. Term limits for Members of Congress is the only way I can see to do this.

Editorial: Term limits for Congress

August 18, 2009 Providence Journal

After Franklin Roosevelt was elected to four terms, Congress and the American people moved to limit presidents to two. It was a good move, one that has helped restrain the power of the presidency while the size of the federal government exploded. Most of us are glad there are such limits. After eight years, people are ready for a fresh start.

Now, it’s time for Americans to look at limiting the terms of members of Congress, too. A good way to start the discussion would be proposing to limit the time in office to, say,10 or 12 years (five or six terms) in the House and 12 years (two terms) in the Senate. That’s enough to provide a necessary learning curve but not so much that these legislators become life-tenured barons whose incumbency, supported by economic interests giving campaign money, thwarts democracy.

Though the Founders did not impose such limits in the Constitution, they certainly did appreciate the danger of “career” politicians’ amassing too much power, one reason that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe voluntarily stepped down after eight years in office, setting a standard that other presidents, until FDR, felt compelled to respect.

But the government has changed dramatically since 1789, and in ways the Founders did not anticipate. Its power and reach have expanded vastly, extending into every nook and cranny of modern life. Special interests determined to twist government to their benefit (or, in self-defense, buy protection from government threats) contribute heavily to politicians.

Ask a career politician about term limits, and chances are you will hear him make the banal statement that we “already have term limits. They’re called elections.”

But the elections are, in many cases, heavily tilted by campaign contributions that cannot be easily eliminated without threatening the First Amendment and citizens’ rights to participate in their government.

The result has been re-election rates that put the old Soviet Politburo to shame. Even in last year’s supposedly “transformational” election, sweeping in large numbers of Democrats, 94 percent of the House incumbents who sought re-election got their wish, and 83 percent of senators. The economic interests who wanted something were more than happy to provide the campaign cash to keep these incumbents incumbent.

Such re-election rates depress competition for offices. Who wants to run when incumbents hold a nearly prohibitive edge? And, without competitive elections, incumbents can grow smug and indifferent to the public’s will. They listen to those whose money scares off challengers. That’s human nature. It’s happening now in the health-care debate.

Term limits, while not eliminating special-interest influence on Washington, would at least encourage a greater number of competitive elections, and thus stimulate public debate over important issues and bring politicians closer to the voters

More movement in and out of office would bring many advantages. New and more vigorous candidates could bring fresh ideas to office. Superannuated senators and representatives unable to fully perform the duties of their offices would leave before death finally got them out. Elected and would-be officials would be encouraged to challenge each other’s ideas, instead of treating those in office as members of a lifetime club.

This will not happen, of course, if left to the politicians. Even Republicans, who in theory are more inclined to favor limits on government power, got swept into Congress in 1994 on a pledge to impose term limits, then promptly shelved their promise. No, this will only happen if citizens rise up, demand it, and in effect force it down the incumbents’ throats.

With Washington so often disconnected from the will of Americans and the common good, now is a great time to begin, again, the public debate on this long-overdue reform.

Editorial Note: I agree with the above editorial except for its recommendation of 10-12 years for a Representative. You would need to limit them to less than that (say six to eight years) in order to minimize the deluge of pork with strings attached that has robbed us of so many individual rights and has decimated states’ rights.


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