Barney Frank, Harry Reid, Barack Obama. The mere mention of names like these is all the argument one should need for term limits. Who could argue against term limits when these names are brought up?
I recently received a few emails that were, for the most part, a list of proposals most of which I could easily support. Among these were:
* Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security.
* Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%
* Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.
* Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.
...as well as a few others. These all sound great and I have no issue with any of them. It would belong past due to enact them immediately.
But along with these fine suggestions was the call for term limits for Congressional members. I can't get behind this one. Sure. I'd like to see Barney Frank out of politics. Harry Reid, too. There's a host of senators and congressmen who have long ago worn out their welcome and whose continued presence does little to serve the best interests of the United States of America.
But here's the thing: somebody wanted them. They didn't get re-elected by accident (though in some cases it can be argued some won by fraud). But if these poor choices were termed out, so too would be those who are good in their roles as representatives of the people.
Now, I don't know with any certainty just who in the House or Senate are absolute crooks, saints or something in between. I can't say who entered with the right attitude and before the end of their first term became corrupted to a degree that affects his votes on whatever. I can't say just who entered with the intention of fattening their own bank accounts, seeing public service as a sure-fire way to financial freedom rather than as a rare privilege to serve the public interest.
But hey! THAT'S part of the problem. The reason we have so many losers in Congress is due to our own lack of interest in our own interests. If we as a self-governing people took the time, or at least SOME time, to pay attention, the losers could not keep their sweet gigs. Look again at that list above and tell me who would have voted for people who would exempt themselves from the laws they pass on the rest of us? If you knew that up front, would you even dare tell others of your support for them?
So the issue is not that these buffoons are left to run wild for term after term without hindrance. The issue is why have we let them? Where were we? We were going about our business under the assumption that all would work out because we elected people about whom we knew little to nothing.
"They're all crooks, anyway!" it is said. Nonsense and a cop-out spewed by the lazy who have just enough energy to whine and complain when things go south. (Indeed, this is spoken mostly by those who whine and complain and never vote in the first place. Their nerve in daring to utter a word on the subject entitles them to the greatest scorn for making the bed in which we all toss and turn.)
WE THE PEOPLE are all the term limits we need or should have. It is our responsibility as citizens to stay abreast of the actions and behaviors of our elected officials. If we can't know with certainty the character of a given candidate, we can surely know how he voted on proposals and bills and bounce him out at the next possible election. But if a guy keeps making all the right moves, I want him to stay as long as he is moved to serve.
Some like to say that our founders envisioned a citizen politician who would serve his term and then return home to live under the laws he helped pass. But if they meant for that to be the rule, then they would have instituted it as such. I can't help but think that they, too, left room for he who served well, offered to serve again and was the chosen one of the people. Some actually sacrifice better gigs in the private sector to serve their country. If they continue to do so well and honorably, why would I want to force them out?
There's also the problem of what term limits would solve. I can't see that it would solve anything but cause the problems to which I alluded above. The same dynamic would exist. People would have even less incentive to pay attention figuring that their stupid selection would only destroy so much until he is termed out. Term limits would NOT induce the electorate to be more responsible in selecting leaders and representatives. The only thing term limits would do would be to throw out the good with the bad. How does that help?
If there's any downside to my position, it is one that already exists. Our ability to persuade those with whom we disagree. It is a well known fact that among the left leaning portion of our society there exists some of the most stupid, self-centered and fantasy-land inhabitants one could imagine. They have too much sway over the well-meaning but poorly informed balance of their population. It's difficult to get them to see the world as it is, so they vote according to what they think it ought to be. It obviously doesn't work that way. One must be grounded in reality and vote according to how best to navigate the world as it is for the benefit of the most people. The right wing understands this but has failed to spread this understanding to our left leaning friends. That's why a Barney Frank can serve for as long as he has. But if we term Barney out, will his constituents then see clearly? Not likely. They'll only vote for Barney Frank II, then III, then IV.
WE THE PEOPLE are the only term limits we need or should have. That's the way it was meant to be. Let's not abdicate our responsibilities for convenience. If someone sucks, vote him out and get others to vote him out as well. If someone serves well, support him for another term.
Regarding the email itself (there were actually two, both pretty much the same), it should be noted that much of it is not entirely true. My focus always fell on the call for term limits, which I strongly oppose. To the rest of the emails I gave little attention, and what little attention I paid it met with no disagreement. How could it? It all sounds so good. But so much that floats around the world wide web is faulty, so I checked out a few things.
*Congress has been paying into Social Security since 1984.
*Congress passed an amendment in '89 allowing for automatic pay increases unless lawmakers specifically vote to reject it. They have rejected it before. (I would change this to NO automatic pay increase ever, but that's how it works now.)
*The Congress Accountability Act of 1994 mandates that Congress abide by any law they pass.
These a but a few. The point aligns with what I have been saying about term limits. If we pay attention, if we do OUR due diligence as much as we can, these kinds of things can't be put over on us any more than bad politicians be put over on us. It's what self-governance is all about.