Friday, July 8, 2011
Term limits for all!
Caution and apologies to my regular readers, this post is not BBQ related it is; however, a topic I feel strongly about. I promise the next post will be on topic, thanks for your patience.
When I was a young man I remember my father giving me a piece of sage advice, when in public, never discuss religion or politics. For the most part, I have adhered to these words of wisdom in my life’s journey. Today with deference to my father, I will make an exception with a short discussion of politics (not BBQ), and this will be done outside my inner circle of family and friends. Before you grab the tar and feather buckets, please, hear me out.
My discussion carries across party lines and in my humble opinion should be of interest to everyone, regardless of what side of the isle you find yourself on…………………two words…….. term limits. We need them now.
Most of the Founders were in favor of term limits, envisioning a “citizen legislature” where interested parties would serve the constituency then return to their regular professions. There were some that favored the thought of self imposed term limits. Back then, no one could even imagine a career politician.
The lack of definitive term limits when the Constitution was first ratified was a huge concern to many of the framers. Roger Sherman from Connecticut wrote” Representatives ought to return home and mix with the people. By remaining at the seat of government, they would acquire the habits of the place, which might differ from those of their constituents. “
Thomas Jefferson and George Mason were both strong advocates for term limits. Mason wrote, “nothing can be so essential to the preservation of a republican government as a periodic rotation of its members”.
One can only wonder what the nations founding fathers would think of Washington today with its career politicians whose sense of entitlement extends not only to themselves, but to their anointed family members.
We have created a ruling class, which is exactly what the founding fathers had feared. If you think about it, the culture of corruption and cronyism that existed in England at the time was the very same reason the founders chose to leave and start anew. Why weren’t term limits included when the constitution was drafted you ask? The framers felt they weren’t needed, why would anyone want to stay on at a part time job?
Another interesting reason term limits were not included was the life expectancy at the time. In the 18th century the average farmer lived to the ripe old age of 35. Our founding fathers never even imagined that a mere 200 years later we would have legislators SERVING for 40 to 50 years!
When the Country was formed, legislators were paid $6 a day, and that was only when Congress was in session They were expected to pay all of their own expenses from that $6 a day salary. Contrast that to today, former speaker of the house, Nancy Pelosi received an annual salary of just north of $200K and to top it off, she has no expenses. When you add in their sweet self imposed pensions, free health care for life (their own plan), 40-50 staffers at your beck and call, tax deductible housing, millions of tax payer dollars to fund your office and travel expenses, free first class travel, free postage, exemption from social security payments, inside information to be able to invest much more lucratively than the rest of us uninformed citizens, the ability to place family and friends into high paying jobs, kickbacks and perks, the best seats at the best restaurants, it is easy why folks are attracted to these positions.
The old adage that they are there to serve the greater good is, in my opinion, a load of crap. They are there to line their pockets and their family and friends pockets with as much graft, money and favoritism that they can carry. Nothing more.
Most scholars would agree, a constitutional amendment would be needed in order to impose term limits on our esteemed members of congress. I think congressman Bob Inglis sums it up best when he says, “asking an incumbent member of congress to vote FOR congressional term limits is a bit like asking a chicken to vote for Colonel Sanders.” In other words, looking to our congressional leadership to solve the problem just aint gonna happen. This movement will have to come from the people themselves.
Thomas Jefferson said, “the two enemies of the people are the criminals and the government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the constitution so the second will not become the first”.
I believe the second has already become the first. Our Imperial Congress of today is made up of lifelong career politicians who have consolidated such an awesome and frightening mass of power that is way beyond the scope of anything the founding fathers could have even imagined in their wildest dreams. Yet today, the hoards of cattle also known as the American electorate will spend more time watching and voting on the latest American Idol than concerning themselves with the backroom dealings and payolas going on as we speak in Washington DC.
Robert Byrd 57 years
Carl Hayden 56 years
John Dingell 55 years
Strom Thurmond 47 years
Ted Kennedy 46 years
The list unfortunately goes on and on and on. This phenomenon is not limited to the federal government. Right here in Maryland, the alleged Free State, we are all so fortunate to have Thomas V. Mike Miller as the president of the Senate. He has been in the Maryland Senate for a mere 36 years. He has had his son appointed to a judgeship; he even has had the newly constructed senate building already named after him. Come on Mike, enough already. He has murmured in the past of retiring, but after contemplating the thought of no longer wielding the influence stick he now swings wildly about, he continues to run.
You’ll hear him as well of the many other career politicians that continue to suck from the taxpayer teat say that their reason for filing again is “their work for the people is not yet finished, there is more to be done.” Let me ask you this, in the real world, if you were hired 40 years ago to do a job and you still weren’t done, I am guessing you’d hear only two words and they would be “you’re fired”. Term limits, we need them now.