Thursday, November 08, 2007

Term Limits Debate

Dawson Bell of the Free Press wrote a piece on term limits.

Michigan voters were in a surly mood in 1992 when they voted overwhelmingly to limit the terms of the state's elected officials.
The thinking went something like: If we can't get them to behave, let's make them leave.

Fifteen years later, voters appear surly again, in part because many people blamed the recent budget crisis on the chaotic performance of an inexperienced governor and legislators.

Consider that the top three leaders in the House today have less than 13 years of legislative experience among them, compared to 40 years for the same three positions in 1992.

Even though I generally do not support term limits on lower and middle levels of government, I don't there's a chance in hell of this passing. There's an old saying about the public's view on politicians. My rep's alright, but the rest of them suck.

I used to be 100% opposed to term limits. Much of that is due to long lame duck sessions. The reason we had the fee increases and tax shifts was influenced by term limits. Every Republican that voted for a tax increase I believe was termed out. Term limited reps do not worry about facing the people or an August primary. That's my main opposition to term limits - two and four year lame ducks.

The counterargument to that is the Peter Principle of US Politics - The US Senate. The Senate has been a joke as long as I remember it. It's also had most of the same people as long as I remember. Ted Kennedy, Robert Byrd, Joe Biden, Carl Levin, Ted Stevens, Daniel Inouye, Max Baucus, Orrin Hatch, and Pat Leahy have been in their current office since before I was born. They all have about 30 or more years of experience, but they aren't as a whole doing a good job at all. The house has 440 members (including non voting), so it has a little more diversity than the Senate, although they have some Peter Principle problems of its own. We don't have federal term limits, and they have their 17% approval rating in Congress for a reason.

I'd probably vote to extend term limits in the state level, but unless I see some major concessions involving the pay or benefits of the legislature, I'd bet $100 that it won't have a chance in hell of passing despite my vote.

Personally, I'd like to see term limits at the federal level (goes double for the Senate) and abolished at the state level. 24 years at all levels of the federal government. That will get rid of the types like Byrd, Stevens, Kennedy, and most of the biggest problems. It would also get rid of both Levins, Kildee, Conyers, and Dingell (Although Dingell's replacement would be much worse). Reps would be limited to four terms in the senate or 12 terms in the house, or a combination of the two. We don't have them at the local level (at least in Livingston County), and don't need them here.

In the end, what is needed most of all is informed voters who take the time to learn who the candidates are and what they stand for in action as well as talk. Despite the name of this blog, I've never voted straight ticket. I go down each single race and make my decision based on the people running. Most of the time that's the republican. A couple of times, it was the Libertarian or I leave the spot blank.

1 comment:

keithr said...

We need to face up to reality. Most voters automatically support incumbants unless there has been a major scandal with a lot of bad headlines. After a politician has won the race for an office the second time it is practically as good as a lifetime appointment. This is why incumbants tend to get independent after a few terms, because they know they'll likely keep winning no matter what.

Most politicians are cut off from the the normal lives that the rest of us lead. They spend all their time dealing with people who try to influence them. Eventually they lose touch with the struggles of regular citizens and give in to the clever arguments of lobbyists and other politicians.

If that is not bad enough, politicians then pass legislation such as McCain-Feingold that is designed to make it even harder for challangers to defeat them.

Unfortunatly, the vast majority of politicians of both parties lose touch with reality within 10 years of first entering a higher office such as state legislator or senator. The only cure for this problem is a steady supply of new blood with fresh ideas, and this can only be accomplished with term limits.

Anyone doubting this should consider the election disaster experienced by Republicans in '06. How many politicians lost their seats in those races because voters felt that Republicans were more concerned about special interests than with the needs of average people?

Term limits may not be a perfect solution, but so far it is the best that I've seen so far.