Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Taking it to term

For years, I edited a local monthly paper, The Broadview Journal. I also wrote the political column. I covered most everything that went on inside of City Hall. This town does not have term limits and we surely had our share of long-time council members and mayors. And you know what? When the electorate changed, so did the office holders.

I've been thinking about term limits over the past days, mostly because of this and I'm afraid to report to James that I don't have a very strong opinion about the topic. Term limits are essentially a regulation: We're too stupid to vote this clown out so let's make a law that does it for us.  

Not too different from Bloomberg saying you're too stupid to stop yourself from guzzling down too much sugar water so I'll make a law that does it for you.

Granted, Bloomberg didn't have the electorate behind him. But here in Ohio, we voted to ban smoking in bars and restaurants. Plenty of people didn't like that even though it was democratic decision--and I mean people were red-hot spittin' mad. Hence my point is that even if an electorate agrees to instate term limits, that's fine--but it is still a regulation.

Let's face it: that same electorate is free to limit a politician's term by (ahem) voting accordingly. 

Some people think we should have one 6-year presidential term. I disagree. I think the current two-term limit as determined by the 22nd Amendment is pretty good policy. It cultivates a shift in dynamics by tempering the first term and giving a certain freedom to the second term. It also imparts more gravitas to the idea of legacy than would one 6-year term.

Americans should also have the right to keep a guy in the Oval Office for a second go-around. Obama is a good example. The GOP had all the money in the world going in against an embattled candidate, yet Romney & Co. never had a chance. Obama earned his second term hands down.

Should senators be limited to two 6-year terms? House reps limited to four 2-year terms? America's architects didn't think so; and I'm unsure how I'd vote on such measures. I'd probably support them, but I'd have to read the arguments for and against and think it over. That's a lot of lame ducks and I'm not so sure much would change. After all, the lobbyists would still be playing the same profane games, just with a whole lot more resets.

Speaking of lobbyists, James, now there's a topic ...

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32 comments:

Jon Moore said...

While I don't agree with everything you said, you hit the term limit idea on the head. If we're too stupid to vote them out, we deserve what we get.

Anonymous said...

"After all, the lobbyists would still be playing the same profane games, just with a whole lot more resets."-E'OB

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner.

Nothing would change but the faces.

The electorate bears the responsibility.

RJ

roaring40 said...

What they stopped here was the dual mandate where the equivalent of your senators or congressmen held local office also. So if someone is voted into a European parliamentary seat he must resign from the home parliament and the same with the county council seats. That I think matters far more than time limits.
And why should bar workers put up with some gobshite sucking down 40 cigs a day.

Erin O'Brien said...

I want my chicken dinner and I want my chicken dinner now.

Yabu said...

Without getting all crossed up in a political debate here, I've been against Term Limits for5 as long as I can remember.

Anonymous said...

http://restartcongress.org/revolution/arguments-for-term-limits/

This article covers both arguments, personally coming from a state that had Strom Thurmond, I still favor term limits.

James Old Guy

Anonymous said...

lobbyists? scum of the earth. Any doubt how I feel about that, same as the ruling that a corporation is a person.
James Old Guy

eviljwinter said...

Here's the problem with term limits, which I'm all for anyway. Members of Congress are banned from becoming lobbyist for a set number of years after they leave office. But they can become consultants. That loophole needs to be closed tighter than Pope Benedict's sphincter. Do that, then implement term limits. It's not perfect, but perfect does not exist, so quit whining that it does not exist.

But why am I for term limits? Because it allows the two major parties to cede certain offices to each other, which doesn't even give the electorate a chance to be stupid. John Boehner ran unopposed. (Not my Congressman. I didn't even know who my Congressman was until two days later. I just know I voted for Not Jean Schmidt and Not Jean won!)

Anonymous said...

@Erin-
I'd love to see where the campaign money came from when Ohio enacted term limits. It has only made the work of lobbyists exponentially easier. Here is just one flaw, among many: when the majority party in the Ohio House elects a Speaker, the person they select will have no more than six years experience in the House. There is no longer an institutional memory in the place. There are less-ingrained norms as to behavior, etiquette and loyalty. Lobbyists are happy to 'mentor' newcomers to the legislature, newcomers who are already thinking about their reelection campaign in two or four years and their next gig after they max out. Long-term legislative leaders like Oliver Ocasek and Vern Riffe pissed off plenty of people, but they knew how to make the place work.

MR

Erin O'Brien said...

I don't begrudge a lobbyist the right to make his case before legislators on behalf of an industry or interest group--as long as they don't do it with money.

HA!

All great comments here. But reading them, I feel like there are no good answers. Legislators are ours for as long as we put them in office, term limits or no term limits. They only get away with what we allow them to get away with. We own this, folks.

One recurring thought I keep coming back to is this: we vote these guys in and our government looks like us--looks exactly like us. Americans tolerate national debt because we harbor it ourselves. We allow the rich white males to run everything because on some level, we think they should (which is exactly why Obama freaks everyone out--he embodies fear of change based solely on the color of his skin). We tolerate everything ballooning out of control right along with our waistlines.

Go America!

roaring40 said...

Rubbish. We vote in the same way we pick out nose, thoughtless, mindless and because we did it yesterday. Now a black man won't be any issue anymore than being an Irish Catholic since JFK. How else do you explain Bush mk2.
I seem to remember a senator from SC who was in his 90's and topping the poll. No one can tell me a person half his age wouldn't be better

Erin O'Brien said...

Roaring, did you ever live in America?

Joe said...

Like you I am not sure about term limits. After all, we get a chance to impose a term limit every election. Despite all of the advantages available to an incumbent, they are occasionally voted out when they quit representing the political will of their district/voters.

I think one change that was bad was the direct election of senators. The original plan was that the House represented the people, while the Senate represented the states. This was to eliminate the power of populism. In today's America the 9th and 10th Amendments have lost their power. But I fear the notion of the States having equal power to the Feds is about as realistic as putting toothpaste back into the tube. You can trace the decline of Federalism right to the 27th Amendment. What followed? -- the two worst Amendments ever; prohibition and giving women the right to vote! (That last sentence was a joke for those of you who are way too serious).

The power and influence of lobbyists and money is nothing new in American politics. It is deplorable that your elected representative is thinking first and foremast about the interest of the lobbyists. Mine is too. Just as we keep electing reprehensible people to Congress, the lobbyists are with us.

Anonymous said...

"One recurring thought I keep coming back to is this: we vote these guys in and our government looks like us--looks exactly like us."-E'OB

"us"=roughly 50% of the eligible voters, those that still have a little purchasing power, even in hotly contested elections with unpopular presidents. The other half feel so fricking powerless and marginalized they have become disillusioned and given up any hope of change. Economic realities limit their ability to seek alternative domicile and they are too frightened to engage in direct action because they can be labeled "Enemy Combatants" and hustled off to "Indefinite Detention." When the populace hits Wall Street with torches and pitchforks and rides Jamie Dimon et al out of town on a rail and refuses to tolerate naked Imperialism (See: WMD, Iraq) and reclaims their power then there might be some fundamental change in the system. Until then, welcome to the status quo. Frking incremental horseshit that doesn't change a thing but leaves us with bromides like "It's the American Way." Working Men, Unite!

RJ

Anonymous said...

Say whta you want about the French, they know how to throw a hissy fit:

"About 10,000 protesters, chiefly tobacconists, staged a walkout in Paris against a smoking ban in cafes that they fear may yield a loss to their businesses."

This was 2007 and I think some sort of smoking restriction evntually passed but can you imagine every commuter into NYC on a workday sitting down in the middle of the road, train station, etc. with a Big Gulp?

RJ

Joe said...

RJ --

Of the 50% who don't vote I would argue some are marginalized, as you describe, but a significant number just don't care.

Ignorance and apathy combine to elect many lousy politicians.

Anonymous said...

@Joe-

No question some are apathetic. They don't comment at blogs so it's hard for us to figure out why.

RJ

Erin O'Brien said...

When I said "look like us," I'm talking in the abstract. The acceptance of debt is a good example. Debt used to carry a stigma. Loans and credit were hard to get.

Now all of that has been assimilated on a grand scale. As a collective culture, we accept a 25 year-old college grad will have $20k+ in student loan debt. We accept staggering consumer debt as if it's business as usual. We don't think twice about multiple mortgages.

It didn't used to be this way.

Not everyone is in debt, but Americans have wholly accepted the debt culture as part of our lives, so it goes with our GOV.

On the upside, that Obama was elected twice signifies a profound and appropriate shift.

Joe said...

"Americans have wholly accepted the debt culture as part of our lives, so it goes with our GOV.

On the upside, that Obama was elected twice signifies a profound and appropriate shift."

????

We have run up more government debt under this administration than any that came before. By the end of his second term he will have run up more debt than all of the previous Presidents combined. That is not even taking into consideration the new cost estimates for the ACA.

How is this a positive shift? Perhaps you did not intend for one paragraph to relate to the next? If so, I am confused.

Erin O'Brien said...

I was woefully lacking in a good transition there. Sorry.

I was thinking that Americans elected a black president, which is indicative of another significant cultural shift.

Anonymous said...

@Joe

Prior to the Seventeenth Amemdment the selection of Senators in the state legislatures made the slaughterhouse floors of Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle" look like the Queen's Tea at Balmoral Castle. The Senate represented 'the states' only if one accepts that a 'state' consisted merely of its largest and most rapacious economic entities.

As best as I know and understand, the composition of the Congress-the House based upon populace, the Senate based upon equal representation for each state regardless of its population, had no basis in fear of the power of populism. If you are aware of any sources or scholarship which suggests otherwise, I should be happy to know of it.

MR

Anonymous said...

"Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it, good and hard."-HL Mencken

This quote is often reduced to 'In a democracy, people get the kind of government they deserve.' But I cannot find a source for that exact quote from Mencken.

MR

Anonymous said...

In re: The Debt. Can't recommend enough Richard Wolff's Youtube lectures mostly under the title "Capitalism Hits the Fan." Describes how easy credit was a creation of Banks, Corporations at the beginning of the 70's so rank and file workers could keep up the consuming behavior they had been programmed with while being screwed out of fair wages so CEO's, shareholders, could draw 200% more.

RJ


Anonymous said...

"We have run up more government debt under this administration than any that came before"-Joe

AS A CONSEQUENCE OF THE BUSH TAX CUTS AND BUSH WARS WHICH BHO(Bush 3 and 4) HAS CONTINUED.

Disingenuous horseshit.

Wanna balance the budget? Get out of Afghanistan NOW! Not only uniformed troops but Gov't Contractors as well, including those STILL IN IRAQ.

RJ

Erin O'Brien said...

When someone realized money was just another product that people really liked and would pay A LOT for, man, that was sure one stroke of genius.

Enter free market capitalism: sell that money to anyone anytime and to hell with ethics.

Miserable bastards.

Anonymous said...

More evidence Liberal Policies and Entitlements are bankrupting the USA:

Study: Iraq War Cost More Than $2 Trillion, Killed At Least 134,000 Civilians
http://news.brown.edu/pressreleases/2013/03/warcosts

RJ

Anonymous said...

"Miserable bastards."E'OB.

In the spirit of "civil discourse" I wasn't gonna post this but it's just undeniable.

People that call themselves "Conservatives" because they support "Free Market" principles do at least one thing better than game markets. They lie. They are a bunch of fucking lying sociopaths. While the language may be crude the sentiment is supported by the data.

RJ

Erin O'Brien said...

The discussion continues here.

Anonymous said...

Erin, excuse me if I don't follow you over there. Every time I get near that end of the swamp I'm overcome by an urge to shower...

MR

Bill said...

You could just go over there on your normal shower day.

Erin O'Brien said...

Bill, that was hilarious.

Anonymous said...

"I ain't takin' no bath! It ain't Satiday!"- Jerome 'Curly' Howard*

MR

*For my money the greatest comedian in American film history