Second Time the Charm?
The last time the public was this disgusted with Congress, term limits got a serious hearing.
Then — as best I can recall — Bill Clinton got elected President, the economy picked up . . . and the issue just sort of faded away.
Fast forward 20 years or so.
Reading about Nancy’s Pelosi’s Visa shares and the latest conflation of “Congressional” and “ethics” — an oxymoron if there ever was one — there’s really only one, appropriate response: it’s time to put federal term limits back on the front burner.
And enact them this time.
Nancy Pelosi’s Visa Shares
To catch you up, a Sixty Minutes piece last Sunday shone a very unwelcome (at least to Congress) spotlight on the fact that its members can engage in all sorts of activities that are illegal for mere citizens.
Like insider trade.
Caught with their hands in the cookie jar in varying degrees: a bi-partisan clutch of senior leaders, including John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, and Spencer Bachus.
For the moment, leave aside the fact that using a position of public trust to enrich yourself is an ipso facto breach of your oath of office.
And that failing to recognize it as such — not to mention the blatant legal double-standard — merely underscores the utter moral confusion (if not corruption) exhibited by some of the nation’s most powerful politicians.
However, what Congressional insider trading really bespeaks is that for many people, a job in Congress is their career.
Symptom vs. Underlying Cause
When your career is holding public office . . . you worry about job security.
You worry about whether you’ll retire with enough money.
You worry about, where — if you lose the next election — you’ll get a job.
(Which, by the way, is a legitimate concern, given that getting elected to and holding public office is often the only real job you’ve ever had, and your job skills aren’t very transferable to the real, i.e., non-lobbying, world).
And since power and money already get along so nicely . . . you use your power to cash in.
Needed: Culture Change
As before, critics will say that the only thing worse than professional politicians is amateur ones.
And that mandating regular Congressional turnover will merely serve to transfer power to non-elected officials — specifically, the bureaucrats in the state department and other federal agencies.
And that modern government is so complex, it takes time to develop the expertise to legislate effectively.
“A Pox on Both
Houses Branches of Government”
My rebuttals, in order:
1. Two words: “Rick Perry.”
2. Having just knocked Rick Perry, he’s right about out-of-control federal agencies: pare down these bureaucracies at the same time term limits are enacted, “leveling the playing field” with a less powerful, entrenched Congress.
And save tens of billions in a federal budget that sorely needs to be cut, anyways.*
3. To paraphrase George Shultz, a Reagan advisor and cabinet member, “if government is too complicated to be run by non-experts . . . make it simpler.”
First up: Financial reform.
It’s long past time to call Wall Street on the canard that finance is so complicated, regulating it needs to be left to the experts (themselves).
*Bonus savings: Members of Congress who serve a maximum of 8 (House) or 12 years (Senate) don’t need to be paid expensive pensions.