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Minyan Mailbag: The Congressional Term Limit Debate Continues



Editor's Note: Minyanville is a community of people who share an interest in fiscal literacy. As perspective is an important aspect of our daily routine, we share this exchange with hopes that it adds balance to your process.

Dear John,

While I sympathize with your thoughts about our Congress being bought and sold to lobbyists, I must vehemently disagree with your recommended treatment of term limits. One need look no farther than the State of California to see the massive negative effects of term limits.

We started term limits in 1990 and they kicked in circa 1996. Now Assemblymen (Lower House) are limited to 3 terms (6 years) and State Senators (Upper House) to 2 terms (8 years). In short, these people are now forced to steal more in a limited time frame than before. They must sell out to the lobbyists quicker and line up lobbying jobs and other rewards for themselves within that 6-8 year time frame. Instead of citizen politicians going back to their former lives they are more likely to get sucked into being part of the problem.

A friend of mine is a lobbyist in Sacramento and loves to see the new "Puppies" coming into the Capitol all wide-eyed and bushy tailed. She hands them "Great New Laws" and they fall all over themselves to help.

Another friend works inside the Government. The new system has given him, a gubmint bureaucrat, MORE power. There is no institutional memory in the body politic. He has a permanent job and can bring back the same law that failed 4 years ago knowing most of them have never heard of it.

California is now passing 50% more laws after Term Limits passed than before. Instead of doddering old men and women who've seen it all and sit on stupid laws knowing their decisions can come back to haunt them, these guys think their job is to pass laws. By the way, party affiliation has no effect on these results.

The current situation with the national debt is exactly what the American people want. Yes, some of us know better, and hate to see what our country is going to come to, but we are the definite minority.

When people finally get fed up enough they vote the bastards out and no amount of money will stop them.

The lobbyists will ALWAYS be in Washington. Let's not compound the problem.

Best Regards,
Minyan Mark


I addressed in detail another's point of view similar to yours. Hopefully, we can continue the discourse, which is so important.

There is a world of difference between what California did in reducing term limits and allowing only one term. I agree fully that reducing term limits down to even two can create more problems, but restricting a representative to only one term is completely different both practically and psychologically.

And finally, I do not believe that debt and deficits are what the American people really want, for they do not know (or chose to ignore) the consequences. They want the benefit, which is short-term stronger economic growth, but do not want or perhaps understand the longer-term structural problems. We need legislators that understand the longer-term implications of deficit folly (moderate and temporary deficits are not necessarily a bad thing, just elephant sized and chronic ones) and are strong enough to do something about it.

One term will give them the strength.

Prof. Succo

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