The founding fathers in the majority thought that government would work best when each state elected representatives for the new congress. Two senators from each state and representatives from each state based on population. They would meet in the capitol periodically and make majority decisions to carry on the affairs of the country. They would serve a term and then return to their "real" jobs, and not become career senators or representatives. But it became clear to those serving that the accretion of power and the financial rewards were far more appealing than returning to their home states and going back to prior jobs. Remember "absolute power corrupts absolutely"?
So, when we observe our congressional representatives today what do we see? As soon as they assume office, they begin to work on re-election, using the perks of the office to work the money angle. Trips back and forth to the home state, sending mail "updates" to the constituents. And trips to anywhere and everywhere to keep their name in the news. All this at the expense of the taxpayer. They are seldom in the house or senate chambers but meeting and greeting, trying to get on the news, and working on getting positions on powerful committees to influence money allocations. If you have ever watched C SPAN, you would see almost nobody in the audience. There is no debate, just exposure.
In a system so convoluted and dysfunctional,it seems that there will be no magic bullet for changing the status quo. But, there is one change that we as voters could affect. And that is term limits. We really do not need career politicians who spend their time building power, accumulating wealth, and failing to solve problems in the country. When a senator is escorted to the podium in a walker, he has been in office for too damn long!
George Washington began the term limit of president by limiting his time to two terms. All presidents until Franklin Delano Roosevelt, followed suit and did not run for a third term. In 1953, congress passed an amendment to the constitution, the 22nd, to limit the term to 10 years if the individual had served an unfinished term.
There have been attempts to limit terms on congress but they have been unsuccessful, as it requires a two thirds majority to pass. Most of the time congress has difficulty getting a simple majority unless it is based on ideology and one party has the majority of members. In 2011, South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint introduced a bill to limit terms with the following comments:
“If we’re ever going to permanently change Washington, we must change the process that encourages career politicians to amass personal power instead of making the hard decisions for the nation,” said Senator DeMint. “We need true citizen legislators who spend their time defending the constitution, not currying favor with lobbyists. We need new leaders continually coming to Congress to ensure every taxpayer dollar is spent wisely, not wasted on Washington special interests. We must end the era of permanent politicians that has led us to a $14 trillion debt and a pending fiscal crisis”
But talk about irony! DeMint had been in the house for three terms since 1998, elected senator once, and re-elected recently. By the end of his second term, he will have been in office for 18 years. Sounds like a career to me!
This is a situation where the politicians will never cut their own path to money and power. If we as voters choose to do nothing as well, we deserve what we have. Just an observation...