By Keith Griffin
There is a number of ways that over time the American political system, and congress in particular, has become a complete disaster: Lobbyist, legal bribery… um… I mean Citizens United, and Gerrymandering just to name a few. However, the greatest offender is unlimited term limits in congress.
Now I can’t say that I blame congress for not putting a time limit on a job where you and your drinking buddies get to vote on how much you get paid, your benefits, and what you consider to be a “Holiday.” However, at some point, casual Americans not pounding booze in their office should insist on term limits, and here’s why:
- The average term limit for congress is FIVE times higher than when congress was initially created
- Over 20% of congress has been hanging out at the capital for 16+ years
- 44% of congress has been hanging out for over 8 years
- There is an insane 5% chance of them losing if they decide they would like to grace us with a re-election. Most turnover in congress happens from taking other offices, retiring, or dying.
Let’s put some of these numbers into perspective here. A fifth of congress has been there long enough for their career to drive, and half of them are creeping on a decade. At this point, it’s automatic that you would get really good at staying in office. Name recognition, party and corporate connections, and money…..lots and lots of money, make it virtually impossible for an outsider with no name recognition to be elected. This in turn leads to re-election and the congressional representative to become more selfish and corrupt over time.
Take our friends Charles Rangel, Maxine Waters, and Eddie Bernice Johnson. They have been in congress for 78 yrs. collectively… yeah, you read that right. Their congressional term has been chilling since the great depression, and as a result they are all under some sort of corruption scandal. Our boy Charles has accidently forgotten to report hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes and real estate… which I’m sure is just from him saving up his salary over the last 40 years. Johnson thought it was a good idea to steer $31,000 from a Black Caucus to pay for her kid’s tuition. And lastly, Maxine is under numerous investigations regarding how funds were steered in the direction of her husband’s bank in the form of “bail out money.” Don’t worry though guys, all of these extremely well educated individuals “didn’t know they were doing anything wrong” and have since apologized. Oh, and also, they will be running for re-election. We should throw a party when their combined term limit turns 100.
Corruption, while by far the biggest, is not the only reason why term limits are necessary. As The Men in Black would say, sometimes you just have to get rid of the “old and busted” and go with “the new hotness.” Freshman congressmen often come up with new, innovative ways to tackle problems that someone who has been collecting dust in congress for 40 years might not. Over the last 3 years, freshman congressmen have fought for important issues such as Immigration (shot down by their own party), Veterans Benefits (you guessed it… shot down by own party), and the largest infrastructure financing bill in history (destruction pending I’m sure.) A new person elected to Congress would want to show their district that they are worth a damn, so they naturally have a drive and ambition that some of our more seasoned congressman don’t.
Two terms. There is a reason that congress put a two term limit on the presidency. Without a limit you have FDR in the oval office for 16 years and it literally takes him dying to get him out. Congress should be held to the exact same standard. Hey we elected you - good job! Wait, you didn’t completely suck? Awesome, here is another term, and after that you get to live in a society in which you helped pass the laws.
Now, as a freshly minted congressman who has term limits you can enjoy things like:
- Passing a bill you believe in even if a member from across the aisle drafted it, because you’re not worried about re-election
- You’re a lame duck, so now you can draft bills that actually go against your ingrained party politics and help the American people
- You are less likely to be indicted on corruption charges leaving your legacy as a good public servant and a decent human being intact
- You can go and get that sweet job as a lobbyist which, let’s be honest, was the only reason you got into congress to begin with. Congrats!
Congressional term limits need to happen sooner rather than later. It’s no coincidence that a congress with the longest tenure is also the least productive and most partisan in our country’s history. For god’s sake, they are less productive than the “do nothing” Congress. This election season we should tell our congress to pass term limits, and incentivize them by saying that all signees are grandfathered in against term limits. This way congress may actually pass something that is worthwhile.
You’re welcome, America.
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