Saturday, August 25, 2007

Term Limits

Many people are concerned with state of our Congress these days (both Houses) and they probably have every right to be. The Houses of our national legislature seem to be creating more problems than they fix, when not simply stamping their feet and pouting. Without attempting to list all of the problems, let me point out some of the failures:
  • The constant internal fights between the left and right of each parties, as well as the partisan fighting between parties so that nothing gets done but rancorous public diatribes and useless pontification (don't ask me what they mean, go look them up) performed mostly for public consumption on C-span.
  • Politicians who sit in seats of power more concerned about whoring for campaign contributions that allow them to keep their jobs, rather than answers to any of the nation's real concerns or legitimate problems.
  • People who aspire to become "professional politicians", never holding a job other than one paid by the taxpayer
  • Our representatives increasingly influenced by lobbyists with access on an unprecedented scale, while we make it easier for them by sending them the same people year after year.
  • Laws written and passed that never get enforced; and the people responsible thinking that the solution is to write more laws(which won't get enforced either), the result of which is to do nothing other than pacify us and help them keep their jobs.

So we the voter stand by disconsolately, seeing no end in sight to it and cry out for something to change, often talking about term limits as the only answer. Unfortunately, no one seems to realize that such thinking means forcing additional useless legislation into a system which already has more rules and regulations than it should have. I have an alternative.

Do away with the House and Senate retirement programs.

At a time when all companies are asking their workers, past and present, to do with less; our legislators ride fat, dumb, and happy on a system of pay that compensates the rank-and-file member at a rate of $165,200 per year. When they are finally done serving in the public interest (at the public trough), they are awarded a retirement that would be the envy of any union negotiator. Depending on their years of service and the average of their last three years salary, they are limited only to no more than 80% of their final salary. What this means in terms of real money is that as of October 1, 2006, we had 290 members of Congress receiving pensions that averaged $60,972 per year (a total of $17,681,880 annually).

  • Take away that retirement and you would take away any desire for anyone to make this job a career.
  • Take away that retirement and you might break the gridlock of partisan politics by getting fresh faces in place on a regular basis.
  • Take away that retirement and you might see the end of professional politicians.
  • Take away that retirement and you would be asking people of good conscience to serve, and serve briefly; before re-entering the work force.
  • Take away that retirement, and you would save the country a small fortune.

Of course it will never happen. Those who would have to propose and pass such legislation would be putting themselves out of what they consider a pretty sweet deal right now. It would be far too much to ask for them to "serve the interests of the country" as they were elected to do instead of their own.

Thomas Jefferson once said: "I have the consolation of having added nothing to my private fortune during my public service, and of retiring with hands clean as they are empty." Our Founding Fathers never intended for these jobs to be careers, nor to have those in public service make great person gain. Their intention was for these positions to be sacrifices in the name of public service. From 1789 to 1815, the members of Congress only compensation was a per diem of $6.00 per day while their respective House was in session. It was only after 1815 that members began to receive an annual salary of $1,500 per year. Perhaps if we returned the system to the image originally intended by the people who wrote the Constitution (the document that these elected officials are sworn to serve), we would be better served by those who "serve the people".

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