TERM LIMITS?

Posted on Updated on

Bear in mind that, as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”

I am still not a firm believer in term limits. (I don’t like the idea of messing around with the constitution unnecessarily.) I have always seen the concept of term limits as limiting the people’s right to choose whomever they wish to represent them. Republicans, frustrated by FDR’s unprecedented third and fourth elections, managed to push through the 22nd Amendment to limit a President to two terms. I have always thought that was a mistake, even though without it we might have had another decade of Ronald Reagan in the White House—Alzheimer’s notwithstanding. The checks and balances built into the system should take care of such anomalies.

The key word in that last sentence is should.

Unfortunately, lack of term limits on members of Congress has given us at least a decade and a half of gridlock in Washington. So—I am slowly (ever so slowly) coming to Warren Buffet’s view that we should limit the number of years that one can occupy a chair in either the House of Representatives or the Senate—or even the Supreme Court, for that matter. It does take a certain amount of time to settle into a new job and it helps to have some old hands who have “been around” to teach the newbies how to get on. Limiting senators to two terms and representatives to five, seems a reasonable goal—one that exceeds the maximum for a President. Supreme Court justices need to be free of any sense of obligation to the man (or his party) who appointed them. The present life term does that, but probably a limited term of, say, 15 years would work as well.

And while we are in the business of limiting their terms of office, how about doing something about the inordinately high salaries and cushy retirement bennies members of Congress have managed to set for themselves?

Trouble is: these ideas would require a Constitutional Amendment. Can you see Congress initiating such an amendment? Even more improbable is the idea that such initiation would come from the electorate or from State governments.

Still—consistency be damned—one can dream . . .

Advertisements