Term Limits: Cruising Toward Disaster or Ingenious Political Move?

Term Limits: Cruising Toward Disaster or Ingenious Political Move?
by Zigmund Reichenbach

Are term limits are they are cracked up to be?  In this piece Zigmund weighs the facts against reality to determine whether or not term limits really are beneficial to the American people.

Congressmen Ted Cruz (R-Texas)  and Ron Desantis (R-Fla.) once attempted to file an amendment to the Constitution shortening the number of years one could serve in House and Senate. But here’s the catch -- shorter term limits actually put top lawmakers on the fast track to earning big money.  

For instance after Congressmen retire their services are sought by lobbying firms who seek to reward them for their detailed legislative knowledge.  Accordingly approximately 50% of former Congressmen work for such firms.  Although few firms disclose how much money they pay out, there are a few high profile cases where former Congressmen made colossal sums as lobbyists.  For instance:

  • Louisiana Rep Billy Tauzin (R) made $20 million during a five year stint from 2006 to 2010
  • Tom Daschle (D) from South Dakota earned $2.1 million in 2009
  • Former Oklahoma Rep (R) and NFL player Steve Largent made $1.5 million in 2014

However, it could be the case that lobbyists -- even the wealthy ones -- provide a valuable function to the American public.  Since many Americans are not interested in voicing their political interests to Congress, or lack the appropriate knowledge to do so, lobbyists might actually represent a suitable alternative to citizens participating in government.

And in many cases lobbyists are charged with presenting exact and credible information to Congressmen about the industries served by lobbyists. This knowledge gives politicians a useful and direct agenda they otherwise might be without and that can better help them secure re-election by successfully supporting legislation advocated for by lobbyists who finance their campaigns.  

Thus since many people typically aren’t engaged in serious political discourse, and can be easily swayed by the ads paid for by the money gained from lobbying, it becomes more important for Congressmen to serve lobbyists than the general public.

However lobbyists are likely a detriment to the American political process.  In fact lobbyists are essentially middlemen -- they serve as a liaison between the public and lawmakers thereby obscuring the people’s understanding of government and vice versa.  

Ultimately if we want people to have greater sway in government lessing the influence of lobbyists -- especially powerful lobbyists who were former Congressmen -- is imperative.  Otherwise it seems like we could be cruising toward disaster both as a nation and as citizens.

Moreover Senator Cruz is probably clever and calculating enough to understand the implications of making such a move.  And consider this knowledge he’s most definitely aware of -- the House and Senate are lead by Republican majorities.  

So if term limits are applied, and the trend of Republicans dominating at the state levels continues, you end up with more former Republican Congressmen advising more Republican Congressmen.  That’s a serious danger especially for those concerned with big government.  

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