THE BLOG
10/13/2013 05:06 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Term Limits Are Not the Answer

One of the popular refrains after any government crisis or leadership failure is the call for "term limits." The debt-ceiling/government shutdown debate is no different. Not at all.

But, unlike other reforms, which would improve the U.S. political system (campaign-finance reform, more earmarks, open primaries, a shortened campaign season, redistricting reform, actual journalism) or scrap it all together -- parliamentary systems are way better -- "term limits" would do nil to make our political system better. Instead, term limits would just shorten the time period politicians would have to wait before hopping into a cushy lobbying position.

Here's a quick primer on how Congress works. A new congressperson comes in ready to change the world and learn that they ain't shit. They learn that it'll be a long time before they do anything other than voting up or down on bills other people have proposed. After a while, they get on a committee and actually start doing something. It's something like that (my source for this is House of Cards).

So, being something of an armchair journalist, I decided to see how long each of the 32 House Republican dumbasses in charge of shutting down the government had been serving.

Here's a rundown:

Justin Amash (2011) - 2 yrs.

Michele Bachmann (2007) - 6 yrs.

Marsha Blackburn (2003) - 10 yrs.

Mo Brooks (2011) - 2 yrs.

Paul Broun (2007) - 6 yrs.

John Carter (2003) - 10 yrs.

John Culberson (2001) - 12 yrs.

Ron DeSantis (2013) - < 1 yr.

Scott DesJarlais (2011) - 2 yrs.

Jeff Duncan (2011) - 2 yrs.

John Fleming (2009) - 4 yrs.

Scott Garrett (2003) - 10 yrs.

Phil Gingrey (2003) - 10 yrs.

Louie Gohmert (2005) - 8 yrs.

Tom Graves (2010) - 3 yrs.

Vicky Hartzler (2011) - 2 yrs.

Tim Huelskamp (2011) - 2 yrs.

Jim Jordan (2011) - 2 yrs.

Steve King (2003) - 10 yrs.

Paul Labrador (2011) - 2 yrs.

Tom Massie (2012) - 1 yr.

Tom McClintock (2009) - 4 yrs.

Mark Meadows (2013) - < 1 yr.

Randy Neugebauer (2003) - 10 yrs.

Matt Salmon (1995) - 18 yrs.

Mark Sanford (1995) - 18 yrs.

Steve Scalise (2008) - 5 yrs.

Dave Schweikert (2011) - 2 yrs.

Steve Stockman (2013) - < 1 yr.

Marlin Stutzman (2010) - 3 yrs.

Randy Weber (2013) - < 1 yr.

Ted Yoho (2013) - < 1 yr.  

171/32 = 5.3 yrs.

Average in House = 9.1 yrs.

So almost all of the "cuckoo birds" who are in charge of the shutdown are juniors. They don't have any relationships with the Democrats or moderate Republicans with whom they need to bargain.

I honestly think the most ironic article about the shutdown so far is "Ted Cruz shows need for term limits." That's right folks, the junior Senator who is bucking his party's leadership to shutdown the government shows the need for term limits. Seriously. Someone said that (that someone is also happy about the shutdown, which may indicate the intelligence of his position).

Term limits would change the motivations. Instead of working on building relationships and working up the totem pole, Representatives and Senators would be inclined to spend time preparing for their life outside of Congress, rather than guarding their legacy. That means even more power for the bureaucrats, staffers and lobbyists swarming around the capitol.

If a politician is doing well, let them keep their job. The best way to weed out the gold from the dross, wheat from the chaff (or any other analogy you would like to use) is to actually make districts competitive, allow competitors access to public financing and open up primaries. Term limits, ironically, would leave us only career politicians, those interested in making a buck, rather than a difference. The problem isn't career politicians, it's career lobbyists and politicians more concerned about trying to get re-elected than actually governing. The problem is politicians who know their district is safe and therefore have no interest in compromising. Like the dummies who shut down the government.

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