The Dangers of Congressional Term Limits

In their efforts to redirect our focus away from the corporate tyranny that oppresses workers, rips off consumers, destroys our environment, and extracts our tax dollars for the sake of the wealthy, Republicans have drilled into the minds of their followers that congressional term limits are the answer to a great many of our problems. As usual, the Republicans want us to believe that our democratic government, the only voice of “we the people,” is what we need to fear, and they continually invent new ways to undermine our power.

As first listen, congressional term limits sound like a good thing. Why not get somebody new in their once in a while, even if the voters are happy with the person who they’ve elected?

While I think it is nice to give someone else a chance for a change, I find that the dangers that such term limits impose far outweigh the benefits of having someone new in office.

The first danger is that congressmen who know they must leave office will look to lobbying positions for the sake of their future. In the year of the Watergate scandal, only 3% of former congressmen worked as lobbyists after they left office. Today that number is over 50%. If we impose term limits on all congressmen, that number will approach 100%. Nearly all congressmen will have to look out for their future careers, and many will make doing so a priority over doing what’s right for the country. The precedent has already been set in which congressmen who give the corporations what they and their lobbyists want are rewarded with lobbying jobs of their own that pay 10-20 times more than they ever earned in Congress. Getting elected to Congress will be nothing more than a stepping stone to getting a high-paying job in the private sector.

The second danger is that congressmen will be less accountable than ever to the people. If senators are limited to two 6-year terms, that means that all congressmen in their second terms will be 100% unaccountable to voters, because they will never again have to worry about getting re-elected. One might argue that U.S. presidents already experience this, and they rarely change their behavior during their 2nd term, but let’s not forget that Presidents are often concerned about their legacy, since the presidency holds such a prominent place in the history books. Senators and representatives will be far less worried about their legacy and far more worried about getting themselves cushy, high paying jobs after their terms are up. With concerns for voters out of the way, they’ll only have one group to please – the lobbyists.

When Republicans have an idea that sounds good, take a closer look. Keep in mind that Republicans believe in a Republic – a system of checks and balances that is better than a monarchy, but is still run by the nation’s wealthy and powerful. Democrats, on the other hand, believe in Democracy – a system in which all people in a society have an equal say in government. The Republican Party, at its very core, exists for the purpose of undermining and weakening democracy, so that the wealthy and powerful minority may make the rules. Congressional term limits are just one of many ways in which the Republicans can fulfill their purpose.