George Washington warned us that party politics would be damaging to our republic, but we chose to ignore him. Now we are cursed with two powerful political parties that are tearing this nation apart. What should we do now? I think we ought to take the power out of political parties by taking the profit out of politics.
It was never the intention of our founding fathers to have a class of professional politicians running (and ruining) the country. The original idea was that we the citizens of various state and local areas would choose people from among their number and require that they put aside their personal and business agendas for a period of time to represent us in the various legislative bodies. Then, after a period of time, they would be allowed to return to their normal pursuits and someone else would take their place.
Serving in elective office was intended to be a sacrifice on the part of the office holder, a debt he or she owed for the benefit of living in a nation and state devoted to the greatest possible level of freedom. But today’s office holders expect to make a career out of politics, and a very profitable one at that. They expect high salaries and a benefit package that is far beyond the majority of those they were intended to represent.
One answer to this problem would be strict term limits. And I mean lifetime limits. No one should be allowed to serve more than 20 years total in elective office. That includes all offices from dogcatcher to president. And they should be required to take at least a six-year break within that period.
For example, someone might be chosen to a city council seat for four years. If he does a good job, then a four-year term as mayor might result. Then maybe four years in the state legislature. That would be 12 years total. At this point, he would be required to go home for the next six years and return to his normal trade to earn his living. Finally, he would have eight more years he can serve in local, state or federal office. And that would be the end of his political career.
To assure that politics never becomes his life’s work, we should put an end to government financed retirement plans that exceed those of comparative private companies. His insurance program should be no better than what you or I have. His travel and entertainment budgets should be severely limited, with the possible exception of the top handful of state or federal officers, and even then there ought to be limits.
Do you want to take back our country from the politicians? Then take the profit out of politics.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. His website can be accessed at http://www.frankgillispie.com/gillispieonline.
Although I support term limits, I recognize that asking people to set aside their career to serve as a politician only to be forced out after a number of years is an onerous burden. They will not, in general, be able to return to previous jobs. Aside from lawyers, few would maintain their technical skills to enable return to the work force. The likely outcome of term limits would be that people would delay entry to politics. I believe that would be reason enough to promote term limits!