Term limits

Nov 222010

This is what I wrote in response to Stephen Moore and Richard Vedder’s article, “Higher Taxes won’t Reduce the Deficit : History shows that when Congress gets more revenue, the pols spend it.”

The only way tax increases MIGHT work is if Congress first shows that it knows how to cut spending. Zero out NPR funding on budgetary and First Amendment grounds. Repeal ObamaCare. Eliminate ag subsidies, ethanol subsidies, wind generation subsidies, and corporate welfare in general. Cut the budget for Congressional staffs and White House staffs in half. (I’d prefer to give Members of Congress healthy increases in pay and pensions, though.)

This isn’t going to deal with the problem of entitlements, but it is going to give Congress some much-needed practice in making cuts. It will give Congress a chance to prove that it knows how to do it.

Then, after it obtains a Constitutional amendment for Congressional term limits (it needn’t consist of drastic limits) we might talk about tax increases, if we can find a way to pay for them. Until then Congress has a lot of other work to do to have any kind of credibility at all.

If Congress can’t get those preliminaries done, there is no point in raising taxes.

Nov 112010

Someone commented on the WSJ editorial, “A Deficit of Nerve : Obama’s commission has ideas that Republicans can use,” saying that many of the proposed budget cuts will kill people. My response:

Not making those cuts will kill people, too. Millions of lives could be at stake.

If we now have the histronics out of the way, maybe we can get down to serious discussion.

I agree with the editorial writers that there is much in the draft outline to build on. They makes the point that Canada doesn’t have a home mortgage interest deduction, yet has a higher rate of home ownership than we have. If this deduction can’t be zeroed out, I don’t know why it shouldn’t be reduced to say, $100,000 instead of the $500,000 suggested in the commission’s draft.

I also wish the commission had tackled the issue of health care reform. But it seems there were some taboo topics. According to the editorial:

More egregiously, the chairmen tiptoe around ObamaCare, which has led some on the right and left to claim that the commission is essentially endorsing the largest new entitlement in 40 years. We’re told the chairmen mostly dodged the subject because Democrats on the commission made that a nonnegotiable demand. A truly bold report would consider Congressman Paul Ryan’s model to make Medicare a defined contribution program. Instead, the chairmen settle for the familiar likes of “payment reforms,” which never work because of Medicare’s flawed political price-control model.

On that subject I posted the following comment:

Back in April, when setting up this commission, President Obama said everything needs to be on the table. But now we learn that the Democrats on the commission wouldn’t allow any health care reforms to be put on the table. It was non-negotiable. If they couldn’t accept the job they were commissioned to do, shouldn’t they have declined to serve on the commission, or if it was too late for that, resigned?

On the subject of taxes, I’m surprised they want to make our tax system more regressive by increasing the social security tax, of all taxes.

But there is one other item that would do more to reduce the budget deficit than any of their other proposals. Term limits would bring under control the budget distortions brought about by the power of incumbency. These limits wouldn’t need to be severe term limits to be effective.

We need a slogan: No justice, no peace.

Oops. Wrong slogan. It should be: No term limits, no tax hikes.

I’d say that if we eliminate ag subsidies (aka the root of all evil), zero out funding for NPR, and get a constitutional amendment to institute term limits for Congress, then we can think about a tax increase to get us out of our hole. If members of Congress are term-limited, we will have a better basis for trusting that they might really use new revenues for deficit reduction. Otherewise, that part should be just as non-negotiable as the Democrats’ refusal to reform our health care system.

Sep 042010

It’s good to learn that people are again thinking about term limits for Congress. (Fox News Poll: 78 Percent Favor Term Limits On Congress) Without that, there is zero chance of cleaning up our economic and political mess.

But there is disturbing news hidden inside this Fox poll: One voter in five gives Congress a thumbs up.

Think about it. You walk down the street, thinking you are safe as long as you keep your wits about you, but lurking about you are people who approve of the job Congress is doing. How can you defend yourself against those numbers?

If it was only one person in a hundred, it wouldn’t be so surprising. Some of these members of Congress have mothers who are going to give approval ratings to their own offspring, no matter what. And these Congresspeople have friends and neighbors who will be loyal to a fault. The same goes for the hordes of staffers who work in their offices, and their mothers and close acquaintances. But that doesn’t account for a whopping twenty-two percent of the population, does it?

So where do these people come from? What can we do to identify them? Is there some sort of registry where we can look up on-line before blundering our way into an environment where they may be waiting in ambush? Are there distinguishing features we can use to tell them apart from the population as a whole? What sort of precautions do we need to take?

Apr 302010

My comment on an article at the WSJ titled, “The ACLU Approves Limits on Speech.”

If there are such limits [on corporate campaign contributions], then congressional earmarks need to count as corporate campaign contributions. Not only that, but if a member of Congress gets to identify himself with a DOE grant or USDA grant in his state or district, e.g. by putting his name on press releases about it, then that needs to count as a corporate campaign contribution as well.

That will help even the playing field between incumbents and uppity upstarts. But even with that, we still need congressional term limits.

Feb 112010

President Obama says he is agnostic about keeping his campaign promises. That’s OK. I’ve been atheistic about him for a long time.

But here are some conditions before we even think about increasing taxes. These items should help offset the damage.

  • Abolish public employee unions and re-instate the Hatch Act.
  • Enact term limits for members of Congress. No, they do not need to be severe limits, but they do need to result in at least a 10 percent turnover. Yes, we need a Constitutional amendment to do it. So get cracking.
  • Eliminate ag subsidies. Cold turkey.

Otherwise there is little point.

Oct 242009

This is the first time a Leviathan Ankle-Biter award goes to a billionaire, but Mo Ibrahim gets one.

The foundation that runs the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership said this week its prize would go to . . . no one.

Though not widely known, the prize, created by Sudanese-born billionaire Mo Ibrahim in 2007, is one of the more thoughtful efforts at bestowing honor on a public figure. For starters, the prize can go only to a democratically elected head of state in Africa. But here’s the kicker: The winner has to have left office in the previous three years.

Mr. Ibrahim clearly is all too aware of Africa’s history of being governed by strongmen who either don’t bother holding an election, or if they do, ensure that they win—forever.

So he’s designed his prize with the world’s biggest carrot: The winner gets $5 million spread over 10 years, plus $200,000 for life annually. We’d call this one of the more creative exercises in term limits.

URL here.

I’d be in favor of instituting an award like that for the U.S. Congress. Give away a couple dozen of them each year. If it would get rid of those who have been corrupted by the power of seniority, never mind any achievements in leadership, it would be cheap at twice the price.

Unfortunately, even though members of Congress can be greedy, the worst of them are motivated more by a lust for power than by filthy lucre. It might be that by getting rid of the greedhogs we’d only create more slots for the powerhogs.

Sep 012009

This makes me wonder if we should have term limits for congressional staff members. Say four years for staffers in the House, and 12 for those in the Senate. That way you could keep on enough people to provide continuity from one member’s term to the next, but mitigate the corrupting influence of power.

We called Mr. Dodd’s committee office last week to ask why the bill isn’t posted, and a spokesman explained that it is still being “worked on.” Will it be ready by October? “Don’t count on it,” the staffer said. [WSJ editorial, “Health-Care Secrets: Chris Dodd keeps his Senate bill under wraps.” 29 August 2009]

Nov 302008

I see from Google News that Al Franken isn’t doing so well in the Minnesota recount. There used to be a lot of recount stories in Google’s “Top Stories.” But when they dried up I suspected it was because Franken’s cause had taken a turn for the worst. Sure enough, a little digging behind the “Top Stories” showed that indeed, that’s what happened.

Similarly, you can know from the absence of any “Top Stories” about it that term limits did very well in referrendums in the last election. The ruling class doesn’t like term limits, which means Google isn’t going to do anything to call attention to the fact that the people like them. But Paul Jacobs gives us the information that the MSM doesn’t publish.

Oct 112008

USA Today editorializes against term limits, giving the old, tired (and untrue) reasons why it’s better to have entrenched incumbents in our nation’s legislatures rather than inexperienced rookies. Then it tells us there’s a better way to replace entrenched incumbents with inexperienced rookies: Do away with legislative gerrymandering.

I’ll bet USA Today is hoping people won’t notice the doubletalk.

Doing away with legislative gerrymandering is a good idea, but there’s no reason why it can’t coexist with term limits. We can do both. In fact, we’re more likely to have both if we have term limits.

H/T to Don Bon Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek for leading me to the editorial, by way of Howard Rich who points out other flaws in it.

May 132008

Neil Boortz is a useful idiot of the welfare-police state, and it’s sad to see that the normally sensible Mike Adams is buying his book and buying what he says.

These Fair Tax people ought to think about about how this country’s first consumption tax at the federal level brought about a huge expansion of governmental power in order to enforce it, and almost brought about civil war. (I’m referring to the Whiskey Rebellion.) Introducing an excise tax on the scale that these Fair Tax people are proposing will result in huge motivations for people to use the black market to get the things they need, which will result in a huge new regulatory and enforcement mechanism.

This will be in addition to the IRS, which, contrary to what they claim, will not go away. The Fair Tax people will tell you that their tax is not regressive, because there will be rebates for those of low income. But in order to determine who has a low income, you need an organization and mechanism to do what the IRS does now.

And even with rebates, the tax will still be regressive among those who don’t qualify for the rebates, so there will be pressure to re-institute an income tax for the very, very rich. That will be extra easy to do, because a handy enforcement mechanism will already be in place, ready to resume all the rest of its old work, too.

The Fair Tax is a recipe for growing the government. But Neil Boortz opposes one reform that could actually control the size of government and perhaps cut it down to a reasonable size: term limits.