Thanks, Legislators!

Thanks, Legislators! 

By Patrick F. Cannon

My regular readers will know of my support for term limits. I’ve signed petitions to get the question on the ballot in Illinois. I’ve even donated money to the cause.

Now, I find that I don’t have to make the argument yet again, as our legislators at all levels are doing just fine on their own. Their multi-term “experience” has led to the most serious crisis our country currently faces. The threat of bogeyman President Trump pales in comparison. The State of Illinois is bankrupt by any true definition of the word, thanks to “Speaker for Life” Madigan and his minions in both houses. At the Federal level, the same old faces fail to solve the same old problems.

For Democrats with selective memories, let me remind them that the current health care mess started when the then Democrat Congress forced through a bill of more than 2,000 pages – which most of their own members did not bother to read – without a single Republican vote. It came to be called Obamacare, and it’s deeply flawed to say the least. Now, in a spirit of “tit for tat,” the Republicans are trying to get even, with no success thus far.

Thus, the current crisis, which will persist so long as the best interests of the public come a poor third to the need to be reelected, and the pandering to special interests, whether they be corporate or unions and other “progressive” interests. The needs of the country will not be met by ideologues, but by pragmatists.

Universal health care is only one example of a problem that is eminently solvable. You start with the premise that everyone is entitled to adequate health care. With no reference to ideology, you ask and then answer this question: what is the cheapest and most efficient way to deliver it? We actually have people who have studied this and would be ready – indeed anxious – to advise our legislators. The same pragmatic approach could be taken to tax reform, another dream of long standing that will not survive the extreme wings of both parties.

Although there are other possibilities, I would limit members of the lower houses of both state and Federal legislatures to eight years in office. Senators could serve two terms only. Members of the lower houses could run for the senate after their eight years were up. Thus, it would be possible for a particularly popular politician to serve for 24 years at the Federal level.

In the interests of bipartisanship, let me note that Democrat Michael Madigan has been in the Illinois House for 46 years; and Republican Mitch McConnell has represented Kentucky in the US Senate for 33.  They are arguably two of the most hated men by members of their opposing parties. And while McConnell has been in close races over the years, no one believes Madigan would ever lose in his gerrymandered district.

I have heard the argument that it takes many years of experience for a legislator to become effective, and term limits would snatch them from us just at the wrong time. Nonsense. Although I’m a bit too old to run, I would feel perfectly qualified to serve, and I know many people who would be more highly qualified than many who now adorn our legislatures. Really, if you can’t learn enough in four years in office to assume a leadership role, you may have chosen the wrong profession. I think we’re in the mess we’re in because our politicians have been around too long and worry more about being reelected than serving their constituents.

There are some glimmers of hope. 15 states have term limits of some kind, and citizens in others, including Illinois, are trying or have tried to establish them. And it has to be the citizens because politicians are unlikely to do it on their own. In Illinois, ballot initiatives have a hard row to hoe. For example, in a purely partisan vote, the Democrat majority state Supreme Court prevented a redistricting amendment from being placed on the ballot last year.

Finally, a national poll last year found that 74 percent of Americans favored term limits for Congress. Only 13 percent were opposed (the rest had no opinion).  It takes abundant chutzpah for our elected representatives to resist the public will, but it’s a quality they have in spades.

Copyright 2107, Patrick F. Cannon

4 thoughts on “Thanks, Legislators!

  1. Wholeheartedly concur on term limits. Fortunately we have them for presidents and, as noted, other offices in some states. Lifetime limits would marvelously focus the attention of politicians on the purpose for which they were elected. They would allow legislators to be more independent and would change the relationship with lobbyists. They would also have the benefit of gradually minimizing the office holder’s influence as his (or her) final term expired. If Madigan had been a lame duck, Illinois would be happily on its way to solvency by now.

    By the way, Indiana imposes term limits only on the governor. But it has a $1.77 billion budget surplus!

    As to health care, I’m not convinced that single payer is anything more than a political solution. Our healthcare system has become an enormous bureaucratic morass, thanks largely to the collusion (couldn’t resist) between the government, behemoth medical corporations, and the insurance industry. Medicine has become politicized. In the process, doctors, individual patients and the provider-customer relationship have been air brushed out of the picture. There are reasons why medical care has become expensive and scarce. Nobody is spending their own money and nobody knows (or cares) what anything really costs. No wonder everyone, from software suppliers to aroma therapists, is trying to get in on the gravy train. We can easily care for the truly needy. As a first step, I would get the federal government out of the medical care business and let states develop plans most appropriate to their respective needs and preferences. Barring that, maybe we can hire Mitch Daniels to sort it out.


    1. Yours is one of the more sensible approaches to looking at health care. Wish it and others were actually on the table! Do you think Mitch is tired or Purdue? I’ll contribute to his salary if we can lure him!



      1. Mitch is happy as a clam at Purdue. Despite grumbling from some faculty, he recently acquired for profit Kaplan University to provide online education to working adults and others for whom campus education is impractical. This will cost the state nothing, bring new revenue to Purdue, and provide higher education to thousands who might otherwise not have it. He’s a brilliant innovator. In an earlier life I’m sure he was the guy who bought Manhattan island from the Indians.


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