Saturday, February 25, 2006

Not The Last Word, Sadly

So, the SideKick isn'’t convinced. Now he'’s going to ruin a perfectly good lonely Saturday night. A Saturday night where I was going to watch some high class SciFi Channel movie about liquid rock, lava for the laywoman, invading New York City. I'’m not sure I'’ll ever be able to prove to the lovely & talented SideKick the error of his ways, he'’s a coaster after all, if you know what I mean. But I'’m Polish & Norwegian & German & Bohemian so here goes.

Going back to Mr. Greenblatt, & Maine, we note the following:
"“In 2003, the state created the Dirigo program, which seeks to provide universal health insurance coverage through subsidies to employer-based plans. But new legislators are already arguing about the complex law they inherited. A few months ago, some of them accused Governor John Baldacci'’s administration of pulling a fast one by imposing assessments on insurance companies. They hadn't been around when these particular charges had been negotiated through a long, drawn-out process in the legislature itself. "“That'’s a major issue that was fought over just two years ago,"” says Sharon Treat, a former Senate leader and sponsor of the program, now term-limited out. "You would have thought there would have been some awareness.""
Yes, "“some awareness"” would be a good thing when it comes to important things like health care. The new legislators didn'’t even have a decent short-term memory, much less the "“institutional memory"” required to actually do the people'’s business.

Another thing Mr. Greenblatt notes is that the power of legislatures, in general, has diminished. Now, before you chortle about how that'’s the point, consider this:
In other ways, though, the revolving-door system created by term limits has reduced the influence of the legislature itself. In particular, it has lost influence to the executive branch. One southern legislator-turned-lobbyist, who prefers not to be identified, says that he sometimes bypasses his state'’s legislature altogether, taking his clients' business directly to agency officials -— the people who actually know how to operate the machinery of government. "There are some legislators who know as much as agency people do, but they're few and far between and they'’ll be gone very quickly," he says. "“Agency heads are the true winners. They can outwait and outlast anyone and everyone on the playing field and they have consolidated their power.""“
So the influence of lobbyists, of money, is not replaced by the good intentions of all the Mr. Smiths sent to the capitol. Instead, civil servants, while doing yeoman's work & doing it honestly for the most part, are now the targets of the money. The influence of spin & deceit, the lobbyists stock-in-trade has not disappeared, it's just been refocused. & those who will now make & influence the decisions are absolutely not accountable to the voters. Plus, instead of just doing their jobs, now they must do their jobs & deal with lobbyists. How has this helped democracy? How has this made government more accountable? The obvious answers are: it hasn't helped & government is actually less accountable.

More Maine:
"Some governors have complained that lack of experience and expertise among legislators leaves them without strong negotiating partners. "“A lot of these issues have to be dealt with in consecutive legislatures," says Angus King, a former governor of Maine who initially supported term limits but came to disdain them after burning through four different speakers, including Rowe, during his eight years in office. "“They're very complex and if you always have to go back to square one, you never get anywhere.""“
Imagine, if you will, about going back to square one on all the important things in a life, whether it be taxes, transportation, child-rearing, you get the drift. It makes no sense to constantly go back to square one, particularly when it comes governance. Actually, it never makes sense to go back to square one. Unless, of course, strip bars are on the agenda.

Mr. Greenblatt again:
"“Still, almost everyone involved in the legislative process sees governors as big winners under term limits. In addition to their constitutional authority to sign and veto bills, governors in term-limited states control many top-level state jobs that legislators facing short stints will soon want. Whether it is a question of job ambitions, a shortage of information or sheer inexperience, the reality seems to be that legislators do a far less effective job of competing with governors for power once term limits take effect."
Now, just replace the word "“governors"” with "“presidents"” & you can see where this will lead. Look at how Bu$hCo has run rampant over the Bill of Rights & the Constitution. Imagine if he was dealing with a less effective Congress, or should I say, a Congress even more cowed than this one. Now, I am certainly not defending the present Congress. It has basically bent over & asked for more, even without a lubricant, while demanding nothing in return. & boy, are we getting nothing, nothing but a police state, a failed, vicious war, a demoralized populace. The point here is that the governors have much greater powers than their supposed equals in the legislatures. Talk about the unitary theory of the presidency. As mentioned earlier, see where that has got us at the present time.
"Still, it'’s not like the old days, when speakers in many states held sway for more than a decade, far outlasting governors. "“If leaders are there a short time, the idea of taking on the responsibility of preserving and protecting the institution is eroded,"” says Alan Rosenthal, of Rutgers University, who wrote a book about governors and legislatures as contending powers. "If the legislature and the governor are controlled by the same party, the legislature pretty much gives the governor whatever he wants - they view themselves as members of his team.""
Now, if you have nothing but derision & contempt for the institutions of government, then term limits are the way to go. If you want legislators to view themselves as just members of the governor'’s team, well then, winning the game is all that counts. & politics just becomes, as the mainstream media keeps pounding into our heads, nothing more than a game, a horse race, a tit-for-tat affair to discuss over cocktails in Georgetown or Bayfield or Whitefish Bay. That'’s Whitefish Bay, WI, not the Whitefish Bay in Lake Superior. It's all about winning & all the Mr. Smiths we will be sending to the capitol will soon just be mini-DeLays, mini-Abramoffs, etc.
"Talk to people who work in any state capitol where term limits exist - members, staff and reporters as well as lobbyists -— and you will encounter the nearly universal opinion that term limits are obstacles to careful legislation and effective oversight."
It'’s also true that the idea of term limits is still popular out away from the centers of politics. I believe it'’s because it's easy to bitch at politicians, I do it all the time. But I also believe in politics, in democracy, in elections. Limiting the terms of politicians appears to level the playing field, of showing contempt for lamaking with a better health plan than millions of Americans, for making more money than the average citizen. My answer to those weak arguments is that rather than drag these people down, we ought to be working hard to provide all Americans with comparable benefits. There is nothing wrong with a good health insurance plan, with a good paycheck. These are things we ought to aspire to, rather than complain about.

& while, presently, it may be impossible to prove that term limits have made legislatures less powerful, it'’s exactly what those in favor of term limits want. A lousy government, one unable to function without the powerful dear leader is apparently what the people deserve, at least according to those that support this attempt to truly strip citizens of their ability to govern themselves.

All the quotes in this post come from Mr. Greenblatt'’s article, linked to above. I'’m sure this is not the end, but hopefully, it will add to the growing evidence that shows how anti-democratic term limits are.

Here is one last word, & I know I'’ll never get the last word in on the SideKick, it'’s a really annoying habit of his. I am too poor to actually buy this article, but I am posting the abstract from the Journal of Politics.

“Term Limits, Professionalization, and Partisan Control in U.S. State Legislatures
Scott R. Meinke, Bucknell University
Edward B. Hasecke, Cleveland State University

As states across the country have adopted term limits provisions for their state legislatures, political scientists have analyzed how mass unseatings of incumbents are affecting legislative composition, capacity, and activity. Yet this reform may impact legislatures not only directly through forced retirements but also indirectly by changing the incentives to prospective candidates. Following hypotheses suggested by Fiorina (1994, 1996), we argue that term limits have changed the incentive structure for typical Democratic candidates in some legislatures. This change in incentives has, in turn, affected the partisan composition of statehouses just as the professionalization movement affected incentives and partisan composition a generation ago. We provide quantitative evidence that supports Fiorina's conjectures about term limits, suggesting that the presence of term limit provisions even before they take effect creates an environment that is less attractive to Democratic candidates.”
Emphasis added.

That, in & of itself, ought to give the SideKick pause. & while I was unable, thanks to the SideKick's sad obession, to watch the whole movie about a volcano destroying New York City, it appears a good looking young hottie saved the city with her knowledge of geology & her ovaries. Which were really something. Of course, she had to be ultimately saved from the tunnels of NYC by an equally hot guy with great biceps. No, I'm not drooling.


Anonymous said...

This round must go to Mr. Creek. At bottom, the concept of term limits says that we are incapable of governing ourselves and must have the benefit of our betters' wisdom. They (neocons and federalist society types) want to include in our constitution all manner of foolishness that will tie the hands of future governments - require the inclusion of goduh in our public schools as an example.

And they say they want government off our backs.

Shutterwi said...

Well he sure gets A+ for effort....but

Are you willing to say our current system is working and doesn't need radical change?

Are these same politicians likely to enact public financing for all elections? NO! But that would help.

Are these same politicians likely to vote to restore the Fairness Doctrine insuring fair and free access to our public air waves. NO! But that would help.

Are these same politicians likely to change their behavior back to government of the people, by the people and for the people? Rather than of, by and for big business. NO! But that would help.

Are these same politicians likely to take action to insure that elections are open and honest and not rigged as in Flordia and Ohio. NO! But that would help.

Do you believe this whole mess can be solved one elected offical at a time?

So how long do we wait?

How long do we have?

How much more damage do we allow to happen to our rights as free Americans?

How long before we do something radical and throw the whole bunch out and start over. If this group won't fix the problems can the next group be any worst?

I do not believe the founders ever envision a system where elections would be rigged with a device called a computer. Or where in an instant one politician can speak a lie that millions of American hear over and over until it become "the truth". If they had they would have had no choice but to have fixed it.

Do I think term limits will ever pass? Sadly no.

Do I think term limits alone will change the entire system? Again sadly no.

But in my opinion it sure offers more hope than more of the same.

We delude ourselves if we believe we are going to change this with small incremental steps one bad legislator at a time.

They won't change the system because they know they have it completely rigid in their favor thats the bottom line and that speaks volumes.

Again I ask are you willing to let Bush and Cheney stay in office after 2008?

Don't all of the arguments against term limits work for Bush and Cheney?

Why not forget term limit altogether?

Enough of this futile discussion! We aren't going to change it and they know it.

At least we haven't been debating the Black Cat for two days and that's a plus.

The suns out and my camera waits.

Anonymous said...

An earlier comment referred to a term limit of George Bush. The twentysomething amendment that restricts presidents to two terms is the Republican revenge on Roosevelt.

There are Republicans that would still vote for Ronald Reagan even though he is dead.

Talk about being hoisted on your own petard, being gored by your own ox,putting your shovel where there is no s**t - the Republican cup of hypocricy(sp) runneth over.

I can't argue much with the problems you cite - they are real and troubling. But George Bush proves it possible to screw everything up with term limits.

Shutterwi said...

But George Bush proves it possible to screw everything up with term limits.

Not without the complicit help by the two houses of congress and the supreme court both....not term limited.

Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Are we there yet? It sure feels like it in my part of the world.

How could it be any worse?

I've heard lots of arguments against term limits but no suggestions of how do we get out of this mess except more of the same.

Shutterwi said...

Did we lose coldh2o?

Anonymous said...

After those long posts he probably needed a nap.

Anonymous said...

After those long posts he probably needed a nap.

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