Nice Work If You Can Get It

As a stong supporter of the Tea Party movement and a self-proclaimed “Mama Grizzly,” I understand the importance of ridding our government of entrenched incumbancy which leads mainly to greed, entitlement, and corruption. Thus we see Tea Parties calling for term limits to root out those clinging bitterly to their power base.

Because we might as well face it: being in Congress is a good gig. The pay is pretty sweet, and gets better the longer you stay, what with automatic cost of living increases and all. Leadership positions pay better than rank-and-file, of course. But even as a lowly freshman Rep, you get a personal staffing allowance, expenses, and of course, franking priviliges! You also get travel benefits (both foreign and domestic) and, depending on your seniority, can frequently bring along family members on junkets er, Congressional delegations. Plus there are recesses galore–even more than teachers get!

In short, it’s nice work if you can get it. And these days, you can get it if you try.

As a small-government Conservative, however, I take exception to the Tea Party’s notion that term limits are the only solution which will rid us of these meddlesome priests of legislation. Term limits smack of nanny-statism, implying that we the people are too stupid to vote out the venal, the corrupt, and the incompetent. And while that may in fact be a fair cop, perhaps we deserve what we get until we smarten up and vote in some fresh blood.

As an antidote to term limits and lifetime incumbencies, why not simply defund Congress? A Congressman, asking to be elected in order to earn a small stipend, with no retirement benefits and no other emoluments to reward his behavior, won’t be able to afford to be a public servant for very long, and thus after a term or two would go back to being whatever s/he was before: lawyer, lobbyist, administrator, whatever.

In fact, making Congress a low-paying job would likely bring our legislators closer to “the people.” Why, if we do enough, they may actually qualify for food stamps, just like nearly 40 million of their fellow Americans–and they won’t even have to give up their soda!

Face it. Congress isn’t going to change unless we the people force it to. The media won’t help; they have a vested interest in keeping the Old Guard in charge.

It’s up to us to make that change, and we can either do it by insisting that Big Brother protect us from our own stupidity, or we can man up and get the job done ourselves. By voting out the entrenched grime of decades, we can vote in new men and women with new (old) ideas about public service to the nation.

But we can’t have it both ways. We’re either a term-limited nanny state, or we’re that vibrant Republic, the shining city on the hill.

What’s it going to be, Tea Partiers?



8 Responses to Nice Work If You Can Get It

  1. jonolan says:

    There’s one huge problem with your idea; if it were enacted, only the idle rich, or those close being such, could afford to be in Congress.

    I don’t know how much you and your family make, could could you afford to take two or six years off to go be a Representative or Senator?

    • Stoutcat says:

      That’s a good point, but for a two-income family, if Mom goes off to DC to be a Rep for two years, it’s not going to put too much of a cramp in the family budget.

      I’m not saying you don’t have a good point: you do. But there’s got to be some way other than admitting that we can’t be trusted not to vote ourselves bread and circuses every time and so enacting term limits. To protect us from ourselves, don’t you know. The only way I can think of is to make it such an unpleasant job that only the very civically-minded would want it, and that only for a short time.

      • jonolan says:

        You say:

        But there’s got to be some way other than admitting that we can’t be trusted not to vote ourselves bread and circuses every time and so enacting term limits.

        What do you base that upon? The average length of time in office for individuals Congress has slowly and steadily increased over the years rather than declining.

        How can you support the belief that we, the People can be trusted not to just apathetically vote incumbent?

      • Stoutcat says:

        Clearly, we as a nation have, in general voted apathetically for the incumbent for decades. I’m hoping that this trend will change come November, and that we will all learn a lesson about whom we choose to represent us. Unless they then become the new “entrenched incumbents,” in which case we will deserve everything we get.

    • Gerry Ashley says:

      I think you both have good points. But I don’t think the solution has to be at one extreme or the other.

      The problem I have with term limits is that if you get someone in office who actually DOES their job well and is a true credit to the Senate or House, they should be re-electable.

      My solution is to have some radical Congressional Reform (hey, they wanted to do it to our healthcare… we can do it to their golden goose).

      I’m talking about a national, grass-roots effort or public referendum whereby the position of Congressman is completely redefined from salary right down to benefits. Make it an affordable salary so they aren’t likely to go looking for (ahem) contributions from lobbyists etc.

      The pay could be linked to the economy. If they do a good job and the economy expands, so does their salary (within a modest range). If, however, the economy tanks and it’s because of poor action or worse, NO action on the part of congress, their pay is diminished.

      The automatic 100% Pension even for one-termers? GONE. There’s no excuse for that obescenity.

      Special healthcare? GONE. They get what they impose on the public.

      Although it might not be constitutional, how about implementing the ability to file for a no-confidence vote in the event a Congressman turns out to be a really foul person and is caught doing wrong… like finding out they are taking money from lobbyists illegally or that their lover is running a prostitution ring from their home. I still don’t know how that one slipped by with no punishment for the offensive Rep.

      I would also like to see a recall or vote of no confidence extended to ALL elected positions… including President.

      I just don’t think the solution needs to be at the far end of either spectrum.

  2. Bob Earnest says:

    I like the idea of puncutated term limits. For example, you can serve only 2 consecutive terms in a given office, then you must vacate. But, you can run for that office again in the future after a one-term break in service.

    If you were really good, the voters will reward you with another stint in office. This method would help to break the power circle that incumbents develop, but still allow good candidates another chance at the office.

  3. Solana2012 says:

    I still think their salary should be the average income of their individual state; their incentive would be to promote more jobs in their state, better job-training, etc, because as the average income raises so would their own salary. Most of their benefits/perks need to go (should individually be equal to the average “perks” of those employed in their respective state).

    • Stoutcat says:

      Hi Solana, welcome back! I think that’s a great idea. The only problem I see is that it might encourage our public servants to work even harder at bringing pork barrel projects back to their own home districts: more pork = bigger salaries = higher average income. But definitely worthy of discussion!

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