The title of this column is a quote from Ezra Benson, a member of President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s first cabinet. It is an apt quote at a time when politicians on both sides of the aisle are running America into the ground for the sake of maintaining their seats in Congress and the perquisites that go with those seats. If America ever needed good stewards instead of self-serving politicians, the time is now. Unfortunately, strong leaders who stand on principle and are willing to do what is best for America regardless of how it might affect their next election are hard to find in Washington, D.C. these days.
I fully understand that elected officials who love their jobs more than their country have always been with us, but it seems to me we have more of them now than ever. This is unfortunate because there has never been a time when America needed strong and principled leaders in government more than now. Instead, too many of those “serving” in Congress seem to be serving only themselves. Too many members of Congress are self-serving opportunists more concerned about the perquisites of their positions than the good of the country—men and women who base their beliefs on the results of opinion polls rather than enduring principles. This, more than any other factor, is why America’s standing in the world is declining, the economy is sputtering along on three cylinders, behaviors that were considered immoral to our grandparents are now considered normal and acceptable, and Barack Obama has been able to get away with adopting policies that are destructive to America’s best interests and future.
Unfortunately, we cannot vaccinate newly-elected members of Congress against Potomac Fever. Experience has shown over and over that self-interest eventually trumps stewardship in even the most idealistic members of Congress. Therefore, since we cannot change human nature, the best solution that suggests itself is term limits for Congressmen and Senators. Eighteen states and hundreds of counties have already established term limits for elected officials at those levels. In fact, men, women, blacks, whites, Republicans, and Democrats favor terms limits by majorities of 60 percent or higher.
Writing for The Heritage Foundation, Dan Greenberg had this to say about term limits for Congress: “Term limits are a vital political reform that would bring new perspectives to Congress, mandate frequent legislative turnover, and diminish the incentives for wasteful election-related-federal spending that currently flourish in a careerist congressional culture.” Greenberg goes on to list the following potential benefits of congressional term limits:
- Counterbalance the many advantages of incumbents.
- Secure independent judgment on the part of members of Congress.
- Provide a much-needed reality check.
- Minimize the incentives to members of Congress to engage in “pork-barrel” legislation.
- Restore respect for Congress.
Conservatives might want to consider how the current fiscal-cllff drama being acted out in Congress would be different if term limits were in place: 1) There would be no long-serving incumbents in Congress who could use coercion to pressure the newer members to vote against their principles, 2) Members of Congress would be more inclined to do what is best for the country than what is best for their next election, and 3) Members of Congress would be less dependent on the President, their political party, and senior members of Congress for their political futures. Hence they would be under less pressure to act or vote in ways that violate their principles. In other words, they would be more free to do what is good for America, which, after all, is what we elect them to do.