Thursday, April 30, 2009

Term limits a hit at Tax Day tea parties

Since Rick Santelli made his call for a new Boston Tea Party on CNBC in February, activists have been throwing tea party demonstrations across the nation protesting corporate bailouts and economic 'stimulus.' Then on April 15, citizens across America participated in over 800 tea parties on a single day. Spontaneously, the call for term limits was heard at many or most of these rallies.

I saw term limits signs at the tea parties I attended in West Palm Beach and Tallahassee, Florida, and on the rally coverage they showed on CNBC. Everyone I talked to saw term limits signs at their rallies too, and a Google and YouTube search shows that term limits signs were ubiquitous. No organization was promoting this; it was a spontaneous display of citizen conviction.

It is quite natural when you think about it. The frustration that led to the rallies is the recognition that the Congress (with the Treasury and The Fed) are doling out trillions to special interests even as the people suffering from a deep recession. Clearly, these citizens feel that the U.S. Congress is not representing them, but instead AIG, Bank of America, Freddie and Fannie, General Motors, the United Auto Workers, etc. This helpless feeling in the face of special interest influence is the same that pulls citizens into the term limits movement.

Citizens are correct they are not being represented. Incumbent Congress members retake their seats about 95% of the time with minimum of effort, as they either run unchallenged or face vastly underfunded challengers, often gadflies. They hold these seats for decades and then run the Congress by right of seniority. As demonstrated by the Cato Institute, tenure in office is highly correlated to increased spending patterns. Hence, the unbeatable who spend the most run the show.

The only solution is the lost American tradition of rotation in office, where citizens can generate genuine change at the ballot box if they are sufficiently motivated. The 94.8% reelection rate we saw in the U.S. House in November is not 'change' not matter how presidents or pundits try to spin it. And, hence, we are getting the same thing we have gotten for the last decade -- more spending, more debt, more economic intervention.

If we want a stop to skyrocketing spending, debt, bailouts and the taxes that are a necessary consequence, we need representatives that are closer to the people. The nation should heed the tea partiers' call for term limits.