Daily 49er

Low approval rating of Congress is related to lack of term limits

Nick Chavez

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Not much positive news has come out of Congress lately. Congress has reached a public approval rating of 15 percent, a rating so low that it is considered historic. However, with such a terrible record of uncompromising partisanship that has rendered the government practically inactive, it is no wonder that so many people are dissatisfied.

Who could forget the summer of 2011, when the U.S., in a midst of an economic crisis, nearly declared default for the first time in its history?

When the nation needed strong leadership and decision making, it instead received an organized mob arguing amongst itself like schoolchildren, the result of such sheer pettiness causing the downgrade of the U.S. credit rating.

More recently, Congress again proved its stubborn inability to act when the nation was reaching the “fiscal cliff.” Once again Congress failed to lead the country in a time of need. Congress has failed the people that have elected it to power, yet the same members of Congress are constantly re-elected at the end of each term.

This cycle of election and re-election has created something the Founding Fathers had never anticipated, and it is currently harming the nation. What we have is a group of “career politicians.” A career politician is defined as a politician who, instead of holding a political office for a short period of time, remains in office until retirement. An example of such would be Nancy Pelosi, a California congresswoman and former Speaker of the House. Pelosi has been in and out of Congress since 1987 and holds office to this day. This is not uncommon as nearly 87 percent of incumbents were re-elected in the 2010 elections.

These incumbents have the money, name recognition and organization methods that challengers generally do not have, making it difficult for a lesser known, small-time politician to succeed.

Political offices were never meant to be held by the same people for years at a time, even if the people did elect them time and again. When the Founding Fathers first created the Constitution, they assumed that most Americans who entered office would do so out of a sense of public duty and would resign after one or two terms, following the example set by George Washington himself.
As such, they felt that term limits were unnecessary, and to this day there are no term limits for congressmen specified in the Constitution.

However, current events show that this sense of “public duty” is no longer what it was during Washington’s time. Congressmen are abusing the lack of official term limits to stay in power for years at a time, all the while enjoying the benefits of being in office, such as the high pay, generous pension, health care funded by tax revenue and lucrative connections to powerful enterprises.

The current broken system creates an atmosphere that separates Congress from the common man and is so instilled in partisan gridlock that it forgets the very reason for its existence: to serve the people who placed them in power.

In a time when people call for health care reform, let them also call for another type of reform: congressional term limits.

Term limits would create a Congress that is better in touch with the people, a Congress that is aware of the modern world and modern issues. Term limits would eliminate career politicians from the system, allowing fresh ideas to enter Congress from a constant, steady supply of new congressmen.

But most importantly, they would give Congress back to the people and create a free, active government.

Nick Chavez is an undeclared freshman and a contributing writer for the Daily 49er

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