Friday March 6, 2015
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At last! Some facts.
People who are for term limits list ten goals of term limits to show why term limits are a good thing. Here they are:
To bring in new faces.
I mentioned Number 4 yesterday while talking about George Will's book.
What do you say we take one goal each day and see how well they were, or were not, met? That'll give you time to comment.
Don't forget that the goals and the yes or no answers come from one of the studies, the 2004 study of what happened in two large American states which put them in effect as long ago as 1992.
I did NOT write the goals OR decide the yes or no. All I am doing is reporting what the studies said.
Under each goal and after each answer comes a short explanation of why the study rated a yes or no in achieving the goal.
Sometimes the explanation comes from both books, but sometimes it comes from only one of them because the Carey study done in Costa Rica and Venezuela could not, or did not, cover some of the goals.
I'll just remind you that Carey compared what happened in Costa Rica where there were term limits to what went on in Venezuela where there were none, and only added in evidence gathered in the U. S. if it was available, which was not often true in 1995 when he wrote.
I have done my best to give you those "whys" exactly as they appear in the books, but I had to dig them out of the chapters here and it was not easy. Nevertheless, I swear on my mother's grave that I have not in any way edited them to alter them, change their meaning, or leave out anything important.
Okay, here we go.
Goal 1. To increase the percentage of people voting:
Did it happen?
No. The percentage of voters decreased.
Because of the way district lines are drawn one party tends to be stronger in each district. With term limits the parties tend to spend money only in districts where they are assured a victory. Therefore, primary elections may attract voters under term limits, but general elections do not.
For Michigan and California general elections the differences were:
1988 52.1% voted
2002 48.8% voted
1988 42.7% voted
2002 27.1% voted
The Carey book did not research this goal.
My first post is now my second post and vice-versa, but it wasn't way yesterday when I put them up. How about it, Pat? You open the door and let the gremlins back in? :-)
Goal 2. To reduce the power of the incumbency
No. The power of incumbency increased.
Here's data from 1979 to 1989, prior to term limits in either state:
Michigan: 65% of seats had a new incumbent each year
California: 70% of seats had a new incumbent each year
Here's data after term limits were introduced in each state:
Michigan: No more than one incumbent loss each year after 1992
California: No more than one incumbent loss each year after 1996
The reason: With term limits, people usually do not challenge an incumbent because it is easier to run for an open seat, so the incumbent runs unopposed. And when the seat is open there is usually a landslide victory for the party of the legislator who left the seat.
Because Costa Rican law does not permit anyone to run for office two terms in a row, the power of the incumbency is not covered in the Carey book, but he does get into the discussion after this goal.
Maybe I am not understanding.
How do you have a new incumbent?
Except when I make it very plain that I am summarizing in these little reports, I am forced to use the exact wording that the studies used. If I began changing their wording I could be accused of twisting things around, so I stick to the exact phrases they use except when I make it plain that I have had to dig around in several places and summarize what the study said.
"New incumbent." That one's a pip, isn't it?
Basically, what it means is that the person who had the office before the election was no longer in it after the election, and so there was a new person in the office, who therefore became the "new incumbent" for the next election. And don't ask me why they put it that way. They didn't say.
So, in Michigan for example, from 1979 to 1989, 65% of seats did not have the same person in them after the election that they had in them before the election. And then after 1992 no more than one incumbent lost his seat in each election.
I have been very careful to use the terms used in the studies. I have tried to be reporter, not a filter.
Goal 3. To increase the number of citizen legislators.
No. The number of citizen legislators decreased.
Under term limits legislators are more likely to have had prior political jobs. This is because political experience is required to succeed in an election for an open seat.
Before term limits 65% of newcomers said they would either retire or return to the private sector. After term limits that number dropped to 57.1%.
Before term limits only 60% of legislators ran for other political offices after they left office. After term limits the percentage was 75.7%.
The Carey book goes on forever on this subject, but sums it up this way:
"Term limits do not necessarily eliminate political careerism among legislators, even where they preclude parliamentary careers. Most Costa Rican legislators have substantial political experience prior to their election as legislators, and they overwhelmingly seek to continue their political careers after their Assembly service."
Send our incumbents to Costa Rica.
Can't help but ask the question whether any of the studies examined other concurrent factors besides term limits that may have played a part in bringing about the reported results... did they offer any empirical evidence of direct causal relationship between the statistics before term limits and those they reported after? Did they all approach the issue with the notion that term limits were purported to be the magic bullet, but if the stats didn't show an immediate 180 then the idea was written off as a failure? Did any of them view term limits in the context of simply one facet of many various means to a desired end?
Thanks for asking, MJ.
"Can't help but ask the question whether any of the studies examined other concurrent factors besides term limits that may have played a part in bringing about the reported results… "
The mode of operation of the two studies was to gather numerical data re the goals of term limits laid out during the campaigns for term limits. They took specific promises of changes made during those campaigns and saw whether or not the changes happened. Once they had gathered the numerical data they then looked for causes. The short explanations under each goal as we go along are summaries of what they believed to be the causes.
"...did they offer any empirical evidence of direct causal relationship between the statistics before term limits and those they reported after?"
The researchers took an objective look at what was before, and what was after. Their approach was to publish the results in a before-and-after format, which is what you are seeing. They did search for and find the reasons for what happened. So far, having only looked at three goals, we have yet to see most of those reasons, but they become apparent as the study goes on. I've chosen to go one goal a day because otherwise so much information would have been dumped on everyone, all at once, that there would have been no way to have a discussion.
"Did they all approach the issue with the notion that term limits were purported to be the magic bullet, but if the stats didn't show an immediate 180 then the idea was written off as a failure? "
No, they did not look only at immediate results. The study lasted a long time. I believe, having looked very closely at the two books, that there was no preconceived ideas or hidden agendas.
"Did any of them view term limits in the context of simply one facet of many various means to a desired end?"
No, as far as I can see they stayed strictly within the limits of their study, which only looked at the evidence regarding the success of term limits in achieving the goals set for them. I don't think they would have dared to stray into the question of other means of achieving the same goals because that would have made the study suspect, since it would have suggested they were in favor of the goals (because they were looking for other methods of achieving the same outcomes).
BUT! When we get done looking at the goals and see what happened, realizing that they were goals whose purpose was to rid ourselves of conditions we don't want, then it becomes time to step back, take a hard look, and go at it again. Right?
Don't worry, we'll get there!
Goal 4. To increase sensitivity to the wishes of the constituents.
Yes and no. It does, but only if it helps legislators get a future job. Otherwise the answer is no.
With term limits legislators are less likely to be sensitive to the desires of their constituents. This is particularly true if voting for the needs of their constituents makes it less likely they will be elected to a new political office after they leave the one they have. Since they can't stay in office, this problem is particularly pronounced.
The Carey book says the same thing. Politicians are sensitive to the wishes of their constituents only if it helps them get a future job.
Carey adds, "A second conclusion is that term limits do not necessarily eliminate behavior associated with pure personal electioneering among legislators. Costa Rican legislators, despite their absolute lack of personal electoral connection with constituents, still devote tremendous amounts of energy to providing favors for constituents and pork-barrel barrel spending projects for specific communities."
The Constitution gave us term limits. It's called the popular vote! If we don't vote, we don't have the right to complain about the results, the elected or the results of the elected's vote.
The hardest question of all? Why do I want to keep this person in office? Do you gain from their
power, do they reflect your principles? Do you simple recognize their name in the ballot booth?
The simple truth, in a representative Democratic/Republic, the public must...MUST...be involved. We have become a pay the people to be stupid Democracy where those who want, vote. Those who work, don't. That may not be totally accurate but I'll wager it rings true among more than you might imagine. I don't mean that those who work don't care, it's just that most of them who don't vote and have a reason, don't care. They are the problem. "had to work"...polls are open late and early. "my vote doesn't count" that's because you didn't cast it. "registering means I may have to do jury duty" You lazy Basta&^. That's what it's all about. Life is not about your boat or house or what school your kids go to. That will end quickly. Perhaps more quickly than we think. This Country was founded on the principle that all of us have a stake in the future of all of us. Not on what we can get, but what we can give. When we lost that......We lost it all...That's why we have to get reinvolved.
You said a lot!
"That will end quickly."
That worries me more than anything. I don't know exactly how me managed to do it, but we have gone from the wealthiest nation on the planet to a debtor country. And I don't know exactly what's wrong (where we are spending too much money) because we are at the mercy of extremists on both ends of the spectrum who just plain lie, so it's very hard to tell the truth from the hype. But somehow or other we have to VERY gently get back to a balanced national budget and to begin to pay off the national debt. It didn't pile up in ten years and it won't be paid off in ten years, but if we make an honest effort we can do it.
Goal 5. To gain independence from bureaucratic influence
No. Term limits give bureaucrats more power.
With term limits legislators are less experienced than before, and they are also aware that they are not going to stay in office. They both have less time to learn the more complex parts of their job and are less motivated to do it. The result is that they come to rely far more upon bureaucrats than before. (My note: This data comes from the legislators themselves, who said it in answer to a survey.)
The Carey book, which contains some research taken from roll call votes of the U. S. House of Representatives, lumps together the issues of the power of bureaucracy and that of special interests, and addresses them this way:
First Carey quotes from another study (Herrick and Nixon 1994: p. 13-14):
"Members who were forced out of office remained interested in politics and furthered their political careers in pressure politics** or in the bureaucracy."
Then Carey goes on to say: "This result is entirely consistent, of course, with the general conclusions reached throughout this book. The next obvious question is, of course, whether ambitious legislators who knew they were about to be forced out of office, and knew exactly when, would alter their behavior while in office so as to improve their prospects of securing a job on the other side of the revolving door. The evidence from Costa Rica and from U. S. House roll call evidence certainly suggests that legislators are sensitive to the wishes of their future employers."
** (My note) By "pressure politics" they mean lobbying.
It really comes back to the citizen voters, they must pay attention to the people who are running for office, know their background and listen to their political speech. Voters must determine, after careful consideration, if they are the person that they want representing them. It Aint easy. You must not be influenced by "I can help you get.... or......'it's your tax dollars and I'll get them coming back to you'.... Or....any promise that offers you safety, prosperity, security or anything else. Those are things we must get for ourselves and the people we send to Washington are supposed to make sure that we can and nothing more. Sadly, the Washington elite have come to believe that they are somehow superior and know what's best for us minions. They have come to believe they are wiser and have been chosen to be our protectors and providers. We must burst their bubble, and sink them lower than the housing market and maybe, just maybe, they will understand that they are the butler and the maid, not the owner and the boss.
Next question coming is... Why do we pay them more than we make?
Goal 6. To gain independence from special interest lobbyists.
No. Term limits give special interests more power.
As in the case of the effect of term limits on the power of bureaucrats, legislators are less experienced than before after the passage of term limits, and they are acutely aware that they are not going to stay in office. They have less time to are learn the more complex parts of their jobs and are less motivated to do it. The result is that they come to rely far more upon special interest lobbyists than before. In addition, the fact that they will soon be out of a job quite often leads them seek positions with the very special interests that term limits were supposed to weaken.
I'll repeat what Carey said in Goal 5 in case you missed it:
First it quotes from another study (Herrick and Nixon 1994: p. 13-14):
"Members who were forced out of office remained interested in politics and furthered their political careers in pressure politics or in the bureaucracy."
Goal 7. To create a merit-based system for party leadership positions
No. Party control increases, rather than decreases, under term limits.
Choice leadership positions in parties are prime sources of reelection. They go to legislators who need them, not to ones who merit them. After term limits are in place legislators often complain that they are required to vote for caucus leaders just days after they were elected, and even before they have been sworn in.
I'm going to sum up the Carey statements because they ramble all over the place. Basically what he says is that when legislators no longer have to rely on voters for their careers they become more attached to their parties and they do whatever the party tells them to do. That may be to vote with the wishes of the voters or may be to vote against them. What his book shows is that in most cases they vote the way that will get them a future job.
Goal 8. More opportunities for legislators to move on to higher office.
Yes. The trend is from the house to the senate and from there to another office.
Comment: I don't understand this goal, but it was listed in the book so I included it. It seems to conflict with Goal 3 (to increase the number of citizen legislators). What Goal 3 means is that people get elected, serve their term or terms, and then go back into the private sector.
So why is wanting elected officials to go into higher office after leaving in the legislature, instead of just going home, a goal of term limits? I don't understand, but the book listed it and said it was achieved and that's that.
Carey does not comment on this puzzling goal.
Goal 9. To reduce gridlock.
Yes. But not in the way it was intended to happen.
One prime goal of term limits was to reduce gridlock, a situation where the two parties lock horns and nothing can be accomplished.
At the state level, the only level where term limits have been implemented, it is true that gridlock has been reduced, but the way in which it has been reduced is not the way it was intended to happen.
Because of the weakening of the legislature caused by term limits the governor has gained power. Since the governor has increased power, at any time when the legislature is dominated by the same party to which the governor belongs the governor is able to whip party members into voting as a bloc to get measures passed.
And when the party to which the governor belongs is not in power the majority party knows it is useless to try to convince members of the minority party to vote against party dictates. Therefore, fewer measures are entered into the hopper by the majority party, creating the illusion of an absence of gridlock, without the reality.
Carey did not study gridlock.
Goal 10. To bring in new faces.
Yes. Terms limits bring a constant flow of new faces into the legislature.
Carey agrees. More new faces.
(Good thing, too. If they hadn't come up with one straight yes answer you'd have shot me. :-)
It appears that term limits are a flop. In the important goals set by term limits supporters they do the exact opposite of what was wanted. They disconnect us from the legislature even worse than before. They give bureaucrats and special interests even more power. They give incumbency even more power. And they don't get out the vote.
So where does that leave us?
I feel that a lot of people haven't been saying much because the results of the studies hadn't all been put up yet.
In all fairness to people who supported term limits we need to sit back, take a very careful look at the results of the studies that were done, and discuss them before we move on.
I have some, but I'll hold them a couple of days until I'm sure that everyone is satisfied with the studies.
studies. statistics, percents and some ones Wild A-- Guess is all about the same.
Anything can be done with them.
Any other comments before I make mine?
Draw a circle on your computer screen and then slowly bang your head in it. (:
Okay, here are my comments.
First, as to the studies. I read both books very carefully and could find no obvious bias, so I accept them as being valid studies. Which means I accept what they say, namely that term limits don't do what they were supposed to do.
PS: If anyone would like to read the books I'd be happy to mail them to you. Just send me an e-mail through the Roundup and they'll be in the mail.
Secondly, as to term limits themselves. They were a lashback at people in office who were not doing what we wanted them to do and a government that we see as not in our control.
Third, what now?
Well if there is anything that we all agree upon I think it is that we are unhappy with the way the government, and in particular the federal government, is running.
The fundamental goal of term limits was to change that. People thought that by getting rid of career politicians they could fix what was wrong.
Okay. Maybe that didn't work, but that doesn't mean we give up. It's our government, not theirs, and we have a Constitution that says how it should run. I think it would be honest to say we want our government back. We want it to run as it ran at first. We want it to run as the Constitutional planners intended it should run.
But one thing I learned a scientist (which is basically how I think of myself) is that no problem ever gets solved until someone asks the right question.
So let's ask a question. What is wrong? What one basic tenet of the Constitution is being ignored?
My answer would be: The principle of "one-man-one-vote."
In other words, what happens in Phoenix and in Washington is more what special interests want to happen than what you and I want to happen. For example, a handful of CEO's sent a letter to the AZ Senate and they dropped ALL the bills targeting the illegals problem. How many CEO's? Let's exaggerate and say 100. Okay, if 100 citizens, or even 1000 citizens, or even 10000 citizens, wrote a letter to the AZ Senate would they do the same thing? No? Then there's the problem. Undue influence.
That means that two of the major goals of term limits were aimed right at the bullseye.
Naturally, that brings up a second question: HOW do special interests operate? Where do they apply the pressure?
If we answer that question, and IF we--as a state and as a nation--change it, then perhaps we can get the nation running under the Constitution again.
You are on the air.
A most amazing string. I'm not surprised at the lack of response because you gave us a holiday meal and a lunch break to consume it.
I was until recently in favor of term limits for politicians, any and all. Research, however, led me down a different path.
It began with the passing of the 17th Ammendment. That stole the power of the states say in Washington. It seemed like the democratic thing to do, give people the choice of who our Senators are but we failed to realize that we had that power on the State level. We elect our State representatives and Senators. Prior to the Ammendment, State legislators determined who would represent the state in the Federal Senate. Two from each State carried the States message.
Today we think we want term limits because we voters can't control who is voted in, in other states.
Tom and his research is absolutely right on. Term limits won't help. In fact repeal the term limit on the President of the United States, Repeal the 17th Ammendment. Put the power of the people back in the hands of the people and make voting mandatory. Oops. I may have gone to far. :)
The problem was predicted nearly two hundred years ago when a frenchman told us that our Republic would last only until the elected learned they could stay in power by giving our money back to us for votes. Look it up.
You know one thing that the studies I read showed up, something I hadn't really thought about?
They showed that the political parties actually run this country.
Think about it. Who do we get to vote for? People put up by the two parties. If they don't put a person up he doesn't even get considered. So, if the parties have an agenda, and you want to run for office, you have to work within that agenda or you are one of the outsiders.
So what we have is two parties controlled largely by extremists, each of them fighting for votes so they can get their extremist view of things pushed through.
I have always wondered why so many so-called conservatives were so far off the track. A conservative is someone who believes that we should run a la the Constitution. But when I read Barry Goldwater's "Conscience of a Conservative" he came across as a businessman, not as a conservative. There's a BIG difference. A conservative wants to keep everything operating within the original intent of the Constitution--including business. A pseudo-conservative wants NO controls on business, none whatsoever. But there HAVE to be SOME controls on everything. Otherwise we have a free for all battle for money, which is what we have at the moment. The Republican extremists want to take all our money for themselves through business channels; the Democrat extremists want to take all our money through taxes. Both of them offer to give back a little here and there. (Please note I said EXTREMISTS in both cases. The vast majority of people in either party are NOT extremists, but they are helpless against extremists who have a grip on their two parties.)
Want to meet a true conservative? Meet Dan V. Go back and read his posts.
So what do we do?
I don't know, but I can point out a good place to start.
It's obvious, of course. Create a viable third party, one which is truly conservative, conservative in the original meaning of the word.
How about the Tea Party? They look like they are just what we need. Not a perfect answer, but a good start toward weakening the grip of the two party system.
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