Monday, February 07, 2011


By Ivan G. Goldman

Petitions to impose term limits circle the Web like mindless birds. Maybe you’ve seen them, maybe you’ve even signed them, which doesn’t make you mindless. It just means you probably haven’t thought this thing through.

We’re frustrated that government doesn’t seem to work in behalf of the people anymore. Health care works for insurance and drug companies, and foreign policy is crafted in favor of global corporations that see America as a farm field growing them dollars. When they’ve picked them all off the stalks they’ll just move on to another field. We also continue fighting wars that few of us believe in, but we can’t seem to get them stopped.

We don’t even have an energy policy.

Extended political terms for office-holders won’t solve any of this. Stopping them from taking bribes would sure help though. The bribes I’m talking about are often legal because the lawmakers made them so. They come in many forms -- not just campaign contributions. They’re jobs, financial opportunities, you name it. Shut down one source of income and twelve more pop up. Here are some you might know about:

* A congressman sponsors a Medicare prescription bill and the very next year goes to work for the corporations that wrote his legislation.

* The federal budget director quits and goes straight to Citi, which pays his salary, bonuses, stock options, and other perks with some of the billions it got from the government in zero-interest loans.

* The wife of a Supreme Court justice openly hangs a red light outside her home and invites in weasels desiring her favors. The justice-pimp fails to recuse himself from any of the cases involving her clients.

* In Los Angeles the mayor recently agreed to rent a huge swath of valuable real estate to a corporation that wants to build a football stadium there. Terms of the lease? The corporation pays a dollar a year. Oh, one more thing. The city’s convention center sits on part of the property. The mayor promises to tear down part of the building and put it on the other side to make room for the stadium. He’ll borrow $350 million to get that done. Incidentally, an NFL team plays about 10 home games a year. The rest of the time the land will be a closed-off, concrete wasteland. Last year he closed down summer school. Lack of funds, he said.

People are so desperate for a cure to these ills that they sign silly petitions, figuring any change has got to be for the better. Not so. Some changes make things worse. California already has term limits and it has one of the worst Legislatures around. The lobbyists who run the capital have no term limits, and their superior knowledge and experience give them even more leverage over legislators still trying to find the restrooms.

Why worry about how long politicians stay on the job? We could change them every month and still be in the same mess. Let’s stop the bribery. Then if we get a good office-holder, let’s hang on to her.