The Shot That Will Be Heard Round the Halls of Congress

by | Feb 28, 2024 | Opinion

Upwards of 80% of Americans favor term limits, yet entrenched politicians in Congress – and the lobbyists who need them to advance their special interests – have found ways of quashing them time after time. As the years roll by, cynics might say that the Republic has survived. Sure, the United States of America continues on, but honest observers must concede that with the absence of a true citizen legislature, the standing of its citizens – that’s you – is eroding.

The American people have become like puppeteers whose increasingly lifeless puppet has been detached, little by little, from the strings connecting it to our control.

America’s great middle class – once the envy of the world – has steadily shrunk over the past 50 years. The special interests who fund incumbents are looking out for everybody but us. And so we get higher taxes, lower incomes, and bigger government. The same dynamic has also played out in the political sphere, with a larger and more bureaucratic government weakening personal liberty.

The terrorist threat and crime wave that have breached our collapsed Southern border are more indications of the erosion of the American way of life. So, in addition to the well-reported opioid crisis in America, something that rightly concerns all of us, there is another plague in the land – politicians addicted to being in office – the subject of my new book on the need for term limits, “Unshackling Democracy.”

Whether the onus of high taxes or the decline in decent jobs is your top priority, or your right and duty to pass on your traditional values to your children, you should be very concerned that the cords by which “we the people” control our government continue to get more and more threadbare. Congressional reform is, therefore, the fundamental correction that will make all our other priorities achievable.

It is fitting that Alabama be the place from which this reform is launched – not because we are the first state alphabetically but because this is the place where trust in the people has recently been breached. Congressman Gary Palmer publicly pledged to limit his term in office to ten years, a period of time which is due to expire in a few months. Although a decade in office already exceeds the six-year timeframe that term-limit proponents have long embraced, seeking to make life in Washington a career and violating a public pledge are two powerful reasons for sixth-district voters to fire the shot that will be heard all around the halls of Congress that Alabama is a state that respects constitutional principle and will lead the push to reform the Congress of the United States.

If elected to serve the people of this district – and my pledge to serve the people rather than serve my career interests is defined in part by my commitment to serve a maximum of three terms – I pledge to work to end careerism in Congress in the following ways.

First, foremost, and most difficult, we must introduce an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to impose term limits on members of Congress. Only by limiting U.S. senators to two six-year terms and members of the U.S. House of Representatives to three two-year terms can we tip the balance of power back to “we the people” and away from the economy-killing and government-expanding laws that entrenched politicians support at the behest of special interests.

Second, we must disallow shenanigans that enable politicians to profit at the public expense. Just as insider trading is illegal on Wall Street, it should certainly be forbidden in Washington. During the 2020 elections, 302 members of Congress accepted campaign donations from pharmaceutical companies totaling $14 million. Pfizer, which developed one of the COVID-19 vaccines and therefore had a vested interest in the outcome of congressional legislation, donated to 228 members through its PAC. Scandalously, 48 members of Congress invested in Pfizer.

By enacting tough rules requiring members of Congress to place their personal investment capital in a blind trust, we can stop them from benefiting from legislation they support or oppose. The current system creates too many opportunities for politicians to personally gain from their votes, blinding them to the best interests of the constituents who voted them into office to serve the public.

Third, we must stop Congress from exempting itself from the laws it imposes on the public at large. Members of Congress need to eat their own cooking. If Obamacare is such a terrific healthcare system, then members of Congress should not be gifted with premium contributions that are illegal on the Obamacare exchanges.

Among the numerous other rule changes on my agenda: requiring members of Congress to join the same pension system as all other federal employees; barring ex-members from becoming lobbyists for 10 years after serving in Congress; and blocking family members of current officeholders from lobbying or serving on foreign corporate boards.

The key to all of this is to reattach those strings to the marionettes of Congress to rods firmly held by the people. When Americans vote for tough, common-sense policies and get mutual backscratching and broken promises from those to whom they gave their trust, our democracy is in danger of dying. Congressional reform is the only way to imbue it with life once more. It’s a fact of human nature that the standing of private citizens will only rise when politicians once again fear the electorate. The time to accomplish this is now. Our democracy is hanging by a thread.

This article was originally published by RealClearPolitics and made available via RealClearWire.
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