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Yet Another Term Limits Scam

Thursday, January 8th, 2015

It’s like a matryoshka, the Russian wooden doll hiding another doll hiding another until you finally reach a black hole in the “inside.” That’s what the politicians’ referendum, Issue 3 — to more than double Arkansas’s legislative term limits — turned out to be: nearly endless nested scams.

Among other layers of the Issue 3 con game that not enough Arkansans stripped off before voting day, the measure narrowly passed last November pretended to be “setting” term limits as if anew. So maximum tenure in a particular legislative seat has now been stretched from eight to 16 years in Arkansas’s senate, six to 16 in its house.

In short, the worst has happened.

Wait. The worst?

Not exactly. It’s dolls within dolls: each one smaller, but each more of a “doozy” than the previous.

Now Arkansas incumbents and special interests want the amendment to be understood as something more than massively expanded tenure. They also want to re-start the term-limits clock. If they get their way, the 16 years a lawmaker may serve would start with the passage of Issue 3 just months ago, rather than the 1992 amendment.

State Senator Jon Woods (who helped craft the measure) asked Arkansas’s attorney general to “clarify” the matter.

Did this notion just occur to Woods, or was it part of his original scam, er, strategy?

The Northwest Arkansas Times called Woods’s rationalization for super-sizing already elongated term limits “hogwash.”

Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel agrees. His just issued opinion lacks the word “hogwash,” but denies previous-serving politicians 16 additional matryoshkas — er, years.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Merry Congressional Term Limits

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014

In the spirit of giving, good will, peace, harmony, and important institutional reform, how about giving ourselves and our posterity a generous helping of congressional term limits?

I mean a maximum lifetime tenure of “three (3) House terms and two (2) Senate terms and no longer limit,” as spelled out in the U.S. Term Limits Amendment Pledge that U.S. Term Limits invites candidates and congressmen to sign.

Alas, don’t expect a stack of 535 signed pledges.

Merry ChristmasAlso, don’t expect a constitutional term limit amendment proposed by Congress to be wrapped up in a bow under our Christmas trees this holiday season . . . or the next. That gift, which our elected representatives could give to us, is not on the list they check twice.

We the people can only secure this reform by relentless pressure and activism. This very commitment is the gift we can give ourselves right now.

I’ve been fighting for term limits for decades. (Never mind how many!) But at the moment, I’m just echoing the heartwarming sentiment posted at the TermLimitsforUSCongress Facebook page: “The greatest gift that we could give to our children would be to stand together and put an end to the corrupt career politicians in the U.S. Congress.”

Term Limits for U.S. Congress is not to be confused with the nation’s leading grassroots organization fighting for the reform, U.S. Term Limits — especially since the U. S. House term limits proposed by TLUSC is more generous than either I or USTL can sign onto.

But giving ourselves the gift of congressional term limits? On that essential question, we are merrily of one mind.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Saving Term Limits

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

Most ballot measures to enact term limits triumph. According to U.S. Term Limits, 100 percent of such measures did so in last November’s elections. Voters also rebuff most attempts to weaken or repeal term limits.

But not all.

Politicians who loathe term limits often use all their resources and cunning to assail them. Occasionally they claw out a victory. Thus, last month Arkansas voters narrowly approved a multi-deceptive ballot measure with provisions to weaken the state’s legislative term limits. The measure passed despite everything pro-term-limit activists could do to expose the dirty tricks.

On the other hand, anti-term-limits forces in Prince Georges County, Maryland narrowly failed to flabbify term limits from two four-year terms to three four-year terms despite generous funding of the anti-term-limits campaign (primarily by local developers).

Much of the credit for saving Prince Georges term limits goes to University of Maryland sophomore Shabham Ahmed, creator of nothreeterms.com, who campaigned relentlessly against the measure. Ahmed believes that the vote was close only because some voters misunderstood what the measure would do; voters “do get caught up in the political propaganda.”

“People are tired of politicians in our county as it is,” she says. “Extending term limits would only increase the likelihood of creating a regime in politics, and voters don’t want that.”

No, we don’t.

But the politicians want that. And they’re not done yet.

Fortunately for the residents of Prince Georges County, defenders of term limits like Shabham Ahmed aren’t either.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Day One Experience

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

A woman starts a new job. She has experience in accounting, learning, getting things done; no experience in that particular job in that particular office. Within days, though, she impresses her new boss with her skill and productivity. She knows what to do and she’s doing it.

True story.

Perplexed? Shocked? Can’t happen?

If that’s your response, I’m betting that you’re not anybody who has ever had to leave one job and start another — and make yourself worth your salary in that new job.

I’m betting that you are, rather, a would-be permanent officeholder facing term limits who has just been telling a reporter how long it takes — years, right? — to get the lay of the land. Then, just as you’re figuring out the difference between a bill and a law, boom! comes your term limit. Ergo, no matter how effectively term limits foster electoral competition or thwart political corruption, they must be repealed or at least drastically diluted.

Is that your story?

If so, I suggest that you resign and make way for a more conscientious student of life and work.

Leaders find ways to get a handle on complexities, to prioritize, to delegate. To the extent that knowing about the budget, lawmaking procedures, and so on would be helpful before starting the lawmaker job, how about studying up beforehand? If the budget is confusing, how about talking to policy analysts or accountants? I could get you in touch with some good ones.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

The Next Election

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

Elections are wonderful, even when the results are awfully hard to take. Last night in Arkansas, Issue 3 passed very narrowly — in a sea of voter confusion.

That confusion had been instilled by disinformation in the ballot wording.

The win for Issue 3 means the term limits on state legislators will now be dramatically weakened from six to 16 years in the state’s House and from eight to 16 years in the Senate.

Plus, a new commission appointed by legislators is now poised to give legislators a big, fat pay raise.

The politicians who schemed up Issue 3 are slippery smart. Give them that. They slipped a doubling of their allowed terms in office as well as a scam to hike their pay into a constitutional amendment featuring a popular partial ban on lobbyist gift-giving to legislators. Oh, and the measure will also add an extra year’s delay before a legislator can switch-hit to work as a lobbyist.

Still, the respected Talk Business/Hendrix College poll repeatedly demonstrated that telling voters what the measure actually did — the popular gift ban as well as the unpopular weakening of term limits — led voters to overwhelmingly come down against the ballot measure, weeks ago by 62 to 23 percent.

But on the ballot, while voters were told about the measure “barring gifts from lobbyists,” they were not told about the doubling of the term limit. Instead, the ballot language deceptively said the measure was “setting term limits.”

A strong grassroots campaign crisscrossed the state trying to alert folks, but confusion reigned. On Facebook, countless early voters were angry to find they’d been duped:

“I was fooled, we ought to petition to revote on that issue with wording that is straightforward and not so obfuscated.”

“I, too, was misled into voting for it. The ballot printed version is an out right lie!”

“It was set up to be tricky . . . I caught it, but there are a lot who won’t!”

“Dang! It is a trick question! I voted wrong!!!!”

One friend of mine, no fan of term limits, offered, “For all of our other differences, I’m with you on this. It’s a bait-and-switch designed to snooker the electorate.”

An Arkansas Term Limits leader noted that the Yes on Issue 3 campaign “pursued a campaign of silence, letting the deceptive ballot title do their work.”

Sen. Woods (R-Springdale), who co-authored the measure with a House Democrat, slyly told reporters, “I would advise anyone going to the ballots to read Issue Three and tell me it is not a good bill.”

“For this to fail,” he added, “it would send a bad message to law makers. Because, it would just show people aren’t necessarily that big on us working together.”

Woods even dubbed Issue 3, “bipartisanship at its best.”

The senator and the forces of boss rule are about to meet a bipartisan grassroots at its best.

“If this passes, it’s because many voters were tricked,” explained Kay Carico Wilson days ago. “Lots of people are saying they did not understand it and voted the wrong way. The interesting thing is that many Conservatives and Liberals are equally upset over this. We have found some common ground.”

It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature; it’s not wise to trick the voters. To these deceivers, the politicians who cheated the people of Arkansas: There will be another election.

See you there.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

My Simpler Solution

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

Merry Election Day! Despite this weekend’s proposal, in the New York Times, to “Cancel the Midterms.” The authors, David Schanzer and Jay Sullivan, begin by lamenting the predictable pattern of midterm elections, especially in second-term presidencies. And then they say the very existence of midterms — the mere possibility of the House and a third of the Senate reshuffling every two years — “is harmful to American politics.”

The main impact of the midterm election in the modern era has been to weaken the president, the only government official (other than the powerless vice president) elected by the entire nation. . . . The realities of the modern election cycle are that we spend almost two years selecting a president with a well-developed agenda, but then, less than two years after the inauguration, the midterm election cripples that same president’s ability to advance that agenda.

The nut of the argument comes down to the notion that it would be best to rig the game to avoid conflict and dispute for as long as possible so that an “agenda” — whatever that may be — can be firmly put in place.

It’s the very opposite idea of the Founding Fathers’, who were trying to set up a system of checks and balances to preclude big, barely popular change. And who feared a powerful executive.

The Midterm Cancellation proposal gets absurd towards the end, where the authors tack on legislative term limits — an awfully generous 24 years — to counteract the extended terms their proposal requires.

Counteroffer: let’s start with term limits. Real ones.

Break up the incumbency power in our sclerotic Congress; don’t rob the people of biannual input.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Burkina Faso and Arkansas

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

Maybe Burkina Faso, in northwest Africa between Mali and Niger, isn’t the easiest “Jeopardy” question for most of us in the U.S. But any place that’s seen massive protests because the head of state tried to escape term limits becomes pretty memorable to me.

In fact, the first region that pops into my head as a point of comparison and contrast is my own home state of Arkansas.

There are big differences in the respective battles over term limits, of course. In Burkina Faso, thousands clogged the streets after the 27-year presidential incumbent, Blaise Compaore, schemed to evade a constitutional term limit on his office. Facing unrelenting pressure, Compaore soon stepped down, not even awaiting the next election.

The furtive attempt to water down state legislative term limits in Arkansas hasn’t gotten as high on the radar there as the machinations in Burkina Faso. But the folks at Arkansas Term Limits (“vote AGAINST Issue #3”) have done much to publicize the scam, taking a wooden Trojan horse from town to town to vivify the point that the politicians bearing the “gift” of suspiciously eager self-reform have hidden a bomb at the bottom of the package: a doubling (or more) of their maximum permitted stay in a single legislative seat.

The media has started to pay attention. The story has gotten out.

Has it been enough? Have enough voters been reached to fend off the assault? When Tuesday’s results come in, we’ll know.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.