Posts Tagged ‘term limits’

Dr. Tom’s Reality Therapy: With Laughs! #4

June 27, 2018

Dr. Tom’s Reality Therapy: With Laughs! #4








It Is Natural To Abuse Power: Term Limits for America!

July 11, 2011

It Is Natural To Abuse Power: Term Limits for America!

Is it not plain to see that our politicians commonly use their positions of power to feather their own nests at the expense of the Republic and we, the people?

It is imperative that those who know how to bring such an initiative, bring a vote so Americans can set term limits upon their so-called political “servants”.

I’ll bet that Alexander Hamilton would agree.

VTM, 7/11/11

Founder's Quote Daily

“A fondness for power is implanted, in most men, and it is
natural to abuse it, when acquired.” –Alexander Hamilton, The Farmer Refuted,

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America Needs Term Limits IV

February 26, 2010

America Needs Term Limits IV

I have wondered how the poor starving people around the world who fight with each other over a limited supply of food or water dropped in their midst after some disaster or holocaust differ from us, as we fight for limited federal monies through our political representatives.

 I have also wondered how any of this is different from the hordes of hungry squawking sea gulls that fight with each over the limited supply of stale bread that I have thrown to them on the shores of my beloved Lake Michigan.

The principles are the same, desperate creatures fighting to get at a limited supply of sustenance (rewards or, more technically,  reinforcers). What do you expect?!

What do you think the old phrase, “All politics are local means”?

It means that, normally, people are primarily concerned with their own best interests. Put in pejorative terms, people are selfish and self-centered. So, what’s the big news about that? Our founding fathers designed our government, best they knew how, to take this basic fact of human (animal) nature into account. They really did an amazingly great  job of it!

However, they could never have imagined a technological, communication/ information, or economic-based America and world as it now exists.

One of the reasons that incumbents in congress virtually always win elections is because if they throw enough “bread” to their constituents (the sea gulls), their constituents naturally will “peck the keys” needed to keep the bread flowing. Why should they ever vote for someone who has not demonstrated the ability to keep the bread flowing into their pockets or projects?

A principle of behavioral psychology is the Matching Law. Simplified, it would predict that people will pull the voting  levers, at higher rates, for those individuals who provide them the highest rates of rewards, I.e., money and power to them and their locals. That is exactly what long-term incumbents are able to do best. Think of them as the keys that we pigeons peck maximize our rewards. This is truly a mutually addictive parasitic relationship, masquerading as a beneficial symbiotic relationship. The way to tell that it is an addictive parasitic relationship is that neither party can ever be satiated and  the relationship is killing the host, America.

In all of this, it would be better if our representatives (the money/power dispensers) were less effective.  It would seem good if they were just effective enough to make decisions that would be only moderately beneficial to their home regions and more beneficial to America as a whole.

This will require more than curtailing great contributions to politicians from special interest groups and implementing term limits. But, these appear to me to be very important steps in the right direction.

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D.

America Needs Term Limits III

February 25, 2010

America Needs Term Limits III

I am focusing upon term limits because I believe them to be the only available method for fighting what modern American Government has become, irrespective of the prevailing poliltical party.

The way I look at it:

Government for the Government and special interests, By the Government and special interests, and of the Government and special interests shall perish from this earth.

Yes, I imagine that Abraham Lincoln is rolling in his grave. God rest his soul.

For a brief statement of the history and the  problem under consideration, please read the quoted excerpt by William A. Holscher from Right Side News, which I have provided just below my name and the line that follows. 

Sampling that, I hope you will open his full article and read it all. The term limit issue is a critically important one that merits your time and full consideration.

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D., 2/24/10


Begin Quote.

Historical Perspective

Every government has a source of its sovereignty or authority, and most of the political structures of the U.S. government apply the doctrine of popular sovereignty. In previous centuries the source of sovereignty in some countries was the monarchy and the divine right of kings to rule. Americans place the source of authority in the people who, in a democratic society, reign. In this idea the citizens collectively represent the nation’s authority. They then express that authority individually by voting to elect leaders to represent them in government. “I know no safe repository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves,” wrote Thomas Jefferson in 1820, “and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them but to inform their discretion.” 1

Technology, geography, time, and distance mandated the representative structure our Founding Fathers established. However, they were much attuned to potential change and future unforeseen problems. Had Thomas Jefferson lived today, and saw the power and speed of technology, communication, and exponential societal interaction, he and our Founding Fathers would be considering a few structural government modifications.

Recognizing that future eras would face different sets of issues, challenges, and priorities, the Founding Fathers created an amendment process by which the Constitution could be altered. Article V of the Constitution grants this right, stating:

The Congress, whenever two-thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid, to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress.

The founders offered two mechanisms for changing the Constitution. The first is for the proposed bill to pass both halves of the U.S. Congress (House and Senate) by a two-thirds majority in each. Once the bill has passed both houses, it then goes to the states. While the Constitution does not impose a time limit on states for which to consider the amendment, Congress frequently includes one (typically seven years).

In order to become an amendment, the bill must receive the approval of three-fourths of the states (38 states). This approval can be generated through either a state convention or a vote of the state legislature. In either case, a majority vote is necessary for passage. Often, the proposed amendment specifies the route which is necessary.
The second method prescribed is for a Constitutional Convention to be called by two-thirds of the state legislatures (34 states), and for that Convention to propose one or more amendments. These amendments are then sent to the states to be approved by three-fourths of the legislatures or conventions. As of April, 2009 this method has never been used.

The Problem:

  • Government “…..of the people, by the people, and for the people” (Abraham Lincoln) has been replaced by special interest, ideology and political affiliation.
  • Career Congressional representatives utilize powerful financial support, special interests and political connections to maintain power while using public funds and influence to reward these supporters.
  • The free press has joined the list of ideological special interests to circumvent the will of the people. This professional group, who use to be governmental watchdogs for the general public, has abandoned their historical integrity for greed, ideology and political power.
  • The press, TV news commentators, academia, powerful corporate interests, unions, political parties, and other special interest lobbyists have joined forces to ideologically and politically direct the future of the United States of America.
  • Government will not correct these problems that keep the status quo and their political futures secure.
  • No constitutional mechanism currently exists for the US Citizen to collectively address and modify the lack of representation issue or overturn abusive special interest legislation.
  • People feel totally alienated from the governmental process. Too many US citizens feel their votes do not count and their voices unheard. Voting statistics support this issue.

America Needs Term Limits II

February 24, 2010

America Needs Term Limits II

Please  take time to consider these Pro and Con arguments regarding term limits in government. I believe that requiring term limits in Congress would greatly improve our representational government by returning more power to the people, where it belongs.

The information that follows is from

I hope  you will visit this site and carefully consider the following arguments.

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D.   2/24/10

The following is a direct quote.


Discussion of Arguments in Favor:

1. Overwhelmingly, voters prefer term limits.

Whenever statewide term limits is on a ballot, it wins overwhelmingly. This phenomenon may be due to the voter’s native common sense. This may be the most powerful argument in its favor. In other words, it appears that voters instinctively know that term limits is better for voters than  unlimited terms. In the 23 states that have the Initiative Process (where voters can petition to place issues on the ballot), 21 states have voted for and won statewide term limits. Whenever politicians have tried to end term limits, they have been resoundingly defeated, and repeatedly so.

2. Term Limits downgrades seniority, favors meritocracy.

Unlimited terms creates a need in the legislature for a seniority system, in which mediocre politicians thrive. If they can be reelected a few times, thereby earning the ‘right’ (by seniority, not by merit) to serve in important committees and chairmanships, they cement their chances of being reelected continuously, not because they deserve it, but only because of the power they wield and the media exposure they receive, enhancing their name recognition.

3. Term limits increases competition, encourages new challengers.

Seniority systems now in place in Congress discourage truly talented individuals from running for office, because even though they can win, they know they will have to wait years before they will get any recognition for their bills, or a seat on a good committee (much less a chairmanship!). With term limits in force, all legislators will be relatively new arrivals, and therefore seniority will be meaningless. Merit will become the selection method of choice.

4. Term limits builds a ‘citizen’ Congress, vs career or ‘professional’ politicians.

After a few years of term limits, both voters and politicians will recognize that the legislature is made up of real people, not just those ‘lousy career politicians’, and the quality of legislation by a ‘citizen Congress’ will begin to change for the better. It may not be perfect, but it will certainly be better. Elective office should not be a livelihood or career job, simply because it involves a fundamental ‘conflict of interest’. An
incumbent who fears for his job cannot vote honestly for the good of his constituents or the country.

5. Breaks ties to special interests.

The breaking of the cozy connections between long tenured pols and their various special interests and lobbying organizations will force those interests to try to reconnect with a new breed of legislator who is not a career politician, but one who thinks differently, and more often with common sense and integrity, and is less often concerned with reelection.

6. Improves tendency to vote on principle, vs backscratching.

A substantial number of these new legislators will be ordinary people who do not intend to make a life in politics, but who want to improve the system. These people will be the source of truly new thinking, and far more likely to vote on principle, considering the right thing to do, and what is best for the country, rather than trading votes with other legislators or special interests (‘If you vote for my pork, I’ll vote for your pork’)

7. Introduces fresh thinking, new ideas, eliminates the  ‘old bulls’.

The large number of new legislators will introduce a breath of fresh air into the halls of Congress, in which the old habits of the legions of Congressional staff and department bureaucrats will face considerable skepticism and questioning about “This is the way we’ve always done it!”. Common sense will get new life in legislation.

8. Reduces the power of staff, bureaucracy, and lobbies.

Contrary to the claims of opponents, the new blood in Congress will not be influenced by the old staffs (many of whom will be replaced). Neither will they lean on, or be led by, bureacracies or lobbyists. More likely they will be offended and put off by the arrogance of those

9. It will create a natural reduction in wasteful federal spending.

Another serious effect of unlimited terms is the growth of pork in our spending bills. Every Congressman and Senator up for reelection has a major incentive to get some Federal spending passed for some more or less ‘useful’ item for his constituency, whether it is needed or not, paid for by the country at large, just to show his voters he is ‘doing something’ for them. And all other Congresspeople return the favor because they are doing the same thing. Term limited politicians do not have this bad incentive.

10. Encourages lower taxes, smaller government, greater voter participation in elections.

The inexorable increase in taxes and in the size of government is a direct result of voter apathy caused by voter hopelessness about their inability to ‘throw the bums out’. Enough other voters keep voting by ‘name recognition’ and their legislator’s ability to get ‘goodies’ for their district, that attendance at the polls keeps falling to new lows. Term limits will bring a fresh crop of new challengers and issues which will make voter participation in elections surge to new heights, once the voters realize that the ‘bums’ are  gone.

11. There are more reasons in favor of term limits than reasons against.

It seems to me that the number of reasons in favor of term limits so far outnumbers those against (as shown on this page), that it is difficult to understand why term limits has not long ago been adopted, and why I believe in the inevitability that it will be passed eventually. This is borne out by the history of state term limits, mentioned in #1 above. And considering the opposing arguments which follow, which are easily rebutted, we should carry the Congressional Term Limits Amendment (CTLA) campaign to a successful conclusion more easily than is currently expected.

12. Gets reelection rates closer to 50% vs current 99%.

Finally, for almost 200 years, our Congress has lived with reelection rates close to 50%, just as our Founders expected. Only in the last 30 years or so have reelection rates started to soar, as politicians have learned to ‘game the system’, and more voters have become impatient with long ballots, relying on ‘name recognition’ to do their voting. In the last few elections, reelection rates have topped 97%, and in 2004, went over 99% ! Who in his right mind would think that all those incumbents were worthy of reelection ?

Discussion (and Rebuttal) of Arguments Opposed:

1. Term limits terminates the ‘good’ politicians along with the ‘bad’.

This appears to be one of only two valid opposition arguments, but it is fully counterbalanced by the fact that, with unlimited terms in place, an unknowable number of talented individuals never run for office in the first place, or if they do, they lose, because incumbents ‘always’ win! Furthermore, getting rid of the ‘bad’ incumbents is a definite ‘plus’ in itself, besides making room for new, probably ‘better’ challengers.

2. Reform of Congress’ procedures would be easier than passing a term limits amendment.

Better ways to avoid the abuses of entrenched power, and to improve the quality of Congressional performance, would include such ideas as:

     a. Prohibiting the use of seniority for awarding chairmanships or special assignments.
     b. Limit subchairs to two years, and fullchairs to six years.
     c. Or rotate all chairs more frequently.
     d. End the power of chairs to bury bills in committee.
     e. End the power of Senators to arbitrarily put a ‘hold’ on nominations.
     e. And so forth. I’m sure there are many other ideas out there.

The added attraction of such reforms is that there should be a far greater number of Congresspeople who would be very much in favor of these changes  (vs those in favor of Term Limits). Many in Congress in both houses and both parties chafe at the need to wait out their seniority turn before getting to where they can exercise some real power on political issues.

I would guess that this idea has not gained any headway because the number of freshman has been dwindling for many years, while the number of old timers and ‘next-in-liners’, plus the ‘drones’, has been increasing. This kind of reform should be easier to accomplish than a Congressional Term Limits Amendment, if given vigorous support outside the Congress. I would support this effort too, but for now I favor term limits because, obviously, the great weakness of this idea is the fact that Congress could pass it, and Congress could easily rescind it.

3. Term limits reduces voter choice.

Obviously a false argument, since as incumbents reach reelection rates of 98%, most voters are being deprived of real choice!

4. Term limits causes a loss of knowledge and experience.

The President and and his staff have been effectively term limited for over 200 years, and yet the country has prospered enormously. Why should Congress be any different? The knowledge and experience of people who have spent 20-30 years in the real world, outside of Washington, DC, is every bit as valuable, perhaps more so, than that of a career politician who never earned a dime outside of government..

5. Term limits increases the power of staff, bureaucracy, and lobbyists.

When term limits takes effect, the influx into Congress of a great many fresh ordinary Americans as legislators, with the native intelligence and the basic common sense we have in our country, will be more than a match to face down the arrogant, entrenched staffs and other bureaucracies and lobbies.

America Needs Term Limits

February 22, 2010

America Needs Term Limits

The following historical information about the use of term limits in government is taken from

Historical background

Term limits, or rotation in office, date back to the American Revolution, and prior to that to the democracies and republics of antiquity. The council of 500 in ancient Athens rotated its entire membership annually, as did the ephorate in ancient Sparta. The ancient Roman Republic featured a system of elected magistrates—tribunes of the plebs, aediles, quaestors, praetors, and consuls—who served a single term of one year, with reelection to the same magistracy forbidden for ten years. (See Cursus honorum) Many of the founders of the United States were educated in the classics, and quite familiar with rotation in office during antiquity. The debates of that day reveal a desire to study and profit from the object lessons offered by ancient democracy.

In 1776, rotation experiments were taking place at the state level. The Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776 set maximum service in the Pennsylvania General Assembly at “four years in seven.”[1] Benjamin Franklin’s influence is seen not only in that he chaired the constitutional convention which drafted the Pennsylvania constitution, but also because it included, virtually unchanged, Franklin’s earlier proposals on executive rotation. Pennsylvania’s plural executive was composed of twelve citizens elected for the term of three years, followed by a mandatory vacation of four years.[2]

In 2 October 1789, the Continental Congress appointed a committee of thirteen to examine forms of government for the impending union of the states. Among the proposals was that from the State of Virginia, written by Thomas Jefferson, urging a limitation of tenure, “to prevent every danger which might arise to American freedom by continuing too long in office the members of the Continental Congress….”[3] The committee made recommendations, which as regards congressional term-limits were incorporated unchanged into the Articles of Confederation (1781-1789]). The fifth Article stated that “no person shall be capable of being a delegate [to the continental congress] for more than three years in any term of six years.”[4]

In contrast to the Articles of Confederation, the federal constitution convention at Philadelphia omitted mandatory term-limits from the second national frame of government, i.e. the U.S. Constitution of 1787 to the present. Nonetheless, due largely to grass roots support for the principle of rotation, rapid turnover in Congress prevailed by extra-constitutional means. Also George Washington set the precedent for a two-term tradition that prevailed (with the exception of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s four terms) until the 22nd Amendment of 1951.

However, when the states ratified the Constitution (1787-88), several leading statesmen regarded the lack of mandatory limits to tenure as a dangerous defect, especially, they thought, as regards the Presidency and the Senate. Richard Henry Lee viewed the absence of legal limits to tenure, together with certain other features of the Constitution, as “most highly and dangerously oligarchic.”[5] Both Jefferson[6] and George Mason[7] advised limits on reelection to the Senate and to the Presidency, because said Mason, “nothing is so essential to the preservation of a Republican government as a periodic rotation.” The historian Mercy Otis Warren, warned that “there is no provision for a rotation, nor anything to prevent the perpetuity of office in the same hands for life; which by a little well timed bribery, will probably be done….”[8]

The fact that “perpetuity in office” was not approached until the 20th century is due in part to the influence of rotation in office as a popular 19th century concept. “Ideas are, in truth, forces,” and rotation in office enjoyed such normative support, especially at the local level, that it altered political reality.[9] For a detailed study of the 19th century concepts of rotation let the reader consult Political Science Quarterly, vol. 94, “House Turnover and the Principle of Rotation,” by Robert Struble, Jr. See also his Treatise on Twelve Lights,[10] chapter six, “Rotation in History”. Consult also, James Young’s The Washington Community, 1800-1828.

According to Young, the tendency to look with mistrust upon political power was so ingrained into American culture that even the officeholders themselves perceived their occupations in a disparaging light.[11] James Fennimore Cooper, the novelist, described the common view that “contact with the affairs of state is one of the most corrupting of the influences to which men are exposed.”[12] An article in the Richmond Enquirer (1822) noted that the “long cherished” principle of rotation in office had been impressed on the republican mind “by a kind of intuitive impulse, unassailable to argument or authority.”[13]

Beginning about the 1830s, Jacksonian democracy introduced a less idealistic twist to the practice of limiting terms. Rotation in office came to mean taking turns in the distribution of political prizes.[14] Rotation of nominations to the U.S. House of Representatives – the prizes – became a key element of payoffs to the party faithful. The leading lights in the local party machinery came to regard a nomination for the House as “salary” for political services rendered. A new code of political ethics evolved, based on the proposition that “turnabout is fair play.”[15] In short, rotation of nominations was intertwined with the spoils system.

In district nominating conventions local leaders could negotiate and enforce agreements to pass the nominations around among themselves. Abraham Lincoln was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1846 under such a bargain, and he returned home to Springfield after a single congressional term because, he wrote, “to enter myself as a competitor of another, or to authorize anyone so to enter me, is what my word and honor forbid.”[16]

During the Civil War, the Confederate States constitution limited its president to a single six-year term.

The practice of nomination rotation for the House of Representatives began to decline after the Civil War. It took a generation or so before the direct primary system, civil service reforms, and the ethic of professionalism worked to eliminate rotation in office as a common political practice. By the turn of the 20th century the era of incumbency was coming into full swing.

A total of 8 presidents served two full terms and declined a third and three presidents served one full term and refused a second. After World War II, however, an officeholder class had developed to the point that congressional tenure rivaled that of the U.S. Supreme Court, where tenure is for life. “Homesteading” in Congress, made possible by reelection rates that approached 100% by the end of the 20th century, brought about a popular insurgency known as the “term-limits movement”


There is much more to the term limit discussion. For those who want to read on Please see the rest of this quote and much more in

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D.

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