David Provost, former professor at Cal State Fresno, recently took on advocates who favor a one term limit in the state legislature. In short, Provost isn’t fond of the one term notion. Rather, he favors a 12 year limit system allowing for politicians to come back after sitting out a term.
Provost attempted to make his point by comparing the state politician’s career to other occupations “where long service is seen as improving performance.” Among those professions he listed included surgeons, lawyers, and school teachers. Provost’s argument is partially legitimate and yet partially flawed.
As some have said, one of the best teachers in life is experience. “Experience enhances understanding and something that is sometimes called institutional history,” Provost said. “That allows a veteran legislator to point out to the freshmen that something they think is great was tried 20 years ago and was a flop.”
At the same time, his comparison to the other careers falls short. Surgeons, lawyers, and school teachers all have to go through rigorous training to be officially certified in their respective career fields. Surgeons take the MCAT to even have a crack at medical school. Lawyers grapple with the LSAT to have a shot at their top law school choice. And teachers seek credentialed status to be granted their teaching privileges.
There isn’t, however, a certified politician’s license. Anyone can file papers to run for office. There is a more significant difference between the politician and the other careers cited.
Surgeons, lawyers, and teachers all face some incentive to compete. They have to keep performing well to stay afloat in their respective fields (unless they’re surgeons, lawyers, or teachers employed by the state…in which case their careers are no different from the politician).
Politicians, on the other hand, don’t necessarily have to be driven by a sense of competition. Once they’re in office, they can cultivate a sense of entitlement (most especially if their term limits are lengthened to twelve years). With a twelve year term limit, politicians know their income is guaranteed, being supplied by the guaranteed collection of taxpayer money. Taxpayer funds are “legally plundered” by the state government (to borrow an idea from Bastiat’s “The Law”).
If corrupt politicians knew they were getting payed no matter what their contribution, what is their incentive in fixing the state’s problems? If California term limits lengthen, there would actually be the incentive among corrupt-o-crats to keep the state’s many problems alive. Crooked politicians need only to pretend they’re fixing those problems when in reality they’re fiddling at the people’s expense.
When it comes to California’s budget crisis, the state’s citizens cannot afford to have this revenue-eating monster around much longer. Politicians should have just enough time to go into office and attempt to implement a solution. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Longer term limits allow them to be in for enough time to the point that they become complacent leeches on the California taxpayer. Shorter term limits are a reminder to voters that they should only send cream of the crop candidates into office.
With California’s budgetary problems, there is no room for some freshman politician to “gain experience.” California needs action and it needs it right now.