Modest Proposal

July 26th, 2011

With the nation days away from what President Obama called ‘Economic Armageddon,’ the sides negotiating a solution seem destined to raise the debt ceiling and ‘kick the can down the road’ until after the 2012 election. It appears his request that we ‘eat our peas’ might not happen. (Of course, as the NFL proved yesterday, hard deadlines tend to inspire quick resolutions to challenging disagreements… so stay tuned.)

During a coaching session this morning, a client asked for my thoughts on the deadlock among House Republicans, Senate Democrats and the White House. “It’s sad we’ve come to this point,” I said. “You would think there would be a sense of statesmanship for finding common ground, giving on some positions and resolving differences.” His reply made me think.

“It’s the fable of the scorpion and the frog playing out,” he said. “Our elected leaders are willing to stand on ideological ground – even if it means catastrophe – then shrug their shoulders and say, ‘What did you expect? You knew we were politicians when you elected us.'”

I believe there is a solution to change that attitude: term limits. Six years for the president, eight years for a senator, four years for a representative. No reelection campaigns. No additional fundraising. Work everyday you’re in office to make things better… and go get a job afterward. That’s how it works for Boards in the charitable world; do your time and move on for fresh ideas and new energy. (Key: Stagger the first few years so everyone doesn’t leave at once, then keep it in place for, say, a few centuries.)

While I’m not a Constitutional Law expert, I’m guessing Congress would have to pass this bill and the president would need to sign it. There’s probably a better chance of them agreeing to tax hikes and deficit reduction in the next seven days than that happening. Of course, every sweeping change throughout history started with someone asking, “Why does it have to be this way?”

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