Term Limits…For Bureaucrats?
Back when Republicans were taking the majority in Congress term limits were a major issue. A lot of conservatives promised to only serve a limited time in office after which they’d step aside and let someone else take over. And some of them actually did that, though others have stayed in office long past the time when they said they would go.
But I’m not so sure there’s anything wrong with that. Reneging on a campaign promise is never a good thing, but it seems to me that with politicians having to get themselves re-elected on a regular basis they’re accountable enough to the public. If we don’t like ‘em we have frequently recurring opportunities to “vote the bums out,” as the saying goes. Yet there are people in Washington with significant amounts of power who we can’t vote out.
That’s right. The folks who run agencies like the EPA, the FCC and the IRS. People with enormous amounts of power granted to them by the government and very little accountability. People who can dig into your financial life without any sort of a warrant. People who can seize your property, levy back-breaking fines against you and file lawsuits against you in court that could cost you tens of thousands of dollars to respond to. These people can even undermine our elected officials by anonymously (and selectively, usually) leaking information to the press in agenda-driven plots to stop policies they don’t like.
Sure these people can be fired by politicians and/or their political appointments, but remember that there are a lot of bureaucrats and not nearly as many politicians. So perhaps, rather than limit the number of terms a politician can be in office (thus limiting the number of times voters can put a person they like in office), we should limit the amount of time any given person can work for the federal government in a non-elected role. Like ten years, perhaps.
We complain all the time about “career politicians,” but I’m not so sure that “career bureaucrats” aren’t worse. And anyone who has ever dealt with some government paper-pusher who has been on the job for 30 years knows that a little turn-over isn’t a bad thing. I know that such turn-over would be difficult in specific areas of the government that are highly specialized and require a lot of training, but appropriate exemptions could be made in such instances I think. The point is to create a situation where our elected politicians are firmly in charge of policy and not a bunch of unelected bureaucrats who think they’re the ones really in charge because they stay in office longer than the politicians.
Maybe “term limits” for bureaucrats isn’t the right way to accomplish that, but I’m certainly open to other suggestions. Because it is a problem, and something needs to be done.