Sunday, October 20, 2013

Our government's current grid-lock: the problem and how to fix it. Part 2

     The debt ceiling was suspended at the last minute on October 16th near midnight. This suspension will last until February 7, 2014, when another deal will need to be made. The "non-essential" government services have also recently been re-opened until mid January 2014. Essentially, Congress has done last minute what it was supposed to do, and according to Standard and Poor's, cost the U.S. economy over $24 billion. The damage done to U.S. credibility could be even more harmful. Furthermore,  there is no indication that this predicament will not happen again. In this post, I will discuss another way to fix the impasse in Washington.

        One of the primary causes of deadlock on Capital Hill is excessive partisanship and unwillingness to compromise.  Lawmakers are unwilling to relinquish the positions of their base because they fear losing the support of the voters in their party.  However, passing laws and budgets inevitably requires some concessions from both parties.  Lawmakers might feel leeway to make concessions unpopular with their base but necessary to pass laws, but they fear alienating their base during an election season. Unfortunately the election cycle in Congress is such that  it is ALWAYS election season.  The election cycle needs to reformed so that Congress is not in perpetual campaign mode.

     The most glaring case of this is in the House. Every 2 years, all members of the House face elections. This means that as soon as the congressmen are inaugurated, they are already in re-election mode. These short terms make it hard for House Members to get reforms passed that are unpopular in their district but are good for the country, such as budget or economic reforms. In addition, the congressmen are perpetually raising money to finance their expensive campaigns.  Unfortunately, big donors frequently want favors in return.  These favors may not be in the general public's best interest.  A less obvious case of this is in the Senate. Senators have 6 year terms. However, a 3rd of the candidates are up for reelection every 2 years. Although the only one third of the Senators are up for re-election, the other senators are motivated to avoid tough choices in order to help their party's performance in the election.

    I would change the House Members terms to 4 years apiece, in which all of them face election every 4 years. I would also change senator's terms to 8 years, in which half face election every 4 years. Both of these terms would coincide with the presidential elections. The upside to this would be that congressmen would be less worried about getting re-elected, and more focused on what is right for the country.  Since voter turnout tends to be better during presidential elections, an added bonus to this new election cycle would be greater voter turnout. The down side to this is that since all of the elections would be taking place at once, the months leading up to the election would be even more partisan than usual. However, the upside would probably be much greater than the flaws in this plan.

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