Paul Jacob

The scam is to split up this year's primaries so that the presidential primary is held in March while primaries for other offices are held in June. A politician-sponsored measure to extend terms would appear on the March ballot, not the June one. (Why did you already know that?) This way, if endangered politicians succeed in conning the voters in March, they have time to file for the June primary and prepare for said primary. Brilliant, eh?

The politicians may be running out of script ideas, though. The latest notion constantly being floated is that voters should kill term limits because, otherwise, they, the politicians, are sure to keep doing a lousy job. According to this line of argument, state legislators need ten years or so in office just to graduate from training wheels.

Of course, it's nonsense to suppose that politicians never did lousy jobs in the days before term limits. Legislative term limits were passed in 1990 in California, but only started kicking out officeholders in 1997. The phony power "deregulation" that turned out to be such a disaster was passed in 1996. But let's go back in time even further.

In 1978, voters passed Proposition 13 to impose a cap on out-of-control property taxes--taxes forcing some Californians out of their homes. Where were all the super-expert politicians with their combined centuries of experience then? Why did the voters have to take matters into their own hands to save their own homes?

Of course, term limits don't guarantee good policy. But they do guarantee that makers of bad policy won't be able to stick around forever, sticking it to us forever. And fact is, the kinds of things you need to succeed as a political leader are also the kinds of things you need to succeed in the regular world. Rock-hard integrity is always good, for example.

Yet this campaign theme--how the only way we can improve the current crew of politicians is to keep them in power forever--will apparently be the crux of the new anti-term-limits crusade soon to be sprung on the citizens of California.

Amazing what you can find out when you have spies in the enemy camp.... Golly, this is just like that movie "Commando."

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.