Hello Idaho by Robert Ehlert: Fighting against our self-inflicted sanctions

October 8, 2013 

Robert Ehlert

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The last time I checked, we were reserving economic sanctions for a select club of our sworn enemies: Iran, North Korea and others vying for positions on the Evil Empire list.

But not ourselves.

Yet here we are beginning Week 2 of GSA — and we don’t mean General Services Administration.

We refer to Government Shutdown Antipathy.

As our federal leaders from Idaho to Washington, D.C., wallow in an “Animal House” food fight in their chambers — representing both political parties — We The People are realizing more and more each day how irrelevant they really are when practicing government under the influence of emotional hangovers following episodes of talking at each other instead of to each other.

I don’t mean to minimize the effect of the sanctions our leaders have exacted on us: closed national parks, the diminished emergency and national security services, lapsed inspection scrutiny and new roadblocks we discover each day. But, in fact, Congress and President Barack Obama have been crying wolf since we last raised the debt ceiling in 2011, navigated the sequestration last year, and now confront a budgetless-default cataclysmic, ah, something after Oct. 17 if we don’t pay our bills.

I get the fact that some of our leaders are thumbing their noses at the debt ceiling and playing truth or dare with our overall indebtedness. But someone please tell me what our leadership has done for the American people in the last seven days and seven nights. OK, let’s make that seven weeks.

Anybody for the last seven years?

With the exception of the controversial Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 — which is a loaded and debatable achievement — what are the benchmarks and accomplishments of the 110th, 111th, 112th and the 113th sessions of Congress?

Other than allowing our country to slip into a financial crisis/stubborn recession and then devising ways to get out of it, where is the progress?

Congress can’t or won’t stay focused on anything. Immigration reform? Spare me the frustration of thinking about what did not happen on that front this year. Tax code reform? Instead of revising it, the IRS will now become the agency responsible for bringing to justice all those people who don’t sign up for health care.

You know who you are.

I don’t have the perfect solution, but I do have one idea that could improve the political atmosphere in the modern era.

Though this might seem counterintuitive in a Throw-The-Bum-Out era, the two-year terms for members of the House of Representatives are too short. There are 435 elections for these folks every two years. That’s way too much drama, way too often.

There are continuous campaigns that beget what we are witnessing today: 700-day factions that terrorize progress; constant posturing without regard to statesmanship; sanctions on our own people because of the fear of losing an election.

It needs to stop. House terms need to be four years. Term limits on the table. This could reduce by half the angst, fundraising and gridlock we enjoy today.

Robert Ehlert is the Statesman’s editorial page editor. Contact him at 377-6437, or on Twitter @IDS_HelloIdaho.

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