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Bring back Civics classes, initiate term limits

I fear for our democracy. My fear is rooted in the fact that most citizens don’t really care about what is happening at their federal, state and local governments. Only fifty percent of us bother to vote, and once the vote is complete, we forget that part of our civic duty is to play watchdog over those we elected.
Have you ever watched TV commentators take to the streets and ask ordinary citizens simple question like “Who was the first president of the United States?” I’m appalled that many cannot answer let alone know who their current stare representative is.
Uninformed and ignorant citizens will be our downfall. It was the downfall of Germany when they democratically elected Adolph Hitler, and it may be the downfall of America. You see politicians and big government are left unchecked when citizens have no interest in what they are doing thus they can consolidate power and rule dictatorially versus democratically.
I blame much of this blaise attitude on Civics courses, or the lack thereof. Back in the day, Civics was a required course in high school. You were taught about government, voting, and how it was important to exercise your rights as a citizen. Along the way, Civics courses were eliminated, and our children are not being taught these important lessons.
Like reading, writing and arithmetic, Civics needs to be taught. Without these important lessons, a democratic government, will be less and less meaningful in our lives. We must preserve, not destroy our freedoms.
Secondly, I pray that someday Congress will have the fortitude to initiate term limits. Presidents, governors, and state legislators all must abide by term limits- BUT not Congress. That makes no sense.
The fact that our leaders in Congress have been in the Washington DC bubble for 30, or 40 or some even fifty years has allowed those old fogies to consolidate power amongst themselves. We have a president, speaker, committee chairs that are approaching 80, or are in their 80’s age wise. Do you think they have a clue about the structures ordinary citizens like you and I must face?
Heck most of them don’t drive, purchase food or deal with housing costs. Because our leaders come from safe congressional districts, meaning they are elected year after year by wide margins, and the great majority of those districts are on the east or west coast, they share no common values or life struggles that we face in the Midwest and South.
Term limits would eliminate the isolation the Washington DC bubble provides. Members of Congress would only have 8 or 12 years to represent their constituents. Leaders would be fresh and not retreads. Leaders would be chosen based on qualifications and not seniority. Safe districts, largely in cities, would no longer play a much more important role than their counterparts in rural areas. Power would be decentralized.
Don’t hold your breath, however. Those in the bubble feed on the power that comes their way. They will not give it up easily and they certainly will not term limit themselves.
As citizens we must become more involved. Know the issues we face. Tell your elected representatives how you feel, and for Pete sakes, vote this year and beyond.

One Reply to “Bring back Civics classes, initiate term limits

  1. 1712 N. Darling Lane
    Fennville, Michigan 49408
    June 16, 2022

    Mr. Mike Wilcox, Publisher
    Commercial Record
    P.O. Box 189
    Allegan, Michigan 49010

    Dear Sir:

    I enjoyed your column on Civics classes and term limits in the June 9, 2022 edition of the Commercial Record. I wholeheartedly agreed with you on the subject of Civics classes. I think the willingness of people to sacrifice or compromise institutions, such as our constitution, that have protected all of us, in return for short term political gain shows our educational system has failed to produce knowledgeable and responsible adults. Thomas Jefferson, who believed so fervently, in a people’s ability to rule themselves, must be quaking in his grave.

    I respectfully disagree with you on the subject of term limits for Congress and in general. I believe term limits, however inadvertently, reduces the power of elected officials and significantly increases the power of unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats, thus culminating in things to which we refer as “the Deep State” and the rise of a powerful managerial class. I acknowledge that this unhealthy growth has occurred without term limits at the federal level, but at the state level with term limits, I believe the growth of unaccountability has accelerated to a dangerous level.

    I have worked at the edges of Michigan government way back to the days of the Milliken administration. During that lengthy period of time, I have been able to witness the impact of term limits on Michigan government. In my recollection, the last elected official to truly and fundamentally understand the Michigan budget and the state budgeting process was Senator Harry Ghast who retired in 2002.

    In 2006, I testified before a prominent Senate standing committee and I was appalled by the reliance of the powerful committee chair on staff input and staff information. The chair might as well have been on a leash controlled by the chief-of-staff. While being questioned by the committee chair, I remember having to be very careful in responding to very vacuous and woefully uninformed questions. It was an experience that forever set me against term limits as a pathway to better government.

    My solution is not term limits, but comprehensive election finance reform. Should there ever be the gumption to ban all private contributions and to criminalize all dark money, we might achieve a better level of accountability. Qualified public financing of political campaigns has a chance of reducing the servitude elected officials exhibit toward their private donor masters.

    Moreover, as part of the reform, elected members of Congress need to come together at the beginning of the year and set three or four policy goals for the year. If they can’t agree on the policy goals, then they do not receive compensation for their work. Similarly, if they don’t produce the changes or reforms they promise within the policy goals, they don’t get paid. A form of this methodology has worked very well in places like Singapore.

    Thank you very much

    Jim Hettinger

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