Saturday, April 25, 2009

On Political Careers

There are many career paths in life. One can go to school to learn a trade, enter college to hone their skills, and enter into the world to provide for society. A career is not merely ones' job, it's the work path they choose to follow, define much of their life, and is commonly their passion. A career is a path one takes that is usually fulfilling to themselves and generally helps progress society in some way. The problem that has arisen in our government is that being a politician has become a career path for many.

Politics is not a career path. It is a means by which we are supposed to help our state, community, and our nation. It was never intended to be. George Washington was a General who became a politician temporarily because he knew that our nation needed his leadership. Fred Thompson was a lawyer and actor who temporarily became a politician because he felt he could help the people of Tennessee and provide them with good representation. When Zell Miller left the political arena, he went back to being a college professor. Politics was a part of their lives, not the only thing which defined them.

The problem with a person who treats politics as a career is that they lose site of the point of politics. It is not merely a job. It is not merely a career path to build up ones resume in order to one day become CEO. It is a civil service where one becomes a representative of the people, our envoy in this our republican democracy. Too many forget that as they continue with the day to day aspects of politicking and focus so much effort on being elected and reelected that they forget what they were chosen to do. Organizing a campaign and running for office can take up so much time, in fact, that many become negligent in their job duties. As much as I supported John McCain for President, both he and our current President were negligent in their duties as Senator during their Presidential campaign.

Now, the question arises, how do we prevent a person from becoming a "career politician?" The first is a simple solution - term limits. Limits are put in place to prevent one person from maintaining power indefinitely and allows for new people with new ideas to continue to populate our government. Here in Maryland, I would suggest limits of two terms for Governor, three terms for Delegate, and two terms for State Senator. These are not unreasonable restrictions; Governor and Senator would be given the same restriction as our President. If it is good enough for Washington, it is good enough for Ehrlich, O'Malley, Harris, and Miller.

In Maryland, our legislative session does not conflict with the traditional election season. Yet, with the changing face of electoral politics and the emergence of year long campaigning, this will become an issue. A second proposal would be to require a state legislator running for higher office to resign from their post in order to do so. If one wishes to run for Governor, Congress, or US Senate, then they should be willing to resign their post in the House of Delegates or State Senate. This is not an arrogance and belief that you will automatically win - it is merely an acknowledgment that a full time, year long campaign for higher office can not be waged while remaining in a legislative office.

My final idea is one which pertains to the purse. For each day the state budget is delayed, no elected official should be paid. In fact, during times of budget shortfall, before considering furloughs for state employee, our legislature should first consider cuts to the executive pay of our Governor or their own salaries. Our legislators make decent salaries considering the entire legislative session is a mere ninety days. Our legislators receive approximately $500 per day for their three months of actual work. Our governor makes approximately three times my annual salary. Assuming our Governor works year round, that averages to over $400 a day. None of these costs include the per diem that they all receive. If we cut merely $1,000 per year from the legislative and gubernatorial salaries - we could save $189,000 annually. In addition, it would show that our legislators and Governor are willing to make sacrifices during these rough economic times. But, that is a topic for another day.

Thoughts are not only welcomed, but encouraged. This is the beginning of my attempt to bring up new ideas for our state government. I welcome comments and criticism. Thank you and good night.

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