Guest Post: Why Things Never Change

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Doug Ross of Director Blue blog,

Historical chart illustrates the biggest problem in America today: Congressional Recidivism

Many fine writers have observed that there exists a de facto Ruling Class in Washington. Once men and women get to Congress, no matter how inept, inane, or diabolical they prove to be, the power of incumbency makes dislodging them akin to prying a Reese's Cup from Michael Moore's pudgy fingers.

An exhaustive study -- "Reelection Rates of Incumbents in the U.S. House" (PDF) -- performed in 2006 illustrates the dramatic changes in reelection rates since America's founding. It aggregates the results of every House election cycle between the years 1790 and 2006.

Over the years, the reelection rate of incumbents has increased steadily, likely the results of pork, quid pro quo funding to campaign contributors, and legislative skulduggery (the McCain-Feingold bill, for instance, could have been called The Incumbent Protection Act):

Until the Woodrow Wilson era, incumbent reelection rates hovered between 70 and 80 percent. Since then, however, massive wealth redistribution programs at the federal level -- the New Deal, the Square Deal, the Fair Deal, Great Society, etc. -- began cementing incumbents in place. Constituents dependent upon federal largesse became permanently addicted to these programs and the incumbents who fueled them.

Had the various branches of government shown fidelity to the Constitution, none of these programs would have come to be.

Term limits are one option to resisting incessant federal power grabs, but so too would be leveling the playing field for challengers.

Only a return to Constitutional government will solve the Congressional Recidivism problem.

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slightlyskeptical's picture

Term limits. I say one and done.

AlaricBalth's picture

Voting has become utterly useless. The Democrats and Republicans have been co-opted by TPTB and there is only one true agenda, no matter which party is in power. Seriously, how many multi-millionaires are there in the U.S. Congress? And how many have attained that wealth while "serving" their constituents? Do you really think they care one iota for the common man? Do you really believe that they are in Congress for any altruistic and high moral purpose? Do they have courage and honor? Do they have any sentiments of patriotism? Realistically, the fact is that the political elites have only their own self interest to pursue and they do not give a damn about you or I.

DaddyO's picture


OT a little...

Want a good laugh? This should give you all the hilarity you can stand for one evening...


jeff montanye's picture

the evidence of the graph shown doesn't look (to me) like one state before w. wilson (fascist tool) and another after.  it looks like a decline from an early (1790-1810) state of incumbent reelection like current rates to a low in 1873-1893 followed by a rise to current levels.  

Acet's picture

The assumption that this is mostly due to patronage is misguided.

It's mostly due to Gerrymandering: the redrawing of electoral districts to make them safe seats.

Gerrymandering has been made easier in modern times thanks to computers and databases of socio-economical status, voting preferences and registered voters. Why do you think the majority of electoral districts in the US have shapes which ressemble abstract works of art, which such shapes that they bring together distant yet similar neighbourhoods while avoiding other areas on the way?

That politicians get to draw their own electoral districts in most states is maybe the single biggest failure of the US voting system (which is probably why the original poster didn't mention it).

GetZeeGold's picture



Gerrymandering - Just look at what the California expats did to Colorado.


Colorado - Turn in your shotguns and defend yourself with an extra sharp No. 2 pencil.

Ghordius's picture

and gerrymandering has it's own political poison: because the Republican party is generally more fragmented in purpose, it profits more from gerrymandering, which leads it to pursuit defend it more strongly

the net effect is that any split or any new party rising is made more unlikely, in the short term

in the long term, it weakens the legitimacy of both major US parties, two rotten beams holding the roof

F. Bastiat's picture

A few do; it's up to us to find more like them. 

Anasteus's picture

Voting itself is a great prerogative of the democratic system. Voting within the double-jester paradigm has become utterly useless yet nearly everyone is still supporting it. Voting for a third party is almost beyond comprehension of average American, even of most intellectually capable people, which is perfectly normal in many European countries. No wonder that America is led by corrupt traitors who are just submissively following the donor's agenda. If people don't care or are not willing to face the trivial truth they don't deserve liberty. So far so good.

Not the voting system itself but the inability or disinterest of Americans to treat it properly and responsibly is what makes America a degenerating society.

Ghordius's picture

 why is it so? is it inability or disinterest? or is it just the effect of endless propaganda?

I find in discussions here in ZH a generally quite low level of interest on how constitutions and nations work in general, coupled with an understanding that the US constitution is somewhat the pinnacle of creation - without realization that it's a quite old model among others

Anasteus's picture

It's inability of many as well as disinterest of many. And, of course, the endless propaganda takes part. But it seems history has little understanding for any sort of logical reasoning or explanation why it is so. We were given brain, will, ethical perception and ability to act in order to effectively resist the propaganda. Most take liberty rights for granted but they aren't. It took wars and a lot of struggle to win through.

The US constitution is perhaps one of the best ever written. The ideas mentioned out there emphasize freedom, equality and the same opportunities for all members of the US society. I don't understand what can be old in such a model; it's an ideal, a key societal attitude upon which the society was built. And that's why America is/was so attractive and successful. In fact, I rather see those allegedly new concepts being promoted these days the very old collectivist and monarchical relics hidden in deceptive modern clothing.

Ghordius's picture

perhaps it's one of the best ever written, but may I point out that it allows for the election of one man that holds the whole immense power of what Americans call Administration (and we europeans call government)? even the Romans felt that you need at least two in that position

further, it has no more advanced voting systems than the very, very, old one of first-round-the-post and no provisions against gerrymandering

and don't forget that as a constitution it was designed at a time where the single states had their own militias, collected most taxes and were way more powerful than today, particularly after the amendments of 1913

Bob's picture

Odd that the rest of the world is so thrilled to copy most of our ways of life, but our constitution has so few interested in imitation:

robobbob's picture

Calling the constitution "old" so as to infer that it is obsolete is akin to calling trigonometry antiquated. Particular applications and techniques may change, but certain principles transcend age.

"One Man" is not the problem. it is a symptom. Just as the other things you mention. The constitution must be taken in its entirety to function. The "one man" was to be balanced against the checks and balance system of the legislature and the judicial, and the individual States. At its height, the system worked very well. At this point, all of them can be considered compromised.

The constitution has provisions for changes for what society considered fundamental and critical issues, to be carried out only after careful and protracted reflection. Instead much past hundred years has been the abandonment, distortion, and end running, of the many subtle but important features that made the Con function reasonably well.

The failures of today are not the failures of the Constitution, it is the failure of politicians and special interests to adhere to it, and the failure of the electorate to demand its implementation.


Anasteus's picture

Ok, I got the point. As regards the one man's show model, you're perhaps right.

But... the problem goes deeper. Even this wouldn't guarantee anything. If the parties that should normally control each other (and thus balance the concentration of power) unite upon a hidden agreement of common crony interests fueled by donor's money, every constitution would turn out to be a shred of paper. The problem is the lack of constitutional spirit presented by both the American leaders and the citizens. The leaders have no problems to be, step by step, screwing the constitution and the citizens don't care. It seems that both sides have no problem to give up the rights in exchange for seemingly comfortable life and materialistic way of living... until there is neither comfortable life nor liberty rights.

Shizzmoney's picture

Don't get Chris Matthews started on 3rd Parties:

Not the voting system itself but the inability or disinterest of Americans to treat it properly and responsibly is what makes America a degenerating society.

This.  So this.  You win the internet for a day.

Anusocracy's picture

Only those who don't want to be elected can run for office.

And ban all political parties.

Ghordius's picture

Grillo in Italy is trying: movements like his don't have a party structure, just an... internet blog

holdbuysell's picture

Agreed. To go a further, set the term appropriately. Give both houses' members a 1-2 year period to learn the job, then give them 2 more years to really contribute. That would put the term for both houses at ~4 years.

Stagger the terms appropriately so that there's always continuity in knowledge/know-how.

Thus, beginning with the end in mind: create a system where continuity of knowledge is ensured and maximum contribution capabilitiy is achieved without tipping into a 'gaming the system' death spiral.

Not perfect, but it's a start.

Of course, this would have the same effect of destroying a horcrux in the eyes of Wall Street and Big Business.

Son of Loki's picture

The neighbor's kid says he wants to go into gubbermint work. Asked why he says,"then I never have to work again, can never be fired and I'll get lifetime health benefits and a fat pension."


Our country's problem is more then economic; it has deep-rooted cultural and political problems.

Mike in GA's picture

To heck with term limits. Lamp posts. 

One and done.

Fedaykinx's picture

naaah one isn't enough, they should get one in congress and one in prison.

but seriously, we need to repeal the 17th amendment and restore the selection of senators to their respective state legislative bodies instead of the currennt regime, which amounts to six year term popularly elected representatives.

ACP's picture

Fundamentally, I agree, but the Republicrats will find a way around it.

Putin already has, and never left office after assuming it in 2000.

I need more cowbell's picture

This article doesn't address the real issue at all; they are all sock puppets. The invisible hand, the ones who control everything ( congress, media, schools, commerce etc ) have no limits term or otherwise. Until the proles rise up, nothing will change.

Chuck Walla's picture

I say they get two terms. One in office and one in prison.


dizzyfingers's picture

"Term limits. I say one and done."

Yes, and no benefits that add up to more than 50% of Americans (choose your own figure) get in private sector. They pay for their own healthcare 100%. Since the average wage is so low now, probably less than$10 per hour, that ought to make "pubic service" less attractive. A shot to the head if they try to sneak back in.

The Heart's picture

Cycles. We are stuck in the endless paradigm of cycles and too collectively dumbed down to be adventurous enough to quest for real change. Welcome to the TV mind-control generation where it is easier to be lacktoast, than to be a pioneer of real changes for the greater of the whole.

Now hear this!

francis_sawyer's picture

 Parole Board chairman: They've got a name for people like you H.I. That name is called "recidivism."
Parole Board member: Repeat offender!
Parole Board chairman: Not a pretty name, is it H.I.?
H.I.: No, sir. That's one bonehead name, but that ain't me any more.
Parole Board chairman: You're not just telling us what we want to hear?
H.I.: No, sir, no way.
Parole Board member: 'Cause we just want to hear the truth.
H.I.: Well, then I guess I am telling you what you want to hear.
Parole Board chairman: Boy, didn't we just tell you not to do that?
H.I.: Yes, sir.
Parole Board chairman: Okay, then.

Manipuflation's picture

Francis, you may want to check out my new scope.

I like to keep an eye on things on behalf of my neighbors.

AlaricBalth's picture

I hope you are ranked sharpshooter or better. I don't want to end up listed as collateral damage on the incident report.

Bear's picture

The only answer ... "The Sum of All Fears"

Clark Griswold's picture

I am with you Bear.....blow it up.



TBT or not TBT's picture

I think you are thinking of the Clancy novel where the Japanese pilot dives his jumbo jet into the ongoing state of the union speech, making Jack Ryan president, and deleting all branches of govt....except the fourth branch, the gigantic unfirable administrative state. The sum of all fears just puts an Islamic bomb into the Super Bowl, which does not get the president, nor shorten many terms in incumbentistan, which seems to be what we are on about. Note we speak here of the books, not the movie, and also of a book published well before 9-11 as to the use of commercial jets for mass murder.

Jack Burton's picture

American people can be convinced to vote these funking wankers back into office time after time after time! CLearly the American people are stupid! How else can you explain them voting for proven crooks, liars and war mongering assholes!

monad's picture

Election fraud and happy birthday Citizen Murdoch.

eddiebe's picture

Jack, you explain it by voter fraud. Do you really think when everything else is built on fraud, the voting process is legit?

Totentänzerlied's picture

What part of it don't you understand? They show up to vote, they cast their ballots. They play the game. They go along with it no matter who wins. They really are THAT stupid. Did you see the DNC and RNC? Those are real human beings. There are millions of them. The fact that they don't think like you and don't agree with you doesn't mean they don't exist.

e-recep's picture

i don't get why we ought to expect EXCELLENT governence by people who were elected to office by DUMB and IGNORANT voters. something is very flawed with this thing we call democracy.

Intelligence_Insulter's picture

It's past time we throw out the incumbents.  We need real capitalist with morals based off of judao christian values that understand the importance of property rights.  Time to take out the trash.

CheapBastard's picture


"Parasitism is a non-mutual relationship between organisms of different species where one organism, the parasite, benefits at the expense of the other, the host...Parasites increase their fitness by exploiting hosts for resources necessary for their survival."

Anusocracy's picture

One of the coolest parasites.

The role of government played by the fungus and the ants, well, they are played by collectivist humans.

formadesika3's picture

There's a fungus among us.

It's called teachers unions. It will destroy itself soon enough once its school district hosts are all dead.

Then the cycle will repeat.

slightlyskeptical's picture

But first we need to kill property rights and then give everyone a fair chance at their share under a fair system.

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

This will end badly. Very few will willingly give up power.

<You'll have to pry my Congressional seat from my cold dead fingers.>

Mike7.62's picture

This will end badly. Very few will willingly give up power.

<You'll have to pry my Congressional seat from my cold dead fingers.>


Works for me.