Term Limits for Parasites?

December 29, 2009

My favorite correspondent recently sent me the kind of petition that often circulates on the internet. This one demands that term limits be imposed on our senators and representatives.

I’m all for the idea of term limits on congressmen but, in the absence of other important changes in the way government works in this country, terms limits alone won’t accomplish much.


Here’s why. Politicians are, by nature, parasites. Before we continue this discussion a review the meaning of parasite should prove amusing. Here are some of the more common uses of the word, drawn from Merriam Webster’s Third International Unabridged Dictionary:

  1. one frequenting the tables of the rich or living at another’s expense…
  2. an organism living in or on another living organism, obtaining from it all or part of its organic nutriment…
  3. such an organism that causes some degree of real damage to its host…
  4. something that resembles a biological parasite in dependence on something else for existence or support without making a useful or adequate return…
  5. the less perfectly formed twin of a double monster (OK, that’s a bit of a stretch but the hyperbole is wonderful, you must admit)…
  6. one that is supported or sustained or seeks support or sustenance from another without right or justification…
  7. one that as a matter of policy is supported more or less by another and gives nothing in return…
  8. anyone who clings to a person of wealth, power, or influence in order to derive personal advantage or who is useless and unnecessary to society…

We’ll start with this axiom. All politicians are parasites, though not all parasites are politicians.

Most parasites have the same MO. They draw nutrients from their host, often debilitating or killing the host in the process. When parasites are done feeding, or if their host dies, they simply drop off the host and lie in wait for another opportunity.


Politicians, even those regulated by term limits, behave in a similar manner. California provides a perfect example of this phenomenon. California term limits restrict Assembly members to six years in office and Senators to eight years in office, after which time they are banned from that chamber for life.

Problem solved, eh? No more senators for life like Robert Byrd, Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms, or Ted Kennedy.

Not exactly, because in California the pols create all sorts of boards and commissions to which they can be appointed (indefinitely) when they are banished from office. Some of these California commissions, staffed by ex-Assemblymen, meet once or twice a month. For their efforts on behalf of a grateful public some commissioners are paid over $100,000 annually.


Sure, you may start out small laboring over the difficult and controversial issues faced by the Board of Barbering and Cosmetology, or the Court Reporters Board, or the Hearing Aid Dispensers Bureau.

But hang in there and you’ll get a key appointment—maybe something like the California Marmalade Board or the State Surfing Commission.

The point is that politicians do not go out and get an honest job when they are booted out of office, whether by term limits or by the voters. Like the common parasites they are, they simply wait for another host and latch on.

Think about the politicians you know. How many had real jobs before they went into politics? Almost none. They started their adult careers as aides, constituent advocates or as prosecutors or public defenders. Sooner or later they ran for election and, once secure in an office or judgeship, they hung on for as long as they could. When their host died or finally peeled them off like a leech, the politician just waited for some other appointment.


How many politicians do you know who after leaving office took an honest job? No, Clarence, lobbyist is not an honest job.

For most parasites there are effective medications. We need one for politicians.