Friday, December 08, 2017

One Long-Winded, Expendable Gasbag Down, Only Ninety Nine Left To Go...,

thesoundingline |  Perhaps most principle on the list of grievances against Congress is the sentiment that they simply don’t get anything done. Any bill, no matter how routine, is hijacked by an increasingly insular, partisan, and corrupt political class. Bills are so full of divergent add-ons, riders, and pet projects that they become so long that it is often physically impossible for any single person to read them before the vote is held. If one could read them, it would be impossible to reconcile the opposing elements of the bill to permit anything resembling a principled vote. It has often been said that it is the fate of republics to devolve into oligarchies as power is consolidated by a few corrupt families who hold it for too long.

This begs the following question whose answer may explain the increasingly insular, partisan, and unproductive nature of Congress. Are members of Congress trending to serving longer terms?
To answer that question, we have compiled a database of every member of Congress every year since 1789. Using this database it is possible to determine, for every year, the number of years each member of Congress had previously served.

Having accounted for the careers of over 13,000 Congress men and women, over a period of 227 years, we are able to chart the average years served, or ‘tenure’, of the House of Representatives and the Senate every year from 1789 until today.

As you might suspect, and as the charts below testify, there has been an unmistakable trend towards Representatives and Senators serving more and more terms. Until the start of the 20th century, the average years served in the House was typically less than four years, equivalent to about two terms. After that, the average tenure started to rise dramatically, hitting a high of 12 years or six terms in 2008. The Senate follows a similar trend going from four to five years (a single term is six years) for the first 100 plus years of American history to a high of about 15 years (nearly three terms) in 2008.