Dr. Tom Coburn, the junior senator from Oklahoma, has had enough of the self-interest and careerism of Washington politics. A proponent of term-limits, Dr. Coburn believes that Washington cannot fix Washington. Parochial interests will always trump the best interests of the nation. Only America can change Washington. What is needed are new limits on federal power and the transfer of responsibility to the states. “I don’t think you fix this place until you have a convention of the states,” says Coburn.
That’s Dr. Coburn’s annual compendium of his staff’s audits and quality control on federal spending, which has exposed abuses such as government-funded volumizing shampoo for dogs and the $35 million that Medicare paid out to fake clinics set up by the Armenian mob. “Why aren’t there 535 wastebooks put out every year?” he says, incredulous about his fellow lawmakers’ lack of interest. “Why I am I the only one digging? That’s a question people ought to ask. The only reason it’s novel is because nobody else is doing it.”
He adds that “I think my biggest failing in the Senate is my inability to communicate effectively to change people’s minds. I’m bringing them the facts.” Perhaps the problem is them, not him.
The larger lesson he draws about modern government is that the natural tendency of the political class to accumulate power has exceeded the Constitution’s boundaries, despite occasional spasms of reform that disrupt the inertia. The key, he says, is to put new limits on federal power, devolve responsibility to the states and change the institutional incentives.
“I don’t think you fix this place until you have a convention of the states,” Dr. Coburn says. “Only America can change Washington. I’m a big believer in term limits. I think it causes a different kind of person to want to come up here.”