WASHINGTON – In response to my tirade last week, “Unaccountable government,” several readers e-mailed with some worthy suggestions.
“Thank you for beginning the process of getting people to think about this issue, as I believe that one of the reasons our government got out of control is that earlier generations dropped the ball and let the politicians get away with fixing their numbers to suit themselves, instead of sticking to the constitutional standards,” writes Robert Davidson.
He’s not talking about just fixing the financial numbers, either.
“I have nearly given up trying to get through to my so-called ‘representatives,’” he writes. “As you pointed out in your article, all I ever get (if anything) is some idiotic form letter that does not address my comments or concerns at all.”
That got Davidson to thinking about a solution to this mess.
“Several months ago (after reading about the Census results), I started thinking about the number of representatives in Congress,” he wrote. “I couldn’t help wondering why Michigan, where I live, is losing a representative in Congress even though we’ve had a respectable increase in population. Looking in the almanac, I realized that we’ve been stuck with the same total number of representatives in Congress since 1912, when Arizona joined the union. At that time the number of constituents per representative was 212,000. Today it is over 654,000 to one. How in the world is that ‘representation’?”
That’s a good question – and not one often asked in this era of dumbed-down civics lessons.
The Constitution (Article 1, Section 2) states: “The number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty thousand. …” That seemed like a good number to the founders and it seems like a good number to me. By this standard we would have 9,491 representatives in Congress, not a paltry 435.
“My own (rural) county would end up with three representatives instead of just being a backwoods corner of a big-city political machine,” says Davidson. “Of course, it would be much harder to get a majority of 4,746 to get bills passed, making it much more difficult to cram legislation through, but if the Congress heeded the restrictions on its authority, that wouldn’t be such a problem.”
I agree 100 percent.
Davidson continues: “It’s interesting that the first Congress proposed an amendment along with the Bill of Rights that would have gradually increased the ratio of congressmen to populace. It was the only one of the 12 articles submitted that completely failed to get ratified.”
That’s a shame, in retrospect. It’s clear that our elected representatives are no longer representative. They are no longer accountable. They are out of touch – even the best of them. And one of the reasons is they just have too many constituents.
I agree with another correspondent, Bill Schoeffler, who suggests cutting the staffs responsible for sending out the form letters and increasing the number of representatives to, say, 2,000 to 3,000 – a little less ambitious than Davidson’s plan. Each representative would then get one or two staff people.
This formula would change the ratio from one representative for every 630,000 people to one representative for every 110,000 (using a compromise 2,500 figure).
“I love this idea!” exclaims Schoeffler. “Fewer staffers mean less intrusive legislation.”
You betcha. I like that, too.
Of course, these ideas raise an obvious pragmatic question: Where would such a large body of representatives meet?
Davidson has an idea about that, also.
“How about that monstrosity they built in Washington and then had the gall to name after Ronald Reagan?” he asks. “The blasted thing sits half-empty anyway, so maybe we’d get some better use out of our stolen hard-earned money!”
Again, sometimes our readers just say it better than I ever could. There simply is no downside to more representatives in the House. It doesn’t necessarily mean a bigger budget. Logistically it will cut down on the amount of legislation approved, and that always means fewer threats to our freedom.
This is an idea whose time has come. It may not get us all the way back to the Constitution and limited government concepts of our founders, but it’s a start.