Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Issue of Representation and Liberty. Greater Representation Equals More Liberty.



How free are Americans? While some states have more freedom than other states, no American can easily escape Federal taxation, the Federal regulatory state and its expansive and growing power grabs. But to figure out what is wrong at the Federal level, it's a darn good idea to analyze liberty at the state level and learn why some states fail and some states succeed.

One thing is certain.  For folks to be free and prosperous, power must be diffused as far and wide as possible because optimum liberty is only achieved when We the People are heavily involved in the decision making process.  With so much raw and absolute power concentrated in DC, the states are now literally at the mercy of the federal government as they beg for handouts.  In many states, especially big states, power is highly concentrated into small legislative bodies.  Such situations do not bode well for the future of freedom

The Mercatus Center of George Mason University does a state by state liberty ranking, here. The rankings include the following ratings:

 Fiscal Policy

1. State and Local Taxation as a Percentage of Personal Income, Excluding Severance and Motor Fuel Taxes
2. State and Local Debt as a Percentage of Personal Income
3. State and Local Government Spending as a Percentage of Personal Income
4. State and Local Government Employment Divided by Private Employment

 Regulatory Policies

1. State Hourly Minimum Wage (If Higher than Federal) Divided by Annual Earnings Per Capita, in Hundreds of Dollars
2. Health Insurance Mandates, Estimated Percentage Cost Added to Premiums
3. Estimated Percentage of the Workforce Covered by a State-Level Occupational License
4. Eminent Domain Index

Paternalist Policies

1. Strictness of Gun Control Index
2. Same-Sex Civil Unions or Marriages
3. Cigarette Tax Per Pack of 20, Including Maximum Local Taxes, in 2007 Dollars
4. Home School Standardized Testing or Other Evaluation Requirements

Which state is No. 1 in freedom? New Hampshire.

 Top 10 Freest States

1. New Hampshire
2. South Dakota
3. Indiana
4. Idaho
5. Missouri
6. Nevada
7. Colorado
8. Oregon
9. Virginia
10. North Dakota

Bottom States in Freedom Rankings

40. Washington
41. Illinois
42. Ohio
43. Maryland
44. Alaska
45. Rhode Island
46. Massachusetts
47. Hawaii
48. California
49. New Jersey
50. New York

Why is New Hampshire consistently rated the freest state in America? What makes New Hampshire so unique is its legislative representation.  Not only does the state of New Hampshire have the largest state legislative body in America, it's got the 4th largest bicameral legislative body in the world, behind Britain's Parliament, the US Congress and India.

New Hampshire's bicameral legislative body (an upper house and a lower house) consists of 400 in the New Hampshire House and 24 in the New Hampshire Senate.  New Hampshire has a population of 1.3 million folks which translates to one elected House member for every 3,250 citizens.

Also, New Hampshire legislators are paid $200 per two year term and they do not get their expenses paid for by the state.  In fact, some folks in other states raised the issue of the compensation of New Hampshire legislators and it was fact checked.

Fact Check: New Hampshire legislators do get a small salary Jacksonville.com, 10/13/12
Most of us complain about our salaries and lack of raises, but New Hampshire legislators might have a legitimate gripe. They have been paid $200 for a two-year term since 1889.

The presiding officers of both houses of the legislature — called the General Court — receive a salary of $250, while all other members get $200 plus mileage for 45 legislative days, according to the state Constitution.

Members really clean up for a special session, during which all legislators receive an additional compensation of $3 per day “for a period not exceeding 15 days and the usual mileage.”

Before the Constitution was modified, Snopes.com reports, legislators were paid a whopping $3 a day.
In New Hampshire, they do not have a political professional class that is bankrupting the state with spending, debt, public pensions and costly benefits.  Compare the New Hampshire Legislature to other state legislatures.

New York: $79,500/year plus $171/per full day and $61 per half day

California: $95,291/year plus $141.86 per day for each day they are in session.

Illinois: $67,836/year plus $111/per session day

The above cited compensation packages do not include other benefits like healthcare, pensions and other perks that frequently include automobile allowances.  

Illinois and California are the two most bankrupt states in America.In fact, Illinois admits that it's a fiscal disaster.

Illinois in poorest fiscal condition of all states  Chicago Tribune 6/21/12

California is a fiscal disaster as well as a walking bankrupt.

The Golden State Gone Broke The Huffington Post

New York continues to suffer from way too much public spending and it's economic climate is hostile to taxpayers and businesses which is why New York is ranked dead last in the Mercatus state freedom rankings.

Let's look at representation in New York, California and Illinois, summarized here for all 50 states..

New York: 150 lower chamber representatives, 19 million folks, one representative for every 130,000 people.

California: 80 lower chamber representatives, 37 million folks, one representative for every 460,000 people.

Illinois: 99 lower chamber representatives, 13 million folks, one representative for every 109,000 people.

Only 8 states have one state representative for 100,000 or more citizens but California representation is so far out of whack compared with other states that it's becoming an issue.  There are movements brewing in California to increase representation, here.  However, increased representation will not necessarily solve the huge problems facing California because of the huge cost associated with its legislature.

Increased representation does not always translate into more fiscally responsible state government simply because many states tend to lean big spending Democrat.  Rhode Island, a tiny state with 1 million folks, is a fiscal basket case and several of its cities are already bankrupt or nearly bankrupt despite ranking 8th in representation with 75 legislatures for every 14,000 citizens.  States controlled by Democrats tend to have powerful public sector unions that literally bleed states and taxpayers dry.

Moving along, let's do representation at the federal level. When our founding fathers created the Constitution they literally envisioned one congressional representative for every 30,000 citizens or representation to never exceed 50-60,000 according to thirtythousand.org.
The framers of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights intended that the total population of Congressional districts never exceed 50 to 60 thousand. Currently, the average population size of the districts is nearly 700,000 and, consequently, the principle of proportionally equitable representation has been abandoned.



What went wrong? Congressional representation has been fixed at 435 for a century, since at least 1911 when Congress just stopped increasing representation despite increases in the census population and 1929 when Congress passed a law permanently fixing the House of Representatives at 435, here and here.  The Constitution doesn't mandate how many representatives there should be and only states that "the Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative.".

Members of Congress are paid $174,000 a year and they collect extraordinary benefits.   Turnover is low for members of Congress and most have been there a very long time and have accrued very costly lifetime pension and health benefits.  The notion of sacrificing for a few years to perform a civic duty is no longer a component of our political process and we have spawned a permanent class of  very expensive to maintain lifetime politicians with an insatiable quest for power and money.  Many have grown rich while in office because of political connections; some leave office and/or retire but hire themselves out as lobbyists to earn millions.

Our founders envisioned federal and state legislative bodies consisting of citizen legislator and certainly not a permanent class of professional politicians. Politics has definitely grown into a serious high risk, high stakes expensive business.  In many way, politics has grown beyond the grasp of the average citizen simply because so much power and wealth have been concentrated into damn few hands (banksters, military industrial complex, prison industrial complex, fascist rent seeking crony capitalists).

Therefore, it's extremely difficult to get folks interested in the issue of representation because folks literally freak out and immediately think that more representation at the state and federal level automatically translates to even bigger more costly government.

The issue of representation needs to be brought out of the closet and put on the table for a real debate because when the concentration of power combines with high paid professional politicians, the entire concept of citizen legislator is shattered as is liberty, accountability and sane fiscal policies.

Governance is no longer a We the People initiative but a corrupt and insidious racketeering game where politicians are bought and paid for by special interests.  

In California, a state with extremely poor representation, a corrupt 'very expensive to maintain' legislature and monstrous fiscal problems,  there is a grassroots movement to address the issue of the need for increased representation.

Project: Represent Me
Project: Represent Me aspires to ignite a movement to restore representation so that government acts on behalf of the people as originally intended by our founding fathers. Our mission will be accomplished through in-depth research & analysis, eduction, and advocacy. Our goal is to instill meaningful change in the way government operates at all levels, and to create a framework that empowers people to make their voice heard.
It's a good start on an issue that that been ignored for way too long.

2 comments:

  1. Many years ago I lived in NH, and our town had a bridge that needed replacement. There were three options: do it ourselves at a cost of $100k; do it with state help at a cost of $250k; do it with fed help at a cost of $350k. The fed job would have widened it and made the bridge more robust. We did it ourselves for the $100k. We didn't want anyone else involved. It was our job to do.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Awesome HighlanderJuan. That's the way things should be done.

    ReplyDelete

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