Wednesday, February 20, 2013

PRESERVING THE REPUBLIC

It may seem a little blasphemous, but doggone it, the Father of the Constitution screwed up.

James Madison wrote the first ten amendments, which came to be known as the Bill of Rights.

Actually, there were twelve amendments, but the first two weren’t adopted. At least not right away. Number Two sat there for a couple hundred years until a college student in Texas dug it up and got it ratified as the 27th Amendment. It’s the one that says Congress can’t raise their own salaries during their term of office.

But the original First Amendment never did get adopted. Here’s what it says:

After the first enumeration required by the first article of the Constitution, there shall be one Representative for every thirty thousand, until the number shall amount to one hundred, after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall be not less than one hundred Representatives, nor "more" than one Representative for every forty thousand persons, until the number of Representatives shall amount to two hundred; after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall not be less than two hundred Representatives, nor less than one Representative for every fifty thousand persons.

This was where Madison, or his scrivener got confused. When the population got to 3 million, there would be one hundred Representatives, one for every 30,000 people.

But as soon as the population got to be three million and one, there was supposed to be not less than one hundred representatives, but not MORE than one for every 40,000 people.

Sorry, Mr. Madison. It can’t be both. One hundred Representatives IS more than one for every 40,000 people, until the population gets up to four million.

OK, so Madison goofed on phase two. But phase three makes sense. It says that once the population gets to eight million, so that a ratio of one to 40,000 produces a House of Representatives with 200 hundred seats, that number – 200 members – becomes one measure of the minimum size of the House.

The other measure? One for every 50,000 people. So as the population grew from eight to ten million, the House would stay at 200 members. After ten million, the House would have one member for every 50,000 people.

Of course, that amendment never was adopted. The size of the House was left to the Congress and it changed many times over the years until in 1911 a law was enacted specifying that the House of Representatives would have 435 members. Period.

In 1912 the population was around 95 million. Which meant one Representative for every 218,390 people. With today’s 330 million Americans, that’s one Congressman for every 758,620.

And we complain about how much money they raise and spend to get elected and reelected!

No wonder Congress has lost the faith and respect of the American people. They aren’t our neighbors. They don’t come around knocking on our doors. They don’t live in our town

They are distant, detached politicians. In Washington, D.C. Inside the Beltway.

They come to us, if at all, on TV or in bulk mail.

So what can be done about it?

There are lots of ideas being floated on the Internet. Term limits. Restrictions on Congressional compensation and benefits. Recall petitions.

None of them address the real problem that in a Republic, the people must be represented by officials they know and trust. Distant untouchable celebrities won’t do.

One to every 50,000 is about as far as we should have to go.

Don’t scoff. There’s a way to do it. Stay tuned.

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