Category: US Government

Minority Rule

‘Having more Reps than any other state’ does not mean “the population is equitably represented”. The number of people represented by those Representatives (or electoral college delegates, for that matter)? Each House member represents ~702k Californians. Each electoral delegate represents ~677k Californians.
Congressional apportionment isn’t fractional, so there’s over- and under- representation — the distribution just advantages different states. Rhode Island had just over a million people in the 2010 census but have two reps — each of those individuals represent some 500k Rhode Islanders. There are states that fair worse in the HoR — Montana had just under a million and have one rep.
Taking the American government as a whole — low-population density states are over-represented in the Senate and Electoral College — which also means they are over-represented in SCOTUS. Asserting “the majority have a chance to win one half of the Legislature … a chance to create an impasse where nothing gets done” isn’t the most functional form of government imaginable. I understand and appreciate the “minority rights” idea behind over-representation. And, obviously, those in the minority will view the situation differently. But there’s a difference between the minority having enough power to force compromises toward their position and minority rule with … well, seemingly “fuck you”. Or minority rule with a majority who are able to prevent legislative changes (leading to the prevalence of Executive Orders).

 

Number of people represented by each rep in the Senate:

This is where I’d know small populations are over-represented. Two senators regardless of population — a state with a hundred residents would have two senators. Obviously we don’t have a state with a hundred residents — but the least populous states are the ‘best deal for residents’ list — lowest number of people represented by each Senator

Size Rank State 2010 Population per Census Senators # Represented per Senator
52  Wyoming 563,626 2                                     281,813.0
50  Vermont 625,741 2                                     312,870.5
49  North Dakota 672,591 2                                     336,295.5
48  Alaska 710,231 2                                     355,115.5
47  South Dakota 814,180 2                                     407,090.0
46  Delaware 897,934 2                                     448,967.0
45  Montana 989,415 2                                     494,707.5
44  Rhode Island 1,052,567 2                                     526,283.5
43  New Hampshire 1,316,470 2                                     658,235.0
42  Maine 1,328,361 2                                     664,180.5

And the most populous sates are the ‘worst deal for residents’ list — highest number of people represented by  each Senator

Size Rank State 2010 Population per Census Senators # Represented per Senator
1  California 37,253,956 2                               18,626,978.0
2  Texas 25,145,561 2                               12,572,780.5
3  New York 19,378,102 2                                  9,689,051.0
4  Florida 18,801,310 2                                  9,400,655.0
5  Illinois 12,830,632 2                                  6,415,316.0
6  Pennsylvania 12,702,379 2                                  6,351,189.5
7  Ohio 11,536,504 2                                  5,768,252.0
8  Michigan 9,883,640 2                                  4,941,820.0
9  Georgia 9,687,653 2                                  4,843,826.5
10  North Carolina 9,535,483 2                                  4,767,741.5

 

Number of people represented by each rep in the House of Representatives:

But the apportionment in the House of Representatives isn’t as equitable as one might assume. It’s a different list of states under- and over- represented … but one rep from Rhode Island represents half a million people. One rep from Montana represents just short of a million people!

Best deal for residents — small number of people represented by each rep

Size Rank State 2010 Population per Census Reps # Represented per Rep
44  Rhode Island 1,052,567 2                             526,283.5
52  Wyoming 563,626 1                             563,626.0
39  Nebraska 1,826,341 3                             608,780.3
38  West Virginia 1,852,994 3                             617,664.7
50  Vermont 625,741 1                             625,741.0
43  New Hampshire 1,316,470 2                             658,235.0
24  South Carolina 4,625,364 7                             660,766.3
21  Minnesota 5,303,925 8                             662,990.6
42  Maine 1,328,361 2                             664,180.5
13  Washington 6,724,540 10                             672,454.0

Worst deal for residents — high number of people represented by each rep:

Size Rank State 2010 Population per Census Reps # Represented per Rep
45  Montana 989,415 1                           989,415.00
46  Delaware 897,934 1                           897,934.00
47  South Dakota 814,180 1                           814,180.00
40  Idaho 1,567,582 2                           783,791.00
27  Oregon 3,831,074 5                           766,214.80
31  Iowa 3,046,355 4                           761,588.75
25  Louisiana 4,533,372 6                           755,562.00
28  Oklahoma 3,751,351 5                           750,270.20
18  Missouri 5,988,927 8                           748,615.88
32  Mississippi 2,967,297 4                           741,824.25

 

Electoral College:

The combination of which yields the over and under representation in the Electoral College (and the reason I think the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is such a good idea).

Best deal:

Size Rank State 2010 Population per Census Electoral Delegates # Represented per Delegate
52  Wyoming 563,626 3 187,875
51  District of Columbia 601,723 3 200,574
50  Vermont 625,741 3 208,580
49  North Dakota 672,591 3 224,197
48  Alaska 710,231 3 236,744
44  Rhode Island 1,052,567 4 263,142
47  South Dakota 814,180 3 271,393
46  Delaware 897,934 3 299,311
43  New Hampshire 1,316,470 4 329,118
45  Montana 989,415 3 329,805

And the worst deal

Size Rank State 2010 Population per Census Electoral Delegates # Represented per Delegate
1  California 37,253,956 55 677,345
3  New York 19,378,102 29 668,210
2  Texas 25,145,561 38 661,725
4  Florida 18,801,310 29 648,321
5  Illinois 12,830,632 20 641,532
7  Ohio 11,536,504 18 640,917
10  North Carolina 9,535,483 15 635,699
6  Pennsylvania 12,702,379 20 635,119
11  New Jersey 8,791,894 14 627,992
8  Michigan 9,883,640 16 617,728

Divide by Zero Error

None of which speak to the almost five million people who are unrepresented in the Legislature. Or the just short of one million people who aren’t even represented in the Electoral College.

Size Rank State 2010 Population per Census Reps # Represented per Rep Senators # Represented per Senator Electoral Delegates # Represented per Delegate
29  Puerto Rico 3,725,789 0 #DIV/0! 0 #DIV/0! 0 #DIV/0!
51  District of Columbia 601,723 0 #DIV/0! 0 #DIV/0! 3 200,574
53  Guam 159,358 0 #DIV/0! 0 #DIV/0! 0 #DIV/0!
54  U.S. Virgin Islands 106,405 0 #DIV/0! 0 #DIV/0! 0 #DIV/0!
56  Northern Mariana Islands 53,883 0 #DIV/0! 0 #DIV/0! 0 #DIV/0!
55  American Samoa 55,519 0 #DIV/0! 0 #DIV/0! 0 #DIV/0!

 

And the spreadsheet, in case it’s useful to someone else.

Words of Obligation

Our Township recently came across a provision in the Zoning Regulations that stipulated that, upon receipt of a request, the board shall approve said request. The county prosecutor’s office advised them that this phrasing means they must approve the request. Now, that’s a risk mitigation decision, not a purely legal one. If they don’t approve the request, they could end up in court arguing over the meaning of the word “shall”. Gutierrez de Martinez v. Lamagno 515 U.S. 417 (1995), as an example, indicates it’s not apt to be a losing case. But … our County Prosecutor’s office is quite circumspect and very cautious. You could argue that shall is not a word of obligation. But you could also replace ‘shall’ with ‘must’ or ‘may’ in your text and avoid any question. Given that the ordinances can be changed, the only down side to eliminating ambiguous language is time.

Last night, we attended a meeting where they discussed the proposed new language to avoid needing to rubber-stamp every submission. And … the new text is riddled with the word shall. When a request is submitted for a special event permit, the request shall, provided the requestors have addressed this list of considerations, be approved. I brought up the scenario where multiple requests are received for the same area for the same time-period. Each individual event has sufficiently managed crowds, parking, noise, health and safety facilities, etc. But in toto three Independence Day special events within a quarter mile of each other creates a traffic concern. Or twelve Memorial Day special events across the township will strain emergency response resources. They need the flexibility to say “sorry, you’re the fifth guy who wants to do something this weekend … no”.

Reasonable Doubt

America need an org that identifies police misconduct instead of DNA testing and will file motions for new trials to present the perfectly reasonable argument that flagrant misconduct is likely not an isolated incident. Somewhat like Project Innocence, but with a different basis for their requests. 

There were some cops in Philly (well, I’m sure this isn’t unique to Philly) who got fed up with not finding evidence on people who they “knew” were clockin … so they planted what they needed to find, ignored search and seizure laws, etc. The city had to go back through a whole lot of cases because, hey, that’s reasonable doubt as Bob has been saying for three years that it wasn’t his crack. If memory serves, the city also had to fork over a bunch of money in restitution.
 
Would an officer who is willing to kill someone take the mindset of the Philly cops? ‘Knows’ the person is guilty, frustrated that no evidence can be found. Even without extrapolating additional misconduct, how many *other* people were ‘resisting’ like Mr. Floyd? People who ended up incarcerated for resisting arrest and/or assaulting an officer. The actions of the individuals in Minnesota seems like new evidence that would create reasonable doubt in other cases where the officers involved claim someone was resisting. Bob says he wasn’t resisting arrest. Officer Fred, who has demonstrably lied saying a compliant person was resisting, says Bob was resisting. That’s a far different assertion than Bob says he wasn’t resisting, Officer Fred, who is an upstanding officer with a decade of service, says Bob was resisting.

Like in the movies

Every time I’ve watched a sci-fi movie where someone builds a robot that decides to annihilate humans, I wonder how the engineer missed out on the previous thousand movies where someone’s very good idea for a robot kills us all. I mean, sure it would be a really short movie if we pan into some lady sitting in a lab with a bunch of robotic bits spread out on a table and hear her say “Wait … I’ve seen Collossus: The Forbin Project … lets not do this”. And she shuts down the computer, shelves the components, turns the lights off, and goes home. But seriously, how could anyone about to install laser cannons on a drone not think “wait … “. Some movies address this with a four-laws derivative — I know the previous thousand robots went horribly awry, but here’s my idea at coding in guardrails.

Kind of think the same thing about zombie movies — the body of work tells you that really good precautions and quarantines are totally the way to go. But what happens IRL when there’s a contagious virus about? Exposed passengers from a cruise ship are flown back to the States. HHS’s welcome committee aren’t trained for infectious disease exposure and don’t kit up.

Updated Federal Budget Distribution – 2019

Here’s the latest pie charts of how the federal government spends its money. Again, there’s discretionary spending — spending from appropriation bills and the full budget which includes spending for things like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid which vary depending on the number of recipients and how much each recipient is being paid. This doesn’t mean the non-discretionary components couldn’t be changed — there’s been discussion of means testing Social Security payments and Medicare eligibility — but these changes are generally considered politically untenable (would you vote for the guy who just reduced your SS cheque because you happened to have a pension or money saved in a retirement account?).

Here’s the full budget breakout, updated for 2019

And discretionary budget

Direct Representation

I always wanted to run for federal office on the platform of direct representation — more a technology than a platform. Develop a system that allows constituents to log in and vote for any legislation — basically like proxy voting for shareholders. I’d deliver summary and full text content of anything in advance of the vote, and I’d cast my vote as dictated by my constituents. And constituents could see the vote totals for each piece of legislation to prove that I am voting based on real input. Obviously, this platform suffers an immense privilege problem — it’s great for a demographic with free time to read through legislation and convenient Internet access. It also suffers a civic disengagement problem — does anyone actually want to read through the text of everything that’s coming up in my committees and to floor votes? It’s quite possible that I’d be voting against the National Law Enforcement Museum Commemorative Coin Act (H.R. 1865) because five people bothered to lodge an opinion … and only to troll the entire idea behind direct representation. And none of that considers the threat of malicious actors.

Once there is a platform available for one legislator, expending it to others in the same chamber is trivial. Adding the other chamber or state legislatures is an undertaking from a content-development standpoint (what *is* on schedule for the Oregon Senate today?), but the underlying development effort is the same. Somewhat like the National Popular Vote compact is an end-run around formalizing the eradication of the Electoral College, this would be an end-run around indirect representation.

But I’ve thought, of late, that starting at the Federal level is misguided — if for no other reason than the incredible amount of money it takes to run a campaign for federal office. But also because getting the six million or so Ohio voters set up for direct representation by their state Senator would be a logistical nightmare. It seems better to begin implementation at the local level — run for school board or a Township Trustee position where you are concerned about a few thousand voters. Use local offices as small proof-of-concept experiments. Maybe it doesn’t work out — maybe no one cares enough to check what’s being discussed and vote for their position. Maybe running and supporting the platform is too expensive or time consuming. Hell, maybe no one is interested enough in direct representation for a direct representation candidate to win in the first place.

The Federal Budget (aka there’s no such thing as a fiscal conservative)

The federal budget numbers for 2019 and 2020 are, of course, estimates … but it perplexes me how persistent the myth of the “tax and spend” Democrat and the “reduce government spending” Republican is. There’s no party shrinking the federal budget. Having a huge increase and then dropping back down to where you started isn’t much of a “decrease”. And outright increasing certainly isn’t a decrease.

If the difference is “tax and spend” and “just spend” … the fiscally conservative position should always be “don’t spend money you don’t have”.

Maths: The Wall

I think the wall is a completely stupid idea — based on emotion rather than statistics about the source of immigration violations, not an effective solution even if the problem were people sneaking across the border. But I am seeing a way to get this whole debacle sorted within the Executive branch (which may not be legal, because government budgeting isn’t quite the same as corporate budgeting). When we’ve got projects that are under-budget, the extra money can get moved over to some other purpose. Well, if we can shut down the government for no good reason during budget negotiations … what if the Executive branch shut down all those “non-essential” services for a while to free up money that can be transferred over to DHS? How long would the government need to be shut down?

 

For a five billion dollar wall (again, HA!) … since the FY2019 budget is like 4.4 trillion dollars, we spend 12 billion a day. Say 90% of that is essential. Five days of shutdown would fund the wall. Which doesn’t make the wall a good idea. Or mean Congress should just approve it to get the whole debacle over with. But it certainly says something about government spending that the wall is half of a day worth of spending. And it certainly says something about our government that it gets shut down over half a day worth of spending.

 

 $         5,000,000,000.00 The wall
 $ 4,407,000,000,000.00 FY2019 budget
 $       12,073,972,602.74 Daily spending
 $         1,207,397,260.27 10%
4.141139097 shutdown days

Updated Federal Budget Distribution – 2018

Here’s the latest pie charts of how the federal government spends its money. Again, there’s discretionary spending — spending from appropriation bills and the full budget which includes spending for things like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid which vary depending on the number of recipients and how much each recipient is being paid. This doesn’t mean the non-discretionary components couldn’t be changed — there’s been discussion of means testing Social Security payments and Medicare eligibility — but these changes are generally considered politically untenable (would you vote for the guy who just reduced your SS cheque because you happened to have a pension or money saved in a retirement account?).

Here’s the full budget breakout, updated for 2018

And discretionary budget: