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Transcript: Thom Hartmann: The Big Picture: "Breaking Up is Hard to Do"...Break up California into 3 states. 26 May '11
Every ten years - the House of Representatives get reshuffled. Based on census data - states may gain or lose Congressional seats depending on how many people enter or leave certain states. This ensures that the House reflects the changing population in America.
As a result of last year’s census - the state of Ohio is slated to lose two Congressional seats in next year’s election. And since Republicans control the state legislature in Ohio - they’re picking off the progressive districts - most notably the 10th district of Ohio - a district faithfully represented by Dennis Kucinich for more than 14 years.
Now Kucinich - a leading voice among progressives - has to look for a new district to represent just to stay in Congress - rumor has it he's been looking around near Seattle in Washington State, which is gaining a congressional seat because that state's population has grown.
So while the House is constantly adding or subtracting congresspeople depending on how many people have moved into or out of the various states - guess what the Senate is doing?
That’s because, unlike the House - which reconfigures itself every ten years - the Senate stays the same ol’ Senate - and other than adding entire new states, hasn't reflected any changes in the population of America since it was created way back in 1789.
Virginia - the most populous state back then had 2 Senators - and it still has 2 Senators today even though it’s now the 12th most populous state.
Back in 1787 when they were writing the Constitution, a compromise was made to keep the small states from deserting the republic. That compromise was that every state would get two senators regardless of the state's population. Back then, for example, Virginia had roughly ten times more people than the least populous state - Rhode Island - and both had two senators.
But today - the most populous state - California - has more than 70 times the population of the least populous state - Wyoming - yet they both get the same representation in the Senate. How does that make sense?
As a result - we have a handful of sparsely populated states - mostly represented by Republicans - who account for less than 16% of the population but can dictate what the rest of the country does.
That’s why during the last session of Congress - over 200 pieces of progressive legislation passed out of the House of Representatives - a body that reflects the will of the people more accurately - only to die in the Senate at the hands of forty Republicans Senators who only represent a very tiny slice of Americans.
I guess that’s why they call the Senate the place where good legislation goes to die.
But I have a plan to fix this mess. It’s the Thom Hartmann 4 step plan to fix the Senate.
Here it is...
Step 1 - Break California up into 3 different states. There’s no reason why a state that represents nearly one eighth of the population of the entire United States should only have one-fiftieth representation in the Senate. Break it up into 3 states and you get 4 new Democratic Senators.
Step 2 - break up Texas into two states. Again - why should a state the represents one-twelfth of the population only have one-fiftieth representation in the Senate? By breaking up Texas - we create a new state with 2 new Democratic Senators - Senators who - I might add - probably won’t be pushing for secession. And we'll let old Texas keep all the slogans like "Don't mess with Texas" and "The Lone Star State"...it can also keep Governor Rick Perry.
Step 3 - break up New York into two states. Why should New York with more than one sixteenth of the total US population have the same representation in the Senate as Wyoming with less than two-tenths of one percent of the total population? And by breaking up New York - we add 2 more Democratic Senators.
And Step 4 - break up Florida. Like New York - Florida represents about one sixteenth of the population and should have more sway in the Senate than one-fiftieth. Voila! Make New York City one state, and the rest of the state another, and you just added 2 more new Democratic Senators.
And just like that - by reflecting more accurately the population of America - we grew the Senate by 10 seats - all of them probably belonging to Democrats.
If we did this last year - then the make up of the Senate would have been 69 Democrats and 41 Republicans - more than enough to overcome a filibuster - and we’d have a public option - heck we may even be on the road toward a single-payer system - we’d have a clean energy plan - a limit on corporate campaign donations - stronger Wall Street reforms - and a New Deal to put Americans back to work.
So let’s get to work breaking up the biggest states - it’s a straightforward way to fix the Senate - and help fix America.
Plus - I think 5 more stars on the flag could look pretty sharp.
That's The Big Picture.