Despite the growing size of our population, we still only have 435 U.S. congressional districts and 100 U.S. Senate seats.
Some states have revised the number of state legislators – New Hampshire for example – but the vast majority have maintained the status quo on politically elected officials, in most cases since achieving statehood.
And yet we’ve had massive swings in population just in the last 20 years alone.
The situation is really even worse at the local level where we maintain a county and municipal structure that dates back to a time when the horse was the predominant mode of transport and the average individual was not likely to travel more than 30 miles from their home during their entire life.
While our form of republican democracy is unquestionably one of the best forms of government on the planet, is it possible that it is also outdated and contributing to our economic woes?
This is especially true when you consider that while the number of elected officials has held pretty constant – and therefore under-represent the electorate – the number of public employees continues to grow by staggering proportions.
Consider just the state of CT, which has over 200 county, municipal and local governments which, when combined with the state, employ 66,500 full-time employees. That’s 19 employees per 1000 residents.
New York simply dwarfs this number with over 941,000 public employees or 49 per 1000 residents.
In Maine, 213,000 people – or 1/3 of the TOTAL number employed in the entire state are PUBLIC EMPLOYEES.
Is it any wonder why all three states are running significant deficits and massively underfunded public pension systems?
More government institutions mean more bureaucracy, regulation, spending and taxes. I’m not criticizing public employees per se. Most public servants are hardworking people looking to better their communities. That doesn’t mean that we need them all or that we might have too much of a “good thing”.
In most states, counties, major metropolitan areas and localities completely overlap each other.
So what is the rationale for having a double set of mayors, county executives, fire departments, police departments, sanitation departments, public works, health departments, education departments and so forth? Or all the buildings and infrastructure that are required to house and support these people?
Perhaps one of the most widely under-researched issues in this country may ultimately focus on just why we need all these different government bodies and all these government workers?
This becomes a serious question worth in-depth study when you consider the major issues that the federal government and most states are confronting in terms of providing adequate services to the American people: Providing adequate healthcare, infrastructure improvements (roads, bridges, etc.), maintaining unemployment benefits, a first rate education system, addressing the growing drain on public services that illegal aliens impose on our society, the unfunded public employ pension crisis and our shrinking tax base that is resulting from the continued aging of our population.
At the federal level, you can include providing a first rate national defense and intelligence infrastructure.
In Washington and the states, the focus is on what to do with the immediate federal debt crisis.
While this is unquestionably of paramount concern, the greater concern is that our nation’s elected officials will come up with a short-term fix, pat themselves on the back and call it a day. The reality is that the comprehensive governing structures of America and all 50 states need to be reviewed and overhauled if we are ultimately going to effectively solve the way that we allocate resources for public services.
The status quo simply cannot be maintained – if it is, we will most likely find ourselves right back where we started not too far down the road.
More government, or more accurately, more of the same government, is simply not an acceptable solution to handling the problems of a 21st Century America. Americans deserve greater political representation – especially at the federal level – and fewer public employees and government entities.