WARNING: RANT ABOUT “HEALTH CARE REFORM” AHEAD
Matt Yglesias has his knee breeches and silk stockings in a twist because ZOMG “vast power is being wielded by people who, in a democratic system of government, would have almost no power. We’re talking, after all, about Max Baucus of Montana, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, Susan Collins of Maine, Mike Enzi of Wyoming, and Chuck Grassley of Iowa. Collectively those six states contain about 2.74 percent of the population, less than New Jersey, or about one fifth the population of California.” (Via The Daily Beast.) Funny, I don’t hear too many pundits all that upset when Senators from those same states (or others equally unpopulated) are rewriting or blocking legislation of which they disapprove.
So: duh, Matt. It’s been that way for 220 years, and in fact the decision to apportion senate seats by politically-defined land masses instead of by population has been used to block legislation throughout American history. That’s what the Senate was designed to do! It’s a feature, not a bug. Read the U.S. Constituion, Article I, section 3, and it’s as plain as daylight dawning on Long’s Peak. I’m not saying it’s right–this giveaway to small states was in part a result of the Continental Congress’s Constitutional Convention’s adoption of the nefarious 3/5 Compromise, in which large southern states totally scored by getting the U.S. to count enslaved people only for the purposes of determining representation in the U.S. House–they weren’t extended the rights and privileges of citizenship. The agreement to give 2 Senators to each state–the Connecticut Compromise–was a bone the big slave states had to toss to the somewhat more urban small states like Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Delaware, which happened to be mostly in the North and mostly not states in which enslaved labor was a large part of the population.
It was perfectly clear by the end of the nineteenth century that the smaller, northeastern states had the short end of the stick of congressional representation, after westward U.S. imperial expansion had turned the Great American Desert (and beyond) into a bunch of large, squarish political land masses with very small populations and yet 2 Senators apiece. Thus the domination of the rural southern and western minority over the urban majority continued into the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries. You want a Corrupt Bargain? I got yer Corrupt Bargain, right here, pally. The North and East haven’t caught a break since John Quincy Adams’s “selection” in 1824. (For the record: I supported Andrew Jackson in both 1824 and 1828, but as you probably already know, I wasn’t permitted to vote because of my sex.)
Now, to the matter at hand, our pathetic “health care reform” debate, which seems to be more about figuring out how to subsidize for-profit health insurance companies: is it really hopelessly screwed up because of the Connecticut Compromise? Continue reading