As the Magnificent Seven; and I use the term loosely, gear up for the campaign kickoff in the Hawkeye State, one very interesting widget was passed my way by the media. The fact that Texas Governor Rick Perry, Republican presidential hopeful is suggesting a Part-Time Congress. Suggesting five-hundred-thirty-five part time employees occupying the floors of the Senate and House of Representatives in Washington, DC doing their job at only part-time wages, working no more than twenty hours a week, and no full-time employee benefits, would save billions of dollars to either pay down the debt or reinvest in Social Security and other programs. Well, one can read the Constitution, the Federalist Papers, or any ninth grade Civics textbook and learn this is not constitutionally possible. However, another form of reduction need be investigated.
Our Founding Fathers actually wanted only one house of congress, but southern colonies wanted a population-based legislature so they could count their slaves (who could not vote) into the population and the north wanted all states to have equal representatives. The compromise was to take one of each. The notion of the bicameral legislature has been long hard-coded into the Constitution but we do know that one house, the House of Representatives, was designed to have a variable number of representatives we call congressmen. Does it really have to be four-hundred-thirty-five?
After World War II, British prime minister Winston Churchill coined the term rotten borough where towns that had been reduced to practically ghost towns were themselves entire districts in their House of Commons. With the post World War II baby boom behind us and smaller generations of Americans coming to be, it may be time for the Federal Government to consider a global reapportionment algorithm whose actions not only include redistricting, but reduction as well. The possibility that a House of Representatives of three-hundred-ninety-five may be more than adequate representative for Generations X, Y, and further into the future will be more than adequate representation. In the high-tech social media era, citizens can send emails, texts, and more to a congressman not bogged down by an unmanageable peerage and do what he or she was elected to do in the first place, serve the people who elected him or her.
The recession of the early 1990s was followed by a recovery that included corporations streamlining with a smaller workforce with more duties delegated to each employee. Further streamlining will take place in this great recession. It is time they considered the same in Washington. There is nothing written in the constitution that sets the number of representatives in the house as an absolute number and it is time to go this route.