Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Real Problem with The Senate's Small-State Bias

The Real Problem with The Senate
(click on above link for awesome piece)

This is an analytical report/study/article (complete w/ awesome graphs!) detailing just how campaign contributions from corporations influence policy-making, w/ special detail on the current healtchcare reform initiative, and committees writing legislation, and why certain house/senate members - by name - are "in the way." Also included: a complete list of the source of campaign funds for all 100 senators follows below. - sj

here's an excerpt:
"As you all surely know, the Senate is not a terribly democratic institution. A voter in Wyoming -- population 533,000 -- has about 70 times more ability to influence the Senate's direction than one in California -- population 36.8 million. And the lack of representativeness can be particularly acute when the Senate is conducting business at the committee level. Max Baucus's Table for Six, for instance, which may very well determine the fate of efforts to reform health care, is made up of members who collectively represent about 6.5 million people, or around one-fiftieth of the country's population.

This in and of itself is problematic for Democrats, since there is a correlation between the size of a state and how Democratic it tends to vote in elections for national office, although the relationship is not as strong as you might posit (Rhode Island, Delaware and Hawaii are small states too). The bigger and more structural problem, however, may have to do with the ways that small-state senators raise funds, and in turn, whose interests they are beholden to."

"...This goes a long way toward explaining, however, why the Senate tends to be more protective than the House of corporate interests -- be they in the form of bank bailouts, tax breaks, or whatever else (consider, for instance, that H.R. 1424 -- the second take on the bank bailout -- was approved with the votes of 74 percent of the Senate but just 60 percent of the House). We don't need vague notions about the "cultural" differences between the two chambers to explain this -- they have mostly to do with where the money is flowing in from."

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