The Powers That Be

He's got the beet sugar.

He's got the beet sugar.

Not to just keep flogging a dead horse endlessly, but it does strike me as worth noting that when you read a puff piece in The New York Times about the Gang of Six bipartisan dealmakers in the Senate that 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. The six largest states, by contrast, contain about 40 percent of Americans.

The largest metropolitan area contained in whole or in part within any of those six states is the Albuquerque MSA, population 846,000, the 59th largest in the United States—smaller than New Haven or Fresno or Richmond. And of course if you got together a group of Senators from large states that contain big cities—California, New York, Texas, Florida, Illinois—those senators would still represent plenty of farmers and rural communities. Indeed, California is the most important farm state in America. But when you get the inverse group together you wind up completely excluding the interests of residents of large metropolitan areas—not just city dwellers, but the vast number of Americans who live in the suburbs of large cities—even though such places contain a majority of the country’s population and economic activity.