Sunday, July 17, 2011

Who does Wyoming's Congressional delegation represent? Hint: If you're not wealthy, it ain't you!

There’s an old saying defining an optimist as “the only person in the room who doesn’t have all the facts.” That definition that would fit many of my Republican friends who continue supporting our Congressional delegation in the debate over the nation’s debt ceiling. You’ve been duped into believing the ideological refusal to ask the wealthy to share the pain of deficit reduction serves your interests. It doesn’t. If Senators Enzi and Barrasso and Representative Lummis and their colleagues get their way, cuts deep enough to make a dent will seriously damage your future and that of your children.
If you’re on Medicare or if your parents are, the cuts proposed will mean an additional tax on the middle class in the form of much higher medical costs out of your pocket. Your children who are already in over their heads (or yours) with student loans will have to go far deeper into debt to get a basic education. The infrastructure will continue to deteriorate, jobs will be lost in the public sector and your take home pay will decline. The interest rates you pay for necessities like mortages and car loans will be increased. If you have one of hundreds of state jobs dependent on federal grants, you may find yourself on the unemployment line.
Is it a matter of disliking Obama and anything he proposes that persuades you to support GOP proposals that work against your own interests? What rational evidence is there to cause you to think these three are representing your interests? They are not. Their insistence on no new taxes on the richest people in America helps a very small number of Wyoming families and damages the vast majority.
According to the US Census Bureau, Wyoming has fewer millionaire households than any other state in the union. Dead last! Even Mississippi has 5 times as many as the Cowboy State. That’s an especially intriguing number in the context of the current debate on whether the United States will default on its debt.
Of the 200,000 households in Wyoming only 8,708 (about 4%) have an income in excess of a million dollars a year. For the other 96%, the median income is around 50,000 dollars. Because census statistics don’t tell us how many of those 8,708 are simply millionaires and how many are multi-millionaires or even billionaires, we have no way of knowing just how many of them our Congressional delegation is defending in their Party-line insistence that the uber-wealthy should not share in the sacrifice. But what is clear is the other 200,000 families in Wyoming have no representation in this debate.
The numbers defy the notion that we live in a representative democracy. Assume arguendo all 8,708 might be asked to pay a little more toward reducing the deficit under the President’s proposal to end some of the Bush tax cuts in 2013 although most mere millionaires would not.
Our political system is set up to assure one person-one vote in the US House of Representatives. But if you are among the wealthiest Wyoming millionaires, you have one vote per 8,708 households. By contrast California’s wealthy families get only one Congressman for every 12,517 wealthy household. For neighboring Colorado, the ratio is 1:12,842.
The Senate is even more unrepresentative. Wyoming’s two US Senators represent the 8,708 richest families unswervingly. So the uber-Wyoming wealthy have one senator in their pocket per 4,354 households. By that standard, the wealthy are vastly underrepresented in California where they have only one Senator per 331,697 households. For Coloradoans, it is one senator per 44,948.
Perhaps the Wyoming Business Council could use these numbers to attract more wealthy families to the state. I can see the ads now. “Come to Wyoming where there is no state income tax, labor laws protect business and the middle income is quite willing to elect Congressmen who only speak for the rich.”
Why would the wealthy live anywhere but Wyoming? Why would the rest of you acquiesce?

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