By Lynn Ashby 10 January 2011
Need a job? Lots of Texans do, and, as usual, I have the solution: Join Congress. We’ll have four new openings. Also, you can be responsible for electing a Republican as President. Qualifications are minimal: 25 years old, a U.S. citizen for seven years and, at the time of election, a resident of the state you will represent. This doesn’t mean you actually have to be a native, or have lived here very long, or even know the state insect (Monarch Butterfly Danaus plexippus). But in most cases in the Lone Star State, it is required that you be a Republican. Texas Democrats are about as endangered as a Mack Brown booster.
Congressional pay is generous: $174,000 a year. Depending on several items such as the area of your district, number of houses, distance from Washington, a Texas U.S. Representative also receives roughly $1.5 million from taxpayers each year for staff, travel and office expenses, including $944,671 for up to 18 full-time staffers and four part-time staffers. Houston area House members went through $8.8 million in the first nine months of 2010. But it is an urban legend that one only has to serve a single term in Congress to qualify for a lifetime health insurance program.
You can accept money from people seeking your vote. No, it is not a bribe. It is a “campaign contribution.” You get to park in your own private spot at the Washington airport. There are trips to exotic places absolutely free. They are called “fact finding missions.” And, when you leave office you get a dandy pension.
There are certain drawbacks, such as grand juries, impeachment and public disgrace. Mark Twain wrote, “It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress.” Twain also observed: “Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.” That gives you some idea about your co-workers.
But you ask, “If this job is so sweet, why are there all these openings?” We get more reps to reflect the number of Texans, which is growing by leaps and bounds, mostly over border fences. (In certain circles, Roe v. Wade is a debate over how to cross the Rio.) In the 2000 Census, there were, on counting day, exactly 20,851,820 people living here. Since then, experts say, Texas has seen an increase of about 4 million.
Most of the population growth appears to be in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, greater Houston and along the border. Also, the I-35 corridor from Georgetown to San Antonio is booming. A major reason is our expanding Hispanic population throughout the state. On the other hand, parts of Texas are actually losing population as people move from rural areas to the cities. There are a few wrinkles: Most of our huge state prisons are in rural areas, where the land is cheap. Cons get counted, as do college students, which is why College Station has its own time zone. Katrinians are a special case and Galveston is another story, especially at high tide.
This growing and shifting population should be reflected by those areas getting their own Representative, but they won’t, because our Congressional districts are drawn up by Tom DeLay, or, if he is in prison, by the Texas Legislature. Thanks to DeLay, our districts are already so gerrymandered to favor Republicans that the districts look like a Rorschach test. For example the Austin area, which should be represented by a single district, has four stretching across Texas. Because of last November’s elections, the Texas Legislature is almost two to one GOP over Dems, so the re-districting will accelerate.
As mentioned, the increase means we should get another four Representatives, bringing us to 36 which, in turn, explains how you, as a U.S. rep from Texas, can be responsible for electing a Republican as President. Since the total number of U.S. Representatives is capped at 435, Texas’ increase means some other states will have fewer reps. New York will lose two, New Jersey and Massachusetts will lose one each. They are generally blue states, so in the Electoral College count, those four votes have gone to the Democratic candidate.
But Texas has a winner-take-all policy. Whichever candidate gets a majority of the popular vote in Texas receives 100 percent of the state’s Electoral College votes. That’s a net swing of eight votes to the GOP. If you don’t think this is important, ask President Al Gore, who received 500,000 more popular votes nationally than George W., but today doesn’t have a job, or a wife, for that matter.
It is important we all be tabulated. Each person counted is worth about $1,500 a year in federal funding to a local jurisdiction. That’s the price of a mediocre table at the next fund-raiser hosted by Lobbyists for a Less Expensive Congress.
How does Texas manipulate this decennial census to get our fair share and then some? Here’s an idea. The census counts overseas military personnel as residents of the states from which they were deployed. Texas has a huge number of troops from Fort Hood and Fort Bliss in combat. And San Antonio is one big Air Force hangar. We can include them, or at least estimate. How many soldiers are in a night patrol outside of Kabul, Mr. Census? You can take our figures or go count them yourself. Be sure to wear a flak jacket.
There is no policy on religious missionaries living abroad. After the 2000 census, excluding traveling missionaries made the difference in assigning a House seat to North Carolina rather than Utah, home base of many migrant Mormon missionaries. I’ll bet there are dozens of missionaries from the Yearning for Zion Ranch proselytizing elsewhere. The second husband has even more
So make sure we get those new Congressional seats. Let’s get rid of four idiot members of the criminal class.
Ashby is counted at email@example.com