We need to make government bigger (it’s not what you think) 

Put simply: The House of Representatives does not have enough members to adequately represent all 334 million of us.

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We need to make the House of Representatives bigger!

Now I know what some might be thinking: “Make the government bigger?” Well, technically yes. But that’s missing the point. We need to expand the House to make the government work better, and be more responsive to our needs.

Put simply: The House of Representatives does not have enough members to adequately represent all 334 million of us.

Now, the House hasn’t always had 435 members and it was never intended to stay the same size forever. For the first 140 years of America’s existence, a growing House of Reps was actually the norm.

It wasn’t until 1929 that Congress arbitrarily decided to cap the size of the House at 435 members. Back then, each House member represented roughly 200,000 people.

But since then, the population of the United States has more than tripled, bringing the average number of constituents up to roughly 760,000.

Compared to other democracies, we are one of the worst in terms of how many constituents a single legislator is supposed to represent. Only in India does the average representative have more constituents.

And as America continues to grow it’s only going to get worse.

Think your representative doesn’t listen to you now? Just wait.

Not surprisingly, research shows that representatives from more populous House districts tend to be less accessible to their constituents, and less popular.

Thankfully, the solution is simple: allow the House to grow.

Increasing the number of representatives should be a no brainer for at least four reasons:

First, logically, more representatives would mean fewer people in each congressional district — improving the quality of representation.

Second, a larger House would be more diverse. Despite recent progress, today’s House is still overwhelmingly male, white, and middle-aged. More representatives means more opportunities for young people, people of color, and women to run for office — and win.

Third, this reduces the power of Big Money. Running an election in a smaller district would be less expensive, increasing the likelihood that people elect representatives that respond to their interests rather than big corporations and the wealthy.

Fourth, this would help reduce the Electoral College’s bias toward small states in presidential elections. As more heavily populated states gain more representatives in Congress — they also gain more electoral votes.

Now, some might say that a larger House of Representatives would be unwieldy and unmanageable.

Well, Japan, Germany, France, and the UK — countries with smaller populations than us — all have larger legislatures — and they manage just fine.

Others might say that it would be too difficult — or expensive — to accommodate more representatives in the Capitol. “Are there even enough chairs???”

Seriously?

Look, we’ve done it before. The current Capitol has been expanded to accommodate more members several times — and it can be again. A building should not be an obstacle to a more representative democracy.

Increasing the size of the House is an achievable goal.

We don’t even need a constitutional amendment. Congress only needs to pass a law to expand the number of representatives, which it’s done numerous times.

And as it happens, there is a bill — two in fact!

Each would add more than 130 seats to the House and lower the number of constituents a typical representative serves from 761,000 to a little over 570,000. Plus, there is a mechanism for adding new members down the line.

These bills are our best chance to restore the tradition of a House that grows in representation as America grows.

It’s time for us to think big — and make the People’s House live up to its name.

Read it on Robert Reich’s blog.

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Robert B. Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written fourteen books, including the best sellers "Aftershock", "The Work of Nations," and"Beyond Outrage," and, his most recent, "Saving Capitalism." He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, co-founder of the nonprofit Inequality Media and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, Inequality for All.

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