Thursday, April 2, 2009

Cure for insomnia discovered

Public Law 62-5, an act of Congress in 1911, set the number of members of the U.S. House of Representatives at 435. That number was expanded temporarily to 437 when Alaska and Hawaii became states in 1959, and then reverted to 435 in the reapportionment following the 1960 census. The U.S. Constitution states only that there will be a representative for no less than 30,000 citizens.

The first U.S. census in 1790 counted nearly four million Americans. By 2000, the number had grown to over 281 million. Based on a population clock maintained by the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. population as of November 17, 2008, was 305,682,072 persons. It is expected to reach 308 million by 2010 and 439 million by 2050.

“So what?” you may be saying to yourself. “What does that have to do with me?”

If you are an American citizen, here’s what it has to do with you:

All men and women may be created equal, but all votes are not created equal. In 1790, the House of Representatives had 65 members and the U.S. had just under 4,000,000 population. Each representative elected to the United States House of Representatives represented around 61,000 persons. Currently, with 435 representatives for a population of more than 306,000,000 in the U.S., each representative represents around 703,000 persons. But that is only an average, and it gives a decidedly distorted view. Some House districts are currently nearly twice the size of others; for instance, there are about 944,000 residents in Montana’s single district, compared to about 515,000 in Wyoming’s. So we see that, the Declaration of Independence notwithstanding, there are lies, damned lies, and statistics.

There is not room here to explain all the ramifications of what I just told you.

To understand the situation a little better, I recommend that you read every last word of this article from Wikipedia on congressional reapportionment followed by a thorough perusal (in the dictionary sense, not the popular sense) of this article, which includes a section on electoral apportionment that contains a table showing both the population per House seat in each state and the population per electoral vote (they are not the same).

This should be an eye-opening experience for many of you, but I fear it may have the opposite effect.

However, if you can name this happy couple, you will receive extra credit -- one point if you can name the gentleman, one point if you can name the building in Washington, D.C., named for him, one point if you know the lady’s maiden name, and one point if you can name the lady’s father. No cheating allowed.

Let’s make it a multiple-choice test:

1. The gentleman’s name is:
...(a) Henry Clay
...(b) Nicholas Longworth
...(c) Sam Rayburn
...(d) Eugene “Tip” O’Neill
...(e) None of the above

2. The building in Washington, D.C., named after him is:
...(a) The Capitol
...(b) The Lincoln Memorial
...(c) Union Station
...(d) Sam’s Pizza Parlor and Dry Goods Emporium
...(e) The Washington Monument

3. The lady is:
...(a) Norma Jean Baker Rayburn
...(b) Oona Chaplin O’Neill
...(c) Alice Roosevelt Longworth
...(d) Erma Bombeck Clay
...(e) None of the above.

4. The lady’s father was:
...(a) Charlie Chaplin
...(b) Howard Baker
...(c) Grover Cleveland
...(d) Teddy Roosevelt
...(e) No one knows for sure.

And five extra points if you can identify this guy:

He is none other than:
...(a) John McCormack (D, Massachusetts), Speaker of the House
...(b) Joseph Martin (R, Massachusetts), Speaker of the House
...(c) Thomas P. “Tip” O'Neill (D, Massachusetts), Speaker of the House
...(d) Dennis Hastert (R, Illinois), Speaker of the House
...(e) Nancy Pelosi (D, California), Speaker of the House
...(f) Newt Gingrich (R, Georgia), Speaker of the House


  1. like that proverbial owl, just not interested...however the answer...noone really knows suits me just places blog will probably become very boring while you still have free rein on all kinds of good writing materzail...rats being married to an old stick in the mud...oh she doesn't read you ryhmes wit so don't expect her wrath here

  2. N. Longworth
    None of the above. The Longworth House Office Building
    Teddy roosevelt

    Denny Hastert, former Speaker of the House (and high schiool teacher)

  3. Putz - What proverbial owl?

    Reamus - You are just too smart!

  4. Not smart, just majored in American Politics and worked in that town way too long!

  5. Good Grief! A cure for insomnia, indeed! Those tables and formulas make one's eyes blur, they do.

  6. Pat and Richie - By my reckoning, then, mission accomplished! Either that or there's something in the air in Arkansas.

  7. The table was fascinating. The variation was more than I expected.

    I'm going to beg off your quiz. Everyone else has probably aced it by now anyway.

  8. That certainly is food for the population has grown and the Congress does not. Interesting.

    I knew none of the answers to your quiz. Was going to guess Teddy Roosevelt as the woman's father.

  9. Now I know America is a Foreign Country...
    Utterly Bemused Brit,
    The World,
    The Universe,