Annie Lowrey suggests some new ways to slice and dice the Senate:
Imagine a chamber in which senators were elected by different income brackets — with two senators representing the poorest 2 percent of the electorate, two senators representing the richest 2 percent and so on.
Based on Census Bureau data, five senators would represent Americans earning between $100,000 and $1 million individually per year, with a single senator working on behalf of the millionaires (technically, it would be two-tenths of a senator). Eight senators would represent Americans with no income. Sixteen would represent Americans who make less than $10,000 a year, an amount well below the federal poverty line for families. The bulk of the senators would work on behalf of the middle class, with 34 representing Americans making $30,000 to $80,000 per year.
Imagine trying to convince someone — Michael Bloomberg, perhaps? — to be the lonely senator representing the richest percentile. And what if the senators were apportioned according to jobs figures? This year, the unemployed would have gained two seats. Think of the deals that would be made to attract that bloc!
I like this line of thinking because it denaturalizes our system of government—makes you realize how arbitrary it is in the first place. It also makes you realize how much things have changed. Two hundred years ago, it seemed natural to assume that your primary allegiance was geographic. The United States was still a patchwork in that way. Today: is your primary allegiance, in fact, determined by income? If not: by what?
I mean, my primary allegiance is probably determined mostly by RSS feed, but I realize that’s not going to get much traction.
(This, by the way, is the kind of discussion that side-steps my policy ennui entirely. Call it meta-policy.)