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Beyond a shadow of a doubt the collective ruling bodies of this nation are too large. What comes to your mind when the discussion of reducing the size of government is brought up? Chances are your thoughts focus upon one of two ideological approaches. You believe that the military-industrial complex (MIC) either needs to be brought under control or you think that entitlement programs in this nation must be eliminated. I should point out that a large portion of the population believes that all the above needs to be addressed. Now, I concur that the MIC should be restructured. And I will give it to you. Changes in Social Security have to be addressed. There is, however, a sacred cow that seldom if ever gets discussed, the party apparatus itself.

So many people express concerns for having a viable third party in America, ask yourselves why this is so impossible to accomplish. The answer lies in the power behind the party apparatus. The mere size of the two political parties and those who owe their allegiance to them is overwhelming. It is by reducing these structures that the most savings to the American taxpayer could be achieved and help create an opening whereby a third party could arise. When this concept is brought up in Washington, it ends up expanding the bureaucracy, the complete opposite of its meaning. What is this concept? Consolidation! However, not in the fashion as you have thought of it before.

I speak of state and county governments. Most county governments were set up under the premise that an individual could travel, via a horse drawn buckboard, to the courthouse and home again in a single day. Needless to say, using this concept as your guide we have too many county seats in America. A few examples are: Iowa has 99 counties, Illinois 102, Ohio 88, and Mississippi comes in with 82 county governments. Within these we find a repetitive amount of elected offices that are costing the taxpayers of America billions of dollars.

Let me point out that the Statehouses in our country are equally overstocked. In Mississippi the Senate has 52 members and the House 122. In Illinois the state house has 118 members whose yearly salary in 2010 was 67,836 dollars apiece. You can add a per diem account, to this expense, for every day the statehouse was in session. A per diem expense, for those who do not know, is an expense account for daily expenditures. In Iowa the per diem account for members, while in session, is 118.00 a day.

I submit that it is time for redistricting county governments across our nation. At the same time it is worth looking at a reduction in the number of statehouse members needed to represent citizens in state government. If nothing else, at the very least, end per diem accounts for the legislative bodies in your state.

In Iowa, the session averages 105 days every two years. The per diem expense for the legislative body is 1,858,500 dollars per year. The total for the legislators' salary is 3,750,000 dollars. Since most legislators treat this as a second job, the 25,000 a year paid in Iowa, may be a fair assessment for this position. When one adds in the per diem account, the yearly salary is 37,390. Somewhat extensive for a part-time job, don't you think ? Even one that deals with the important issues of governing a state. I will focus upon county governments for the remainder of this article using Iowa as an example.

First of all, here are the bare statistics on Iowa's government. Iowa has 99 counties, a Statehouse with 50 Senators and 100 Representatives. Each house member represents 29,750 people, and each senator 59,500. For the 2010 session, state congressman were paid 25,000 along with the above-mentioned per diem accounts, bringing their yearly total to 37,390. Note: various positions in state legislatures pay extra, two examples are the Speaker of the House and Minority Leader.

Let's look at the breakdown on county governments. While the number of Supervisors may vary, we will use three per county as our baseline. Every county elects these basic public service jobs, Supervisors, Treasurer, Sheriff, Recorder, Attorney and Auditor, not to mention a multitude of other paid positions. These positions either being elected or appointed, we will however only deal with the public service jobs mentioned above. Currently the posted wages for the 2010-2011 session of Des Moines County, Iowa are as follows.

Supervisors: $35,465

Treasurer: $56,172

Sheriff: $75,606

Recorder: $55,906

Attorney: $92,627

Auditor: $56,480

These figures are the baseline for following example. Years ago while running for County Supervisor I put forth a brave proposal. One that quickly saw my support among the local party establishment disappear. I called for an academic study into the savings generated by reducing Iowa's 99 counties down to 25. I now possess better formats for presenting this idea to people around the nation. For the readers, should you be a college student studying political science, a professor, or someone who knows a student in this field, this subject would make for a great Ph.D. thesis, either pertaining to your individual state or expanded to include all fifty states for the truly courageous researcher.

It should be noted that all counties do not pay the same for the above-mentioned positions. So the resulting savings are to be interpreted as an example only. We will take the position of Sheriff, using Des Monies County as our example, the yearly expenditure for tax payers is 7,484,994 dollars . However, if we were to redistrict and compute for 25 counties we come up with 1,890,150 that is a yearly savings of 5,594,844.

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Anthony J. Gerst, is an author/columnist and activist. He resides near the confluence of the Iowa and Mississippi Rivers. His favorite author, Mark Twain, was an editor for the Muscatine Journal near where he lives. Mr. Gerst has offered musings, (more...)
 

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It is long overdue that we look at redistricting o... by Anthony J. Gerst on Wednesday, Oct 13, 2010 at 1:08:19 PM