California gets the short end of the stick when it comes both to federal representation and to the tax dollars it sends to Washington, D.C., according to a recent report by California Freedom Coalition (CFC), the “Calexit” movement to secede from the United States.
The coalition's organizers have embarked on a campaign, CFC Education Fund’s Taxation Without Representation project, to educate Golden State residents about their political and fiscal relationship to the rest of the nation. The latest salvo was unleashed last week when the campaign released an analysis of California's representational power in the United States Senate. It includes a map, below.
Population growth in the Golden State (home to an estimated 39,250,017 people) has stretched the base of California's two U.S. senators beyond what some experts believe is reasonable. Because it's the largest state, California's per-person Senate coverage is the smallest in America.
“The average Wyomingite gets 66 times as much representation as the average Californian,” according to a statement from the California Freedom Coalition. “Voters in large states get an extremely raw deal.”
The disparity is intentional, part of the Founders' Great Compromise, in which each state would get two senators but would see House of Representative districts apportioned according to population. The idea was to protect rural populations from the potential tyranny of big states and cities. Wyoming has two senators but only one House representative; California has two senators and 53 House representatives.
But the result, analysts say, is that states like California and Texas are often sold short when it comes to receiving government dollars and services. A 2014 analysis found that California got .94 cents back for every tax dollar sent to D.C. and that California ranked among the top 14 states least dependent on the federal government for funding.
Smaller states overrepresented in Congress tend to lean conservative and Republican and, as big blue states like California grow, the power of smaller counterparts actually increases in contrast because budget legislation is dependent on Senate approval. “It's something that got out of hand historically,” says Dave Marin, director of research and policy at the California Freedom Coalition.
“Not only is the makeup of the Senate terrible for Californians, it doesn’t even benefit the average American,” he says. “The map shows that lots of states’ residents are overrepresented in the Senate, but those states compose less than 30 percent of the population.”
The solution, at least for the Calexit crowd, is simple: Leave the United States and enjoy the fruits of a California that is the world's sixth largest economy. “Giving California more autonomy would make our representation in the Senate less of a problem,” Marin says.