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  #1  
Old 07-06-2009, 08:29 AM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
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How many elected public officials are there in the US?

I read an essay that claimed there are 500,000 elected officials in the United States government. That seems improbable. We've got a President, a Vice President, 541 assorted members of Congress, and then what? 499,457 miscellaneous elected officials?

My guess is that the writer was counting up all of the elected officials in the United States not just those in the national government. So we have Governors, Lieutenant Governors, State Senators and Representatives and Assemblymen and Delegates. Plus some states have other elected officials like Attorney Generals or Comptrollers. And then there's local officials elected at the level of counties, cities, towns, villages, etc.

So what's the total? How many elected officials are there in the United States?

For purposes of this count, I'm only including public officials - non-governmental offices don't count. And only people elected by general elections, directly or indirectly - I'm willing to count somebody like the President who's elected by delegates but not offices like House Speakers or Majority Leaders or Committe Chairmen that are elected by other elected officials.
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  #2  
Old 07-06-2009, 08:43 AM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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Political geography of the United States By Fred M. Shelley (1996)
Quote:
Nationally, there were a total of 510,497 popularly elected state and local officials in 1992
The number could only have gone up since then.
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  #3  
Old 07-06-2009, 09:02 AM
friedo friedo is offline
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Originally Posted by Little Nemo View Post
My guess is that the writer was counting up all of the elected officials in the United States not just those in the national government. So we have Governors, Lieutenant Governors, State Senators and Representatives and Assemblymen and Delegates. Plus some states have other elected officials like Attorney Generals or Comptrollers. And then there's local officials elected at the level of counties, cities, towns, villages, etc.
You're vastly underestimating the number of municipal jurisdictions in the US, I think. In New York alone, there are 62 counties and nearly 1000 towns and cities. Within the towns, there are nearly 3000 incorporated villages. Every one of those counties, cities, towns and villages has some form of elected government, depending on which kind of charter they have. Most villages have a mayor at the very least, and may have a village council. Every town has a town board and some have elected supervisors. All counties (except for those in NYC) have a county executive or county legislature. They also all have elected district attorneys. Every city has a mayor and district-based city council.

Then there are elected school boards, elected utility district boards of various types, elected library boards in some places, elected sheriffs, elected local and state judges (tons of those in NY) and finally, there's the annual election of the Princess of the Mermaids on Coney Island.

It wouldn't surprise me if there were 20,000 elected officials in New York. With 50 states, most of them less populous than New York, 500,000 seems a rather reasonable estimate.
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  #4  
Old 07-06-2009, 09:52 AM
yabob yabob is offline
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Doesn't sound that surprising. Remember, that at the local level, you may have a lot of elected posts that aren't full time jobs. Small town mayors and city councils, school boards, etc. Also, some jurisdiction elect some improbable offices, like "drain inspector".
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  #5  
Old 07-06-2009, 10:45 AM
friedo friedo is offline
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In the village where I grew up, the mayor wasn't paid anything, and only expected to work a few hours a week. The position was perpetually filled by bored housewives.

Most of the 500,000 people concerned are in this category; professional politicians are much more rare.
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  #6  
Old 07-06-2009, 10:49 AM
suranyi suranyi is offline
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In addition to those that have been mentioned, in my area we have elected hospital boards, elected water boards, elected community college boards, and probably some things I'm forgetting.

And has someone mentioned elected school boards? I think that's pretty much universal in the U.S.
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  #7  
Old 07-06-2009, 11:00 AM
yabob yabob is offline
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In some towns above the "village" level, where there IS basically a full time job to be done, the elected officials are still part time. They may opt for the model where the elected mayor and/or city council hires a "city manager" to do the day-to-day administration job, simply meeting occasionally to decide if they are satisfied with the city manager's performance, and make policy decisions.
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  #8  
Old 07-06-2009, 11:10 AM
Simplicio Simplicio is offline
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In the US, we elect 538 people whose sole job it is to elect two more people to be President/Vice President. We love our democracy.
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  #9  
Old 07-06-2009, 01:57 PM
obfusciatrist obfusciatrist is offline
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Just as an example, using a recent consolidated Alameda County (California) ballot there were elections in districts, cites, etc., that accounts for at least 350 elected officials at the county or lower level. And that wouldn't include various sanitary, fire, healtchare, etc., districts that didn't have anyone up for election last November.

Personally, I am represented by the following elected officials:
- President of the United States
- 2 senators from California
- 1 representative in House of Representative from California District 13
- 1 governor of California
- 1 lieutenant governor of California
- 1 secretary of state for California
- 1 attorney general of state of California
- 1 controller for state of California
- 1 treasurer for state of California
- 1 insurance commissioner for state of California
- 1 superintendent of public instruction for state of California
- 1 member of the California State Board of Equalization
- 1 representative in the state assembly
- 1 representative in the state senate
- 1 member of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors
- 1 mayor of Dublin, California
- 4 city councilpersons for Dublin, California
- 1 member of the Alameda County Water District
- 5 board members for the Dublin Unified School District
- 3 board members of the Dublin-San Ramon Services District
- 1 board member for East Bay Municipal Water District
- 1 board member for Bay Area Rapid Transit District
- 1 board member for East Bay Regional Park District
- Not sure how many of the 69 elected judges I get to vote for in the Superior Court of Alameda County

So I feel pretty special knowing that there are at least 26 people out there who are supposed to care what I think they should do.

Last edited by obfusciatrist; 07-06-2009 at 01:58 PM..
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  #10  
Old 07-06-2009, 03:26 PM
alphaboi867 alphaboi867 is offline
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I'm surprised nobody's mentioned judges yet. Most states election some or all levels of judges. Judicial elections can range from a simple yes/no retention vote on an incumbent to full partisan elections (complete with primaries). In Pennsylvania we elect* all of our judges in partisan elections. Appellate judges (Supreme Court, Superior Court, & Commonwealth Court) serve ten year terms, but incumbents are only subject to a retention vote. Court of Common Pleas judges also serve ten year terms, but I think they actually have to run for reelection against other candidates. District magistrates have a shorter term.



*The Governor can fill midterm vacancies by appointment.
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  #11  
Old 07-06-2009, 03:31 PM
Simplicio Simplicio is offline
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Originally Posted by alphaboi867 View Post
I'm surprised nobody's mentioned judges yet.
Well, no more then a third of the responses in the tread have mentioned them anyways
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  #12  
Old 07-06-2009, 05:21 PM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
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Quote:
Political geography of the United States By Fred M. Shelley (1996)
Quote:
Nationally, there were a total of 510,497 popularly elected state and local officials in 1992
The number could only have gone up since then.
Thanks. This was the kind of thing I was looking for.
Quote:
It wouldn't surprise me if there were 20,000 elected officials in New York. With 50 states, most of them less populous than New York, 500,000 seems a rather reasonable estimate.
I understand that. But the writer claimed that there were 500,000 elected officials in the United States government - as you noted, most elected officials in the United States serve at the state or local level.
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  #13  
Old 07-06-2009, 05:53 PM
TBG TBG is offline
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Originally Posted by Little Nemo View Post
Thanks. This was the kind of thing I was looking for.I understand that. But the writer claimed that there were 500,000 elected officials in the United States government - as you noted, most elected officials in the United States serve at the state or local level.
Unless they somehow specified US federal government, I think you're being overly nitpicky with the writer. Mayor of West Bumblefrick, Montana may not be part of the US federal govt, but would still be a government official in the US. (Assuming it was an actual city and not something I just made up, anyway)
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  #14  
Old 07-06-2009, 07:12 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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(Assuming it was an actual city and not something I just made up, anyway)
Don't be silly, West Bumblefrick is across the border in Idaho. You're thinking of East Bumblefrick.
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  #15  
Old 07-06-2009, 09:15 PM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
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Unless they somehow specified US federal government, I think you're being overly nitpicky with the writer.
If she's going to write an essay complaining about the size of the government, she should get her basic facts right.
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  #16  
Old 07-06-2009, 09:33 PM
Dewey Finn Dewey Finn is offline
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OK, exactly how was the statement phrased?
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  #17  
Old 07-06-2009, 09:51 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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Originally Posted by Dewey Finn View Post
OK, exactly how was the statement phrased?
Right. What if she wrote in United States governments? That would make it correct.
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  #18  
Old 07-07-2009, 09:03 AM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
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OK, exactly how was the statement phrased?
The essay opened:
Quote:
I tried to find how many elected officials there are in the United States government. Perhaps there are so many that they donít want to divulge the numbers because it might cause heart failure from coast to coast.

According to the University of Chicago, there are more than 500,000 elected officials in the United States Government.
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  #19  
Old 07-07-2009, 10:02 AM
Labdad Labdad is offline
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I vote for a host of county officials such as sheriff, marshall, recorder of deeds, tax assessor, probate judge, public service commission, clerk of court, school board, and on and on. I live in one of Georgia's 159 counties. Granted, no other state in the Union has as many counties as Georgia does, but assuming each county has at minimum 15 elected officials - I'm sure it's more than that - that's nearly 2,400 county officials in Georgia alone.

As noted above, add in municipal officials - for example, not only do I vote for a county commission, I vote for a city commission. Then muliply all those municipal and county officials nationwide, and 500,000 seems to be a quite reasonable estimate.
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  #20  
Old 07-07-2009, 10:04 AM
Polycarp Polycarp is offline
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Originally Posted by Labdad View Post
I vote for a host of county officials such as sheriff, marshall, recorder of deeds, tax assessor, probate judge, public service commission, clerk of court, school board, and on and on. I live in one of Georgia's 159 counties. Granted, no other state in the Union has as many counties as Georgia does, but assuming each county has at minimum 15 elected officials - I'm sure it's more than that - that's nearly 2,400 county officials in Georgia alone.

As noted above, add in municipal officials - for example, not only do I vote for a county commission, I vote for a city commission. Then muliply all those municipal and county officials nationwide, and 500,000 seems to be a quite reasonable estimate.
Actually, Texas, with 254 counties, has Georgia beat -- but by the # counties/land area criterion, Georgia would be in the lead, since Texas is so much larger in area.
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  #21  
Old 07-07-2009, 11:51 AM
NicePete NicePete is offline
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Originally Posted by Polycarp View Post
Actually, Texas, with 254 counties, has Georgia beat -- but by the # counties/land area criterion, Georgia would be in the lead, since Texas is so much larger in area.
Actually, Kentucky with 120 counties beats Georgia.

Texas = 268,820 sq.mi./254 counties = 1058 sq. miles per county.

Georgia = 59,425 sq.mi./159 counties = 373 sq. miles per county.

Kentucky = 40,409 sq.mi./120 counties = 336 sq. miles per county.
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  #22  
Old 07-07-2009, 02:57 PM
Labdad Labdad is offline
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Originally Posted by NicePete View Post
Actually, Kentucky with 120 counties beats Georgia.

Texas = 268,820 sq.mi./254 counties = 1058 sq. miles per county.

Georgia = 59,425 sq.mi./159 counties = 373 sq. miles per county.

Kentucky = 40,409 sq.mi./120 counties = 336 sq. miles per county.
Well, this proves my point. Here are three states with 533 counties between them. If each county has only 15 elected officials , that's nearly 8,000 right there!
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  #23  
Old 09-20-2010, 05:54 PM
Concerned American Citizen Concerned American Citizen is offline
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Originally Posted by friedo View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by Little Nemo View Post
My guess is that the writer was counting up all of the elected officials in the United States not just those in the national government. So we have Governors, Lieutenant Governors, State Senators and Representatives and Assemblymen and Delegates. Plus some states have other elected officials like Attorney Generals or Comptrollers. And then there's local officials elected at the level of counties, cities, towns, villages, etc.
You're vastly underestimating the number of municipal jurisdictions in the US, I think. In New York alone, there are 62 counties and nearly 1000 towns and cities. Within the towns, there are nearly 3000 incorporated villages. Every one of those counties, cities, towns and villages has some form of elected government, depending on which kind of charter they have. Most villages have a mayor at the very least, and may have a village council. Every town has a town board and some have elected supervisors. All counties (except for those in NYC) have a county executive or county legislature. They also all have elected district attorneys. Every city has a mayor and district-based city council.

Then there are elected school boards, elected utility district boards of various types, elected library boards in some places, elected sheriffs, elected local and state judges (tons of those in NY) and finally, there's the annual election of the Princess of the Mermaids on Coney Island.

It wouldn't surprise me if there were 20,000 elected officials in New York. With 50 states, most of them less populous than New York, 500,000 seems a rather reasonable estimate.
Well I am not sure where you get your information from but according to the US Census count of of 2000 they counted 25,375 places in 2000. this includes 9 different types of places.

I found this by doing a search for the number of cities in the US on goggle no i have not checked the information against anything but I plan to. the point is according to the census of 2000 there were only 3000 or so villages in the whole of the US. I am suspicious of this and all of these numbers of course but I thought you would interested in seeing this.

There is a zip file on the site i was looking at of the 2000 census you can get to it by going to this link.

http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=509183
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  #24  
Old 09-20-2010, 06:05 PM
friedo friedo is offline
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Originally Posted by Concerned American Citizen View Post
Well I am not sure where you get your information from but according to the US Census count of of 2000 they counted 25,375 places in 2000. this includes 9 different types of places.

I found this by doing a search for the number of cities in the US on goggle no i have not checked the information against anything but I plan to. the point is according to the census of 2000 there were only 3000 or so villages in the whole of the US. I am suspicious of this and all of these numbers of course but I thought you would interested in seeing this.

There is a zip file on the site i was looking at of the 2000 census you can get to it by going to this link.

http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=509183
The US Census considers New York-style incorporated villages to be "incorporated places," of which they count 25,375 in the whole country. (If you look at the list, you'll find your favorite New York village there.)

Remember that every state and the federal government defines a lot of these terms differently. The Census does their best to try to work with some kind of standardized definition of what a "place" is, but it's difficult. There are all sorts of unincorporated "census-designated places" that may not even be recognized by the state they're in, as well.

ETA: Although I'm not sure where I got the figure of 3000 villages in New York (that post is a few years old.) Upon checking today, it looks like there are 553 villages incorporated. The 3000 number may include unincorporated hamlets.

Last edited by friedo; 09-20-2010 at 06:09 PM..
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  #25  
Old 09-20-2010, 06:08 PM
Concerned American Citizen Concerned American Citizen is offline
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Originally Posted by Labdad View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by NicePete View Post
Actually, Kentucky with 120 counties beats Georgia.

Texas = 268,820 sq.mi./254 counties = 1058 sq. miles per county.

Georgia = 59,425 sq.mi./159 counties = 373 sq. miles per county.

Kentucky = 40,409 sq.mi./120 counties = 336 sq. miles per county.
Well, this proves my point. Here are three states with 533 counties between them. If each county has only 15 elected officials , that's nearly 8,000 right there!
There are 3143 counties in the US.

That means that there would be 47,245 by your way of thinking in the US.
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  #26  
Old 09-21-2010, 06:09 PM
TBG TBG is offline
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How many elected public official zombies are there in the US? And can anyone tell the difference between those and the non-zombies?
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  #27  
Old 04-24-2012, 08:59 PM
malford6 malford6 is offline
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officials in US

It is hard to believe that we have 500,000 elected officials in our country with all the budget cuts going on. If we "cut" just $20 a week from each of our elected officials that would be $2,000,000 a week, and $52,000,000.00 a year saved from our budget. Then imagine if we took $50.00 a week. That would be $130,000,000.00 saved. Now that is a great budget cut. See if our politicians would even consider that one. That is not a lot in the big picture, but with the government cutting budgets for rape crisis centers, Medicare, and so many other "necessary" offices, it seems that the cutting should begin with those making the cuts.
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  #28  
Old 04-24-2012, 09:06 PM
AClockworkMelon AClockworkMelon is offline
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It is hard to believe that we have 500,000 elected officials in our country with all the budget cuts going on. If we "cut" just $20 a week from each of our elected officials that would be $2,000,000 a week, and $52,000,000.00 a year saved from our budget. Then imagine if we took $50.00 a week. That would be $130,000,000.00 saved. Now that is a great budget cut. See if our politicians would even consider that one. That is not a lot in the big picture, but with the government cutting budgets for rape crisis centers, Medicare, and so many other "necessary" offices, it seems that the cutting should begin with those making the cuts.
Cool beans. Guess you forgot that a great many elected officials aren't paid at all. Judging by the date of the OP and your join date you probably won't be reading this anyway.
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  #29  
Old 04-24-2012, 09:08 PM
friedo friedo is offline
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Most elected officials aren't paid anything.
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  #30  
Old 04-24-2012, 09:18 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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Besides which, 130 million is a tiny, tiny budget cut, so small as to be lost in the noise. Come up with a thousand more ideas like that, implement them all, and then we're starting to see some effect.
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  #31  
Old 04-24-2012, 09:20 PM
Keeve Keeve is offline
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I'm willing to count somebody like the President who's elected by delegates but not offices like House Speakers or Majority Leaders or Committe Chairmen that are elected by other elected officials.
I wonder if the OP realizes that the House Speaker and Majority Leaders and Committee Chairmen were elected to be Senators and Congressmen prior to getting those other positions.
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Old 04-24-2012, 09:22 PM
Keeve Keeve is offline
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That would be $130,000,000.00 saved. Now that is a great budget cut.
No, it is not. Well, for a small town it would be a great budget cut. But 130 million is almost nothing to the Feds, and you'd actually be spreading it out over the Feds, the States, and everything lower too.
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  #33  
Old 04-24-2012, 09:30 PM
MEBuckner MEBuckner is offline
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Yup. Total government spending in the U.S. (local, state, and federal) is over $6.1 trillion. So cutting $130 million from total government spending amounts to a cut of around 0.002%.
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  #34  
Old 04-24-2012, 09:40 PM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
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I wonder if the OP realizes that the House Speaker and Majority Leaders and Committee Chairmen were elected to be Senators and Congressmen prior to getting those other positions.
Yes, he realizes this.

It's been almost three years. Has anyone actually read my original post yet?

I never disputed that there were around 500,000 elected officials in the United States. I said I didn't believe there were 500,000 elected officials in the United States government.
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  #35  
Old 04-24-2012, 10:03 PM
AClockworkMelon AClockworkMelon is offline
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Yes, he realizes this.

It's been almost three years. Has anyone actually read my original post yet?

I never disputed that there were around 500,000 elected officials in the United States. I said I didn't believe there were 500,000 elected officials in the United States government.
Why yes, someone has.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TBG View Post
Unless they somehow specified US federal government, I think you're being overly nitpicky with the writer. Mayor of West Bumblefrick, Montana may not be part of the US federal govt, but would still be a government official in the US. (Assuming it was an actual city and not something I just made up, anyway)
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  #36  
Old 04-24-2012, 10:56 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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Originally Posted by malford6 View Post
It is hard to believe that we have 500,000 elected officials in our country with all the budget cuts going on. If we "cut" just $20 a week from each of our elected officials that would be $2,000,000 a week, and $52,000,000.00 a year saved from our budget. Then imagine if we took $50.00 a week. That would be $130,000,000.00 saved. Now that is a great budget cut. See if our politicians would even consider that one. That is not a lot in the big picture, but with the government cutting budgets for rape crisis centers, Medicare, and so many other "necessary" offices, it seems that the cutting should begin with those making the cuts.
I love the way you ignore the fact that elected officials are real people with real families and real responsibilities and real jobs.
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Old 04-24-2012, 11:02 PM
dracoi dracoi is offline
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I love the way you ignore the fact that elected officials are real people with real families and real responsibilities and real jobs.
They are? Damn, I thought we'd have this unemployment thing licked if we laid them all off.
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  #38  
Old 04-24-2012, 11:52 PM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
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Why yes, someone has.
Except that this was specifically about the federal government and not state and local governments.
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  #39  
Old 04-24-2012, 11:58 PM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
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I love the way you ignore the fact that elected officials are real people with real families and real responsibilities and real jobs.
I'm more impressed by the fact that he feels the government should reduce employee salaries instead of cutting funding for rape crisis centers and such. What exactly does he think these offices do? It's public service - the employees are the service. The budget is pretty much salaries and office supplies. And he's apparently arguing we shouldn't cut back on the office supplies.
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  #40  
Old 04-25-2012, 12:06 AM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
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nm

Last edited by Little Nemo; 04-25-2012 at 12:07 AM..
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  #41  
Old 04-25-2012, 12:07 AM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
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  #42  
Old 04-25-2012, 12:28 AM
AClockworkMelon AClockworkMelon is offline
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Except that this was specifically about the federal government and not state and local governments.
Why, because you're equating "US Government" with "US Federal Government"? They talk about state and local government in high school government classes, you know.
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  #43  
Old 04-25-2012, 01:31 AM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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Except that this was specifically about the federal government and not state and local governments.
Where did it say that? All I'm seeing in the OP is "United States government", which includes the federal, state, and local levels.
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  #44  
Old 04-25-2012, 01:48 AM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
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If you want a link to the original article you should have asked back in 2009.
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