Here is the second of today's two Modest Proposals © to reform the political process: The More Taxes You Pay, The More Votes You Get
For the past several decades, our society has been less of a democracy than a majoritarian kleptocracy. All it takes is 50%+1 of those who bother to show up at the polls, and BAM! another chunk of your property will be taken away from you. If the motorcycle-less majority wants to impose a tax on motorcycles, the motorcycle-owning minority has no choice but to pay the tax, even though none of them voted for the tax and none of those who voted for the tax have to pay the tax. Those who stand to pay have no greater voice than those who stand to benefit. That's probably not what the founding fathers had in mind.
An even greater perversion of the concept of "one man, one vote" is the income tax. The U.S. federal income tax as we know it wasn't introduced until 1913. Currently, federal tax receipts are roughly 20% of GDP. Prior to 1934, that figure was less than 5%. (That does not include state income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, etc) The income tax is progressive, so the more you earn, the more you pay. But it doesn't matter how much you pay in taxes, you still only get one vote.
When the republic was founded, it was probably unimaginable that (a) the government would be such a large part of the economy, (b) the government would draw so much of its revenue from an income tax and (c) the burden of the tax would not be shared equally by all citizens. The basic concept of "one man, one vote", although applied imperfectly at different times, has evolved into a fundamental principle, having originated in the days before the progressive income tax and the welfare superstate. Is "one man, one vote" still the fairest way to apportion political power? Of course it is. Provided, however, that you are a net recipient of government spending.
The arguments for progressive taxation are (a) altruism -- those who can afford to pay more to help the less fortunate should do so, and (b) fairness -- those who have more are said to benefit proportionally more from some of the goods, such as protection and land improvements, provided by the government. I can agree with that. On the other hand, it would also be a simple matter of fairness and reciprocity to give those who pay more taxes a larger role in determining how their taxes should be used.
For example, every person would get one vote, and everybody would also get one additional vote for every thousand dollars they pay in taxes. If you pay $50,000 to the IRS, you get 50 extra votes for Congressman, Senator and President. If you pay $10,000 a year in property taxes, you get an extra ten votes in local races. Here in Seattle, senior citizens get a 20%+ discount on property taxes. I don't have a problem with that. After all, not all seniors are wealthy (though some are) and it would be cruel to kick low-income seniors out of their homes. On the other hand, those who accept the discount should show their gratitude by proportionally reducing their voice in community decisions. After all, they won't have to experience the consequences of their votes for the same length of time as the younger working people who get to pay full price for the privilege of living here.
And what better way could there be to deal with the wealthy tax-dodging blowhards like Arianna Huffington and Robert Scheer? Tell them that they either pay their fair share of taxes or lose some of their influence. At the same time, what better and fairer way could there be to restrain runaway taxation and lousy government than to simply give the government's best customers more input over all those wonderful services that the government forces them to buy.Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at September 18, 2003 07:00 AM