Mike Kueber's Blog

September 18, 2012

The infamous 47% and a poll tax

Filed under: Issues,Law/justice,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 1:41 pm
Tags: , , ,

Mitt Romney is catching flak for expressing concern at a California fundraiser about the 47% of Americans who pay no federal income tax.  Pundits are expressing shock and disdain that Romney would speak so carelessly at a fundraiser after what happened four years ago when President Obama at a San Francisco fundraiser dissed rural people who cling to their guns or religion.   

There is a significant difference, however, between their comments.  Obama’s comments went way beyond the pale by disparaging guns and religion, something that should be suicide for an American politician.  By contrast, Romney denigrated dependency on government, something that is in the mainstream of conservative thought.  In fact, anyone of listens to conservative talk radio knows the hosts routinely warn that America, with 47% dependency, will soon be at a critical tipping point when there are more takers from, than contributors to, government.  JFK’s “ask not” admonition seems to be an anachronism in modern Democratic politics.

While discussing the Romney brouhaha with an ultra-liberal friend last night, I suggested that President Obama, as a proponent of government largesse, undoubtedly has broad support from those who take from government while Mitt Romney has the broad support of those who contribute to government.  My friend then suggested that maybe conservatives should implement a poll tax to ensure that the right people vote.  Not a bad idea, I halfway seriously responded.

What would be wrong with a poll tax (other than violating the 24th Amendment)?  Historically, it was devised to prevent African-Americans from voting, sometimes by including a grandfather clause for white voters.  But if it were administered even-handedly, doesn’t it make sense that the quality of voting would improve if voters were motivated enough to be willing to pay a modest amount and responsible enough to be able to pay a modest amount. 

A Supreme Court decision that struck down a poll tax in the ‘60s said that affluence is not a voter qualification, but a $2 to $3 poll tax in the ‘60s would be equivalent to a $20 poll tax today.  There is nothing affluent about $20.        

A literacy test is another technique that would improve the quality of voting, but because of its use in the South to discriminate against African-Americans, it has been consigned to the dustbin of history.  

Yes, we want everyone to participate in elections, but not by dumbing-down the process.  As with home ownership under Clinton and Bush, we want to increase the numbers, but not by enlisting unqualified people.  Our first step needs to be increasing the number of qualified people (qualified should mean more than having a heartbeat), and then getting those qualified people into a home or a voting booth. 

There’s an old adage that the voters get the politicians they deserve; perhaps if we had better voters, we would have better politicians.

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1 Comment »

  1. Mike, certainly you know the US history on voting…

    Initially the continental congress was a true democracy with the intent of have 86% plus voting.

    circa 1790, the founders switched us to the constitution. in that process voting rules changed to: being a citizen, AND owning at least 20 acres of land (of course, this excluded women, blacks, and minors).

    Since then we have corrected the wrong exclusion of blacks, ditto women, and lowered the voting age from 21 to 18. Somewhere in the process, land ownership went away – this was the moment that the “have nots” gained the potential to redistribute the wealth. Of course, eventually we have approached the tipping point we now face today.

    q

    Comment by q — September 18, 2012 @ 2:45 pm | Reply


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