COMMENTARY | Traditionally, the United States has stuck to the notion of one person, one vote. Billionaire Tom Perkins would like to tweak that a little bit, reports CNN, and suggested, perhaps tongue-in-cheek, that voting be “like a corporation.” Essentially, the more taxes you pay the more votes you have, thus linking your voting power to your income. Though perhaps Perkins was not serious, claiming that he wanted to be outrageous, his latest proposal irks many coming on the heels of his assertion that public disdain for the top one percent of U.S. earners is analogous to Nazi Germany’s persecution of Jews.
Though the idea that those who pay more taxes should have more direct say in politics and governance is far from new, it is very wrong. It assumes that those who pay more taxes are more knowledgeable about what society needs and are better socioeconomic competitors whose traits and ideas should be given priority. The concept ignores the extremely strong probability that much of America’s income is directly influenced by predetermined socioeconomic factors, namely your parents’ socioeconomic status.
Basically, those with high income who pay more taxes likely do so because they were lucky enough to be born of parents who had money. Though many wealthy people do have excellent traits, skills, knowledge, and character all of their own, giving more voting weight to the rich unfairly advantages many top earners who only coasted on daddy’s coattails. These individuals are unlikely to know any more about proper governance and good politics than the average joe.
As to the argument that the rich should have more votes because they are more affected by laws and taxes, many flaws exist. Firstly, no sociopolitical group should have a weighted say in elections because, obviously, they would vote in their own self-interest, even to the detriment of society as a whole. The rich, if given the chance, would only elected politicians or approve laws that advantaged themselves.
In terms of being affected by laws and taxes, it could conversely be argued that the rich should have less say because, by virtue of being rich, they can more easily pursue tax loopholes and legal defenses that the poor and middle classes cannot. A top earner does pay more taxes but is also advantaged in pursuing tax breaks, seeking government subsidies, and insulating himself or herself from civil and criminal liabilities. Because of this, it could be argued that the wealthy deserve less say in politics and governance – they will always be less affected because they can surround themselves with lawyers, accountants, and lobbyists.
They can better withstand the slings and arrows of taxes and laws, so why allow them to be so concerned with their passage?
Furthermore, the wealthy are not necessarily beholden to more laws. Public sector employees, ranging from soldiers to firefighters to teachers, are likely to face far more legal scrutiny in the performance of their job duties. By Tom Perkins’ reasoning, therefore, shouldn’t these individuals, though they do not pay as much tax as the one-percenters, be given more heavily weighted votes? As a high school teacher I must deal with countless state laws and regulations regarding teaching, testing, and student accommodations. Because of this, shouldn’t I get more than one vote?
Should people who earn positive social and economic achievements, such as college degrees, be given extra votes? Should voting weights be used as incentives? Rewards? Quickly, any such system is revealed as biased and unfair, discriminating heavily against those who were not born into money.
No, Tom Perkins, one person, one vote is here to stay.