Voter reform: Progressive voting rights
March 13, 2011Background:
The Constitution was written for those in whose name it was cast – "We the People." Why was it written for the People? As the Preamble explains, it was written so that people and their posterity would know what to expect from their new government. Basically the government would protect citizens from internal strife and from attack from the outside, but most importantly, it would defend individual liberty. In other words, the Founders did not establish the Constitution for the purpose of granting rights but rather for the purpose of protecting rights.
The Constitution was also written to memorialize the notion that sovereign power rests with the individual and not with the federal government or any governmental agency. Power starts at the bottom and trickles up to the government and not the other way around. When this concept is understood, then Americans can have to proper perspective to understand the Constitution. As Patrick Henry explained: "The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people; It is an instrument for the people to restrain the government – lest it comes to dominate our lives and interests."
Our Founders were able to recognize that power rests with the People because of Natural Law, a philosophy put forth by Marcus Tullius Cicero, a Roman lawyer and statesman, and later by the British philosopher, John Locke. Natural Law, the bedrock principle of our founding documents, states that our rights come from God and not from any government. It was reasoned that certain human liberties are so fundamental to one's existence that they must come from our Creator. In the grand order of the world, God reigns supreme, over the world and over all nations, and because he has created us in his image, he gives each of us a spark of his divinity through intelligent thought, the ability to reason, and wisdom. No other living being is capable of such deep thought, profound wisdom, and reflective reasoning. Because humans share reason with our Creator, and because our Creator is presumed to be benevolent, it follows that we too will be benevolent, when employing reason correctly. Reason and benevolence is termed "right reason" and is the foundation of law. As such, law promotes good and forbids evil; it promotes good conduct and punishes evil conduct. Our Founders studied such examples in the Old Testament. They noted how laws emerged so man could defend his life and property. In forming into a community, individuals agree to surrender or transfer some degree of their natural rights to a government which is able to better protect those rights better than any man could do alone. And that is why the Constitution reads, in the Preamble:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.It states the precise reasons "We the People" agree to transfer a certain degree of their natural rights to the federal government, and just as the philosophy of Natural Law explains, the reasons are for the purpose of providing safety and protection and for protecting rights and liberties more effectively. The reason the federal government can establish justice, for example, is because the right to protect one's life, liberty, and property originally lies with the people, in their inherent God-given rights. The rights are transferred to the government. Hence we have the police, our criminal laws which are supposed to deter crime and force persons to conform to good conduct, and the criminal justice system.
Because government exists solely for the well-being of the community, any government that breaks the compact can and should be replaced, according to natural law. And again this goes back to the premise that since our rights come from God and not out of the benevolence of the government, the government has no authority to take them away.
Only the United States has a Constitution, or legal foundation, that is premised on the fact that our rights come from God. And this is important because in this country, more than in any other nation, our fundamental rights should be respected and protected by government. That is why we refer to our nation as the "American experiment."
We acknowledge that the views and the writings philosopher John Locke played a crucial role in our Founders' view of liberty. His influence was most apparent in the Declaration of Independence, the constitutional separation of powers, and the Bill of Rights. James Madison drew his most fundamental principles of liberty and government from Locke. Locke inspired Thomas Paine, George Mason, Benjamin Franklin, and others. Thomas Jefferson believed Locke to be the most important thinker on liberty and natural rights. Drawing inspiration from John Locke, Jefferson, the drafter of our Declaration of Independence, our charter of freedom, believed strongly in the right to property, which he understood to be part of the natural right to pursue happiness. He believed that government is morally obliged to serve people, namely by protecting life, liberty, and property, and our government, as based on limited powers and the principle of checks and balances, was crafted to protect these fundamental rights. The Declaration was initially written to read: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, endowed by the Creator with certain natural rights that among these are the Enjoyment of Life and Liberty, with the Means of acquiring and possessing Property, and pursuing and obtaining Happiness and Safety." This language was believed, especially according to Virginia's George Mason, to be a literal improvement of Locke's phrase "Life, Liberty, and Property."
Locke established that private property is absolutely essential for liberty: "Every Man has a Property in his own Person. This no Body has any right to but himself. The Labour of his Body, and the Work of his Hands, we may say, are properly his." He explains that the primary reason for men to organize themselves into societies and to institute a common government is for "the Preservation of their Property." Certainly, the right to property and the right to the fruits of one's labor (including compensation) are as fundamental a right as the right to life itself.
Locke believed people legitimately turned common property into private property by mixing their labor with it, improving it. He insisted that people, not rulers, are sovereign, which also happens to be the bedrock principle underlying our Constitution. Government, Locke wrote, "can never have a Power to take to themselves the whole or any part of the Subjects Property, without their own consent. For this would be in effect to leave them no Property at all." He makes his point even more explicit: rulers "must not raise Taxes on the Property of the People, without the Consent of the People, given by themselves, or their Deputies." Thus, according to Locke, an individual's labor, his intellect, his personality, the good will he earns through his honest and ethical conduct, and the fruits of all of these are his PROPERTY and are to be protected with the greatest zeal by any legitimate government.
Locke went further and affirmed an explicit right to revolution: "Whenever the Legislators endeavor to take away, and destroy the Property of the People, or to reduce them to Slavery under Arbitrary Power, they put themselves into a state of War with the People, who are thereupon absolved from any farther Obedience, and are left to the common Refuge, which God hath provided for all Men, against Force and Violence."
In 1772, John Adams wrote "The Rights of the Colonists," which he delivered to a Boston Town meeting. He started his historic document with these words: " Among the natural rights of the Colonists are these: First, a right to life; Secondly, to liberty; Thirdly, to property; together with the right to support and defend them in the best manner they can. These are evident branches of, rather than deductions from, the duty of self-preservation, commonly called the first law of nature." As the colonists were British subjects at the time, Adams further wrote in his essay: "The absolute rights of Englishmen and all freemen, in or out of civil society, are principally personal security, personal liberty, and private property."
Arthur Lee of Virginia (1775) wrote: "The Right of property is the guardian of every other Right, and to deprive the people of this, is in fact to deprive them of their Liberty." William Blackstone, the great British legal scholar, wrote: "So great is the regard of the law for private property, that it will not authorize the least violation of it; no, not even for the general good of the whole community." Ayn Rand, author and philosopher, wrote: "Just as man can't exist without his body, so no rights can exist without the right to translate one's rights into reality, to think, to work and keep the results, which means: the right of property." And finally, Thomas Jefferson wrote: "To take from one because it is thought that his own industry and that of his father's has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association--'the guarantee to every one of a free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it.'" Frederic Bastiat, a French economist, wrote: "Each of us has a natural right - from God - to defend his person, his liberty, and his property. These are the three basic requirements of life, and the preservation of one is completely dependent upon the preservation of the other two."
Prior to 1913, the government operated with revenues raised through tariffs, excise taxes, and property taxes, without ever touching a worker's paycheck. The Supreme Court has classified income tax as a direct income tax. Apparently, in enacting the 16th Amendment, legislators ignored the pesky little problem of States' rights and the concept of federalism. After the government attempted to enact a peace-time income tax following the Civil War, the Supreme Court, in Pollock v Farmer's Loan and Trust, 157 U.S. 429 (1895), declared it unconstitutional. Referring to the explicit prohibition against direct taxation in Article I, the Court argued that the income tax would excessively enhance federal power in relation to state power. But in an effort to "soak the rich" and attempt to strip them of at least some of the power they held, the 16th Amendment was passed despite the important Constitutional principle it violated.
In his book "The Income Tax: Root of all Evil," Frank Chodorov explains why taxes on income and inheritance are different in principle from all other taxes: "The government says to the citizen: 'Your earnings are not exclusively your own; we have a claim on them, and our claim precedes yours; we will allow you to keep some of it, because we recognize your need, not your right; but whatever we grant you for yourself is for us to decide.'"
As Larry Arnn and Grover Norquist wrote in their 2003 article in Claremont entitled "Repeal the 16th Amendment": "Although the first income tax in 1913 was very limited--it applied to just 2% of the labor force, and its highest rate was 7%--it prepared the way for the federal government's almost unlimited access to revenue. It thus provided an almost unlimited ability to fund programs that are properly state matters--crime fighting, education, welfare--and to pressure the states into conforming to a national standard in matters that should reflect regional differentiation, like speed limits and drinking ages."
The nation currently faces a crisis not only financially, but also of conscience. It also faces a crisis of Constitutional proportions, under both the very language of Article I and under the Equal Protection Clause which requires that laws must be applied equally to all Americans. In 2009, the Democratic-led Congress enacted a series of tax reforms and generous exemptions and tax credits and then in 2010, it passed the gargantuan economic stimulus bill. The result of these reforms, credits, and stimulus bill is that millions of Americans have been dropped from the federal tax rolls. A huge number of Americans are simply no longer affected by the federal income tax. Before these tax reforms, 47% of Americans were already not paying income tax. Now this number is well over 50% and shows every indication of continuing to climb higher. As if that weren't enough, the bottom 40% of income-earners actually receive a cash payment from the government at tax time. This is a re-distribution of wealth in its most recognizable form and is not covered under the "General Welfare" Clause. Hence it is not a legitimate exercise of Congress's powers.
Under the Obama administration, many Americans accustomed to paying their share of federal taxes are being taken off the tax rolls. Recent tax law changes mean that for the first time, in 2009, a family of four making $50,000 can pay no federal income tax at all. A family at this income level has surely suffered in this recession, but should they really pay no federal income tax at all? By the way, can you guess which political party they will now side with?
The fact is that America has become divided between a growing class of people who pay no income taxes and a shrinking class of people who are bearing the lion's share of the burden. Despite what critics have said about former President Bush that the tax cuts enacted in 2001, 2003 and 2004 favored the "rich," these cuts actually reduced the tax burden of low- and middle-income taxpayers and shifted the tax burden onto wealthier taxpayers. Everything the government does continues to shift the tax burden onto wealthier taxpayers and at some point it has to stop before the notion of fundamental fairness we so treasure in this country is made a complete mockery.
The current mindset of the Democrats and progressives is dangerous and alarming. It goes against the fundamental principles of our founding documents. Democrats and progressive politicians have turned John Kennedy's "Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country" on its head. And telling so many Americans that they don't need to make sacrifices for our government, as we are now saying, is dangerous new territory for our nation and for the health of our democracy and economy.
Furthermore, by placing the tax burden so heavily on a certain class of Americans and continuing to do so by excluding so many others, the situation is almost tantamount to institutional slavery, or involuntary servitude (to be free only when he or she retires, loses his job, or takes a job at a very low pay). In other words, a taxpayer can only be freed from this immense burden (over 4 months of the year are spent in financial hock to the federal government) if he or she betrays her own conscience and inalienable right to pursue the career of his/her own choice. The 13th Amendment promises that "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, shall exist within the United States."
Recognizing that there is an inherent laziness and "degree of depravity in mankind" which will unfortunately flourish greater in a republican form of government (James Madison), we would expect non-taxpayers to behave as they do. Their demand for entitlements and government programs is naturally insatiable because they don't care at all about the cost. Others are providing the funding who, in their eyes, have "more than enough." Consequently, they will always support increasing government programs as a long as they get even a small benefit from them because it does not cost them a cent. And so they will support politicians who favor more spending. Representatives who need the support of such persons to be elected will continue to take from the pockets of others to provide to this solid voting block.
Therefore, by taking more and more Americans off the federal tax rolls, Democrats and progressives are creating a permanent base of supporters for themselves. In doing so, they have abused the progressive income tax too flagrantly and too unashamedly. Many years ago, when Americans were Christians and God-fearing people, they knew it wasn't right to take something for nothing. They knew they should not look at what another has and covet it. But Americans are a new breed and 'honor' isn't a word that's used much anymore.
At the rate Democrats and progressives are going, hard-working Americans can never expect their tax rates to go down. And it has to stop now, in the name of fundamental fairness and with reference to the Constitution and the reason the nation was formed in the first place.
Just as Democrats are catering to the needs of their voter base, Republicans must now begin to look after the interests of their voters.
For all the reasons above, I make the following proposal. I propose that voter rights be subjected to the same arbitrary and progressive rules that property rights are. Just as the tax burden is assigned on the ability to pay, the weight of an individual's vote should be assigned based on the 'stake' that person has in government policies that will potentially diminish his or her property rights. A person with a lot of money might be taxed more but he also should have a greater say in what the government does with his money as opposed to someone who has contributes nothing.
I've already discussed that that the federal income tax, a direct tax on property, is an unconstitutional burden on inalienable personal freedoms. The right to property and the right to the fruits of one's labor (including a paycheck) are as fundamental a right as the right to life itself. The Declaration of Independence gives each individual the right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness (embodied in all types of property), and under the US Constitution, the federal government MUST protect these rights equally for all Americans. Yet the government has not done so.
Our Founders created a republic form of government to protect the rights of minority groups from mob rule, but they never expected other groups of Americans to be required to support them through forced and regulated charity (spreading the wealth or redistribution of wealth). There is indeed a Constitutional crisis when fundamental rights are treated so shabbily. There is indeed a Constitutional crisis when fundamental rights are treated so differently between and among groups of Americans. We've gone through many crises in our country when civil liberties and fundamental rights were not respected equally and we've put laws in place to remedy the situation. Yet when it comes to money, our government and courts can't seem to apply the same notions of fundamental fairness and equality, even though money is intricately tied to more precious fundamental rights. The fact is that everyone realizes that income tax is no longer so much a tax system as it is a wealth distribution scheme and that this goal has become more important than protecting individual liberty. There is something fundamentally wrong and something exceedingly offensive in light of our founding documents when self-anointed visionaries of social policy, particularly those in government, infringe on property rights, and especially on the fruits of the very intangibles that we are given from God – our intelligence, ability to reason, wisdom, and personality -- in short, our individuality and uniqueness. People must realize that this particular type of societal change is not in the best interests of our country. It might be in the best interests of individuals but it is not in the best interests of the country and her stability and longevity. Our financial bankruptcy is finally catching up with the depth of our moral and ethical bankruptcy.
We have undeniably sunk to a new low in "punishing" productive behavior – such as investing in education, conducting oneself morally and ethically, building a career, and making the necessary sacrifices in family life to move up the corporate or business ladder – through excessive taxation. Such productive behavior used to be the ones that defined Americans. That's not the case anymore. The character of Americans has changed.
The reality is that non-taxpayers have no financial "stake" in the fiscal responsibility, or irresponsibility, of the government and have no "stake" in the decisions of the government to spend taxpayer money or to raise taxes. And the changing dynamics in this country whereby the numbers of those individuals not paying taxes are increasing much faster than the numbers of those paying taxes. This changing dynamic makes one thing very clear for our republican form of government - that taxpayers are not being properly represented in government due to voter dilution. Let us not forget the reason our colonists and founding Americans went to war against Britain to secure independence in the first place. That reason can be summed up in the immortal words "No Taxation Without Representation!"
American taxpayers are no longer fairly represented in government because a greater percentage of Americans have no tax liability and are therefore voting to spend other people's money. Furthermore, such non-taxpayers lack the proper nexus to the "checks and balances" that keeps government responsibly tied to person's property. As a result, spending is out of control. Congress doesn't have a taxing problem; it has a spending problem. It sees hardworking Americans as an unlimited source of revenue – but only about 45% of them.
Congress bears a moral responsibility to provide for and protect individual Liberty, including economic Liberty, and personal property (whether real or intellectual). If the current income tax structure is permitted to exist in its arbitrary and progressive nature, then immediately, there MUST be voter reform to institute a progressive, or weighted, voting system to protect the inherent property interests of taxpayers. While each person is entitled to one vote, additional voter weight will be given to those who pay taxes, own property, own a business, and otherwise engage in activities which are subject to the onerous and burdensome taxation requirements of the federal government. This progressive voting scheme will be necessary to combat the inherent unfairness of the current income tax scheme. In the alternative, we MUST abolish the 16th Amendment and move to a Fair Tax or other fair taxation scheme, or go back to the taxation scheme that served our nation well for the first 126 years of our existence - revenues which were raised through tariffs, excise taxes, and property taxes. It never touched a worker's paycheck. Of course, that would require the federal government to divest all its unconstitutional powers and functions.
My solution just keeps getting better !!
Larry P. Arnn and Grover Norquist, "Repeal the 16th Amendment," The Claremont Institute, April 15, 2003.
[ http://www.claremont.org/publications/pubid.477/pub_detail.asp ]
Ilana Mercer, Repeal the Abominable 16th Amendment, WorldNetDaily, November 20, 2002.
[ http://www.wnd.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=29716#ixzz1F6ILra20 ]