Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Taxation without representation

The president of our company sent around today, from the Monroe Chamber of Commerce, an e-mail questioning a Ouachita Parish tax that's coming up for a vote. They are "concerned" because the total of the tax is greater than a tax proposed, and voted down, last year.

Forget the fact that the president of the company is promoting his own politics within his company. Sure, he owns it, but it isn't exactly fair since there are those with opposing viewpoints who feel they can't speak out. Besides, this sort of thing happens all the time. Even the governor of Louisiana got into the act. She sent around to state employees reasons they should vote for changes to Louisiana's constitution, which she is proposing. (Note: state employees themselves are prohibited by law from expressing their views of politics in public.)

Also, forget the fact that the Chamber of Commerce isn't exactly "unbiased", and is generally against any tax increase.

Instead, I want to concentrate on this: what is it with the United States and all this damned voting nonsense?

No, I'm serious! I understand that the nation is a democracy, founed on the fact that people were paying taxes without having representation in British parliament. This is a nation of the people, for the people, and by the peopple. Okay, I can buy that, even if for most of its history "people" was defined as middle-aged white men. I can see where they are coming from. I just think this whole "voting" thing has gone too far.

I'm not all that crazy about an election for judges. Judges should be impartial, and voting for judges strikes me as a bad idea. Oh, sure, you can vote out the bad ones, but a good system will have ways for bad judges to come up for review, anyway. And it still doesn't stop bad judges from being turfed if the constituents like him (such as for, oh, ignoring higher courts with regard to displays of religious tenets, as an example). And, no, this isn't just because I'm sick of seeing Judge Leehy posters all over town, particularly right in front of my favourite parking spot at work.

What I don't like are all these votes for tax hikes. Since I've been down here, there have been about four different times Louisianians in this area (Ouachitawanians...?) have voted for or against a tax. Asking people whether or not they should spend more money on taxes is sort of like asking a kid if he wants more of that yucky tasting medicine. The kid is only going to say "yes" if he's feeling really ill. The same is the case with tax payers. Even if the tax is necessary you might end up with people voting it down by a generally uninformed electorate (or underinformed electorate; being uniformed is not always the fault of the voter). This is exactly what happened last year in the Parish. It was only after people learned that, yeah, they fire department would have to close whole stations — just as they threatened to do — and certain areas would see property insurance increases that a second vote was passed.

What's the point in electing a representative government if all they're going to do is pass the buck on to the people? The whole reason for having a representative government is so that the people don't have to vote on every little measure. That, and the ability to curb "the tyranny of the majority". By having people vote on taxes, politicians don't have to take any responsibility. If the tax is passed, then they can always say, "Hey, the people agreed with me!" If the tax is not passed, they aren't responsible for any fiscal failure that results. If the tax was unnecessary... well, it didn't get passed, did it?

Politicians should be held responsible for increased taxes, and the spending that required them.

Of course part of this is me just moaning about the fact that I am taxed, but I can't vote. I also can't draw on various government help, either. As an immigrant, I can't access various government programs — I think Medicaid is one of them — until I've been here for 10 years, or I become an American citizen, whichever comes first. This in spite of me paying full taxes.

Yeah, yeah, I understand the reasoning. They don't want people immigrating just to get cheap health care, for instance (like a Canadian would move to the U.S. for cheap health care). While I'm paying at least as much into the system as any one else that's been in the work force for less than 3 years, I don't have the same benefits. On the flip side, my parents weren't paying into the system while I was growing up, either. (I wasn't drawing from the education system, though, so wouldn't that be a wash?)

So, yeah, I'm being taxed, but I don't have access to benefits and I can't vote, all of which has made me a little snarly at "tax voting time". Hmmm... now I think I know how the people of the 13 colonies felt. Maybe I'll celebrate by buying an ice tea and pouring it into the Ouachita River...

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