Iowa Rep. Steve King, known for his controversial views, just added to his ideological resume:
“As I roll this thing back and I think of American history, there was a time in American history when you had to be a male property owner in order to vote. The reason for that was, because they wanted the people who voted — that set the public policy, that decided on the taxes and the spending — to have some skin in the game.
“Now we have data out there that shows that 47 percent of American households don’t pay taxes, 51 percent of American wage-earners don’t have an income tax liability. And it’s pretty clear that there are a lot of people who are not in the workforce at all. In fact, of our unemployment numbers — that run in the 13 or 14 million category — when you go to the Department of Labor Statistics and you look at that data, you can add up those that are simply not in the workforce of different age groups, but of working age, add that number to the number of those who are on unemployment and you come up with a number that was just a few months ago 80 million Americans. Just over a month ago that number went over 100 million Americans that aren’t working.
Now I don’t think they’re paying taxes. But many of them are voting. And when they vote, they vote for more government benefits.
This is the old line that if you don’t pay income taxes, then you don’t have skin in the game. Of course there are state taxes, sales taxes, gas taxes, payroll taxes — the net eventually catches everyone. Everyone pays some taxes at sometime.
Reversing the argument that people who don’t pay income taxes will vote for more government benefits, then people who pay the taxes will vote to cut taxes. That is supposed to be okay?
Government does a lot more than tax and pass out benefits. There are business and personal regulations, social policy, trade issues and foreign policy to name a few. The people who don’t pay income tax have plenty of skin in the game when it comes to those issues.
It is a bit insulting to African-Americans and women to follow King’s logic that at the founding of this country the only people with skin in the game were “male property owners.” That should be “white male” because the vast majority of African-Americans were toiling as slaves. In my book, that is plenty of skin in the game. Women didn’t vote either, but being treated as second-class citizens, living under the same laws as their husbands without being able to vote qualifies for skin too.
Going after the 47%, who don’t pay income taxes, looks like the conservative response to Obama’s call for higher taxes on the wealthy. It’s main purpose is as a distraction to the Obama plan. In terms of affecting tax policy, it will not generate much revenue because these people don’t have much money to pay.
Although King is wise not to take a position advocating this narrow voting right, that he even considers the benefits of only male property holders voting proves that he has an inclination not for spreading political rights, but narrowing them from a democracy to an oligarchy.