Indulge me for a moment. You are going out to dinner with your family. You are a large family, 7 people, and two parents. Your family is run very democratically. The decisions are all voted on, and this includes what restaurant you are going out to eat at. Each of you is going with a single purpose in mind: to eat. There are a few things that you also expect to get out of the arrangement of going out to eat. You expect to have good food, good service, and not to have to go somewhere that you don’t like. Each of you is contributing to the bill equally, irrelevant of what each person orders (so a $100 dollar check is divided into $14 each, even if one person only got a $10 meal). You put it up to a vote, and the majority is that 5 people want to go to one restaurant, and 2 people want to go to another restaurant. In the family, there are the parents, and they are the final arbiters of the discussion.
In a normal family, the parents are going to decide that they will go with the 5 people, and the 2 people will just get over it. This happens time and again, and each time it is the same 2 people who don’t want to go to the restaurant. So after the 5th or 6th time, the parents start to feel bad for this minority. So even though the large majority of the family wants to go to the normal restaurant, the family decides to go to the minority restaurant. The two people are very happy about this, the parents feel good about themselves, and the five other people grumble, but they go along, knowing that the next time they vote, they will go to their choice of restaurant.
The next, however, the system has been radically changed. Instead of each person having an equal vote, the minority is now inherently equal to the majority. Whereas before the five would have won the vote, now the five equal the two. This is based off of the last time the family went out to eat, in addition to the fact that the family has gone out to eat dozens of times, and the minority has always been ignored. The five are very upset at this change, but since they implicitly agreed to the change in policy the previous time, they can’t logically argue with it this time. The parents are unbiased, and they go along with it. The two people are happy, because they get what they want without playing by the rules.
This is an unfair situation. Obviously, no family actually follows rules like this, but if you possess any modicum of independent thought (and a basic understanding of extended metaphors), you understand that this isn’t really a family. This is an allegory (or extended metaphor, pick and choose) for the current state of democracy.
Let’s look at a few simple things that the government (in America) does for the people. These things are like the choice of restaurant.
There are two groups of actions the government performs. The first is an action that affects each citizen equally, the second is an action which only affects a specific group of citizens.
The first group – I’ll call them Equal Actions – are the ones that no one has a problem with. Protection from foreign invaders via the military. The Justice system. Distribution of currency. These are things which are done by the government, and regardless of who you are, you are protected or enhanced by them. The military doesn’t stop protecting a city because of the people living in it. Likewise, the justice system is designed so that a minority doesn’t have one decision handed down to it, and the majority gets a different decision. The same goes for the currency that is distributed, as a dollar is a dollar regardless of who possesses it. These programs affect each person equally, and so everyone is expected to equally contribute (via taxes) to pay for them. No one is arguing this point.
The second group is different. These are things which are given to a specific minority, but which do not affect the majority of people, and most definitely don’t affect the majority equally. Examples of these are Medicare and Medicaid, Social Security, Welfare, Unemployment Benefits, and Progressive income taxes. These affect specific groups of people. Truth be told, the fact that these programs and actions are even undertaken at all is because of the political pressure from a minority group (not just based on race or sex, but also income, age, disabilities, employment and class).
These programs affect a small group of people. One example is Social Security. There are roughly 60 million people collecting Social Security benefits. This is of a country with a population of over 300 million people. That is 20% of the country, and nowhere near a majority. Who pays for this though? The other 80% (and the 20%, prior to their receiving the benefits). These programs are inherently unbalanced and unfair, as they are not like the Equal Actions. This same type of reasoning works with all of the other Limited Actions that I mentioned above.
Each program only affects a small portion of the population, but is paid for by the large portion of the population. Let’s not argue about the moral necessity of these programs, but let’s look at this from a purely economically grounded standpoint. The cost difference between the payers and receivers is massive. Why is this fair at all? It isn’t.
Which brings me back to the family allegory above. If you were in this family (with all of the rules included), would you want to pay your equal part of the bill? No. This is because you are not receiving the same benefits. If this was you, you would at least expect the people who are happy with the benefits to pay a little bit more towards their increased cost. This is not completely fair, but it is a step in the right direction.
Is this what we do? No. In fact, the people who receive these benefits are often the people on the lowest rung of the ladder, and as a result of the progressive income tax (enough material there for another post at a later date), they pay nearly nothing in taxes at all. I want to say that this is unfair, but that doesn’t seem strong enough; rather, this is the antithesis of fair.
What is to be done then? I propose the most radical of solutions: a constitutional amendment. If Congress wishes to instate a new program, it must be accessible (and useful) to all people, regardless of any mitigating factors. If this cannot be done, but congress still wishes to move forward, then the people who will receive these benefits will be expected to pay higher taxes to pay for it. This is just one in a series of constitutional amendments that I think should be put forward at the next constitutional convention (I cannot wait), and I will be writing more about my list of changes at a later date.
For now, take this away. Why are 80% of people paying for 20% of people? People that are not of any relation, and if they had prepared themselves individually throughout their life, wouldn’t need assistance. Why is this happening? I think that a solution should at least affect 80% of people if you expect the whole population to pay for it, and that is a minimum. I’d like for it to be a 100% rule, but I’ll settle for 80% to start with.