Taxation without Representation, Again?
“No taxation without Representation.” The inception of this slogan cultivated what is known today as the American Revolution; a direct result of taxes on goods such as stamps and sugar, which was illegal under the English Bill of Rights. But was that truly all that was needed to ignite the uprising which led to the independence of the original 13 colonies of the US? Surely it was not.
During the time of the American Revolution, 1 in 20, or 5 percent, of British citizens were represented in parliament, none of whom lived in the 13 original colonies of the United States. How is that relevant to US citizens today? Do our taxpayer dollars reflect how we are represented?
Unfortunately not. If representation is, by definition, the ability to elect a representative to speak on one’s behalf, the U.S. political system curtails our representation in government.
Campaigns are privately funded, and the “Money Primary” determines which candidates are allowed to run for office. In 2014, the top 100 funders gave as much as the bottom 4.75 million funders to congressional campaigns. Donors control who may run for office by contributing to the Money Primary: the first step in the process of electing the candidates who will represent the people.
According to Harvard Professor Lawrence Lessig, only 57,874 individuals donated the maximum 5,200 dollars to one or more candidates in 2014, representing a whopping 0.02 percent of the US population. Literally, 0.02 percent of the US populace is relevant in determining who will become a candidate for whom the people can vote. Combine this property of the political structure with the Electoral College and Gerrymandering and we have a trifecta of misrepresentation.
The US in its identity is a democracy, but not in principle and format. So what can lovers of democracy do to alleviate themselves of the corruption which diminishes our representation: change it from within; or start fresh from the drawing board?
Individuals like Professor Lawrence Lessig of Harvard along with his network of activists the Rootstrikers hope to change these problems from within utilizing the former. A task equivalent to climbing the political Mount Everest.
Other groups, such as the California Freedom Coalition (CFC), are optimistically pursuing the latter, trekking hard to escape the harsh Himalayan like political landscape in hopes of creating a better one.
The CFC recently submitted an initiative pushing for the legal and democratic removal of California from the corrupt, money controlled US political system. Their primary justification for doing so is the same as those of the founding fathers of the United States: “Taxation without Representation.” According to the most recent figures from the Tax Foundation, an independent tax policy non-profit, California loses 22 cents per dollar relinquished to the federal government, where other states, like Mississippi, receive nearly 3 dollars in federal spending per tax payer dollar paid.
The CFC currently ranks as the largest group supporting peaceful independence from the non-representative US government. Boasting a total of approximately 30,000 members and followers on social media, it is growing in its popularity amongst Californians.
Research done by Reuters/Ipsos indicates that before President Trump won the Electoral Vote, 1/5 or 20 percent of Californians supported independence from the US. After he was elected the portion grew to 32 percent, or almost 1/3. Another 15 percent of Californians appear to be neutral on the matter. Politicos have to wonder, will the numbers grow as Trump continues to attack social services and civil rights while pursuing tax cuts for the wealthy?
Political scientists and scholars alike have labeled the US political system as the least democratic in the developed world, due to the nature of the triple threat posed by the Electoral College, Money Primary and Gerrymandering, which flies in the face of the most basic democratic principle: 1 person, 1 vote.
Will America, at long last, embrace real democracy? Or will history repeat itself yet again? If so, it may be in America’s best interest to part ways peacefully with California, the former bear cub, which has now outgrown the musty den of the United States.