The Constitution, as amended four times, makes it very clear that we consider the right to vote as inherent in those Americans who meet the standards that we have set for eligibility. No other issue in this document has been addressed and revised so many times.
Over the years we have set to strike down those rules which deny the franchise because of race, financial condition, sex and age. We have attempted to include as many Americans in the process because it is our belief that in a republican democracy we should hear the voices of as many citizens as possible.
The governed should have the right to select those who govern. This was the principle which caused the Boston Tea Party and which ultimately brought about our break with King George III and our becoming an independent country.
In an earlier post I addressed the question of whether meeting the current criteria is enough to qualify a person to cast her or his ballot.
In that post I posed the question, should a person who doesn’t have an equivalent knowledge of the fundamentals of American governance and our current political leaders to that which we require of immigrants seeking citizenship, have the right to vote? Constitutionally, the answer is yes. But is that wise or is that a good principle?
This may surprise some of my readers, but I think that the concept of restricting the vote only to those who are qualified may have a great deal of appeal to our more socially liberal friends. How many times have you heard the argument from those who are “Pro Choice” that rules for women should not be established by men? They don’t have any “skin in the game” – if you’ll pardon the expression. So I think that this post will appeal to people on both sides of the social spectrum.
I started thinking about this the other day because the son of one of my neighbor’s works at a Native American casino in California. We were discussing his responsibilities and duties with his employer when I asked the question, “Do the Indian casinos pay Federal Income Tax?” My neighbor didn’t know the answer to that so I started to research the question.
The answer is that they do not.
Because the casinos exist on “Sovereign Land” they are exempt from the laws regarding the payment of Federal Income Taxes that the rest of us enjoy. Why they are required to pay a portion of their revenues to the states in which they are domiciled in contravention to the principle we have established at a Federal level is an issue of some confusion to me.
In theory and I’m sure in practice as well, these are enterprises which are run “in trust” for the members of each tribe – a sort of co-operative arrangement. The massive profits are annually distributed to members of the tribe in the form of “dividends.”
Needless to say, without the obligation to pay Federal Income taxes on their take, puts these casinos at a distinct advantage over their competitors – companies like MGM Mirage and Harrah’s. Their cost of doing business is significantly lower.
It is precisely for this reason, more favorable tax treatment, that so many American corporations have chosen to conduct many of their operations in overseas environments with more beneficent tax laws than we have in this country. It is the reason that so many U. S. dollars stubbornly remain overseas instead of being repatriated. But that’s an economic argument that we’ll save for a later post.
The real question is, should the tribal elders running these operations have the right to vote for those in Congress and for President who enact and sign laws into being including tax laws from which they themselves are exempt through treaty? This is essentially the same argument that my “Pro Choice” friends make regarding men enacting laws governing women.
Frankly, I have a great deal of empathy for our Native American brethren. They, perhaps more than any one group, have been victimized throughout the history of this country until recently. But clearly they do not have the same onus on them to pay taxes on their casino enterprises and that brings to mind the spirit of the Founding Fathers who believed that only the governed – those who were subject to the law – should be entitled to vote for those who made the law.
Of course, this thinking leads to a far more sinister and wide-reaching issue regarding those who do not contribute anything to American society through the payment of Federal Income Taxes – the nearly half of our population who are now in that condition. Should they have the right to determine how much “the wealthy” or the remains of the “middle class” should pay to support them? Should those who are contributing to society only by taking from it have the right to vote?
I leave that question to my astute readers to debate and look forward to hearing your comments.