FAULTY TRAINING WHEELS LETTING KIDS VOTE WOULD BE REPRESENTATION WITHOUT TAXATION.
STATE Sen. John Vasconcellos' (D-San Jose) ``training wheels for citizenship'' proposal would allow teens in California to cast one-quarter of a vote at age 14 and one-half of a vote at age 16.
In 14-year-olds, parents are beginning to see glimpses of the responsible adults they hope their children will become. They also witness the titanic struggle as the immature brain tries to harness a rapidly changing body, a trial-and-error period during which lapses in judgment are, regrettably, the rule and not the exception.
Traditionally, the right to vote has been associated with taking on the responsibilities of adulthood. One of the principal arguments for lowering the voting age from 21 to 18 was that at 18 young people were eligible for military service, an adult responsibility if there ever was one.
Another of these adult responsibilities is paying taxes. As young adults enter the work force and contribute money that funds government, they begin to take a more active interest in how much of their income is being taken and what is being done with it.
As taxpayers, young people become stakeholders in government and literally earn the right to have their interests represented by their vote. Since most 14-year-olds don't pay significant taxes, allowing them to vote would be representation without taxation.
Considering the scorn that is being heaped on Vasconcellos for his proposal, it is unlikely that we will see 14-year-olds voting anytime soon. But is representation without taxation really that far-fetched?
New flash: We already have it.
When it comes to local bonds, we allow those with no responsibility to pay to vote on issues that will raise their neighbors' taxes. Local bonds, such as those for schools, libraries, and parks, are voted on by everyone, while only property owners enjoy the exclusive privilege of paying the bill that results when these bonds are approved.
The framers of the California Constitution of 1879 recognized that not all ``electors'' were obligated to repay the principal and interest obligation that comes with the passage of local bonds, and that this was a problem. To put it bluntly, it is no great sacrifice to vote to increase taxes that will fall on others. To level the playing field for property owners, the two-thirds vote requirement to approve these bonds was placed in the constitution.
The two-thirds vote worked well for more than a hundred years. Local communities built infrastructure by also building consensus. They crafted bond proposals that were attractive to everyone, including the property owners who would bear the cost.
In November of 2000, all that changed when a handful of Silicon Valley multimillionaires and billionaires paid for an initiative campaign to lower the vote for local school bonds to 55 percent. With the passage of Proposition 39, the balance between local taxpayers and local spenders was destroyed. By increasing the clout of voters with no obligation to pay, an additional $29 billion - not counting interest - in school bonds has been added to the property taxpayers' burden since 2001.
Hardest hit? Single-family homeowners who, unlike businesses, have no one onto whom they can pass their increased costs.
Of course, another classic example of representation without taxation is the progressive income tax. We know that the top 50 percent of all taxpayers pay well over 95 percent of income taxes. The flip side of that, of course, is that the other 50 percent pays less than 5 percent, meaning that their connection to government is somewhat tenuous. Why should they be concerned with the efficient use of taxpayer dollars when their dollars are not at stake?
Other examples of representation without taxation abound, but Senator Vasconcellos' proposal is especially dangerous. Let's let our young people develop more of a connection to government as taxpayers, not just tax receivers, before allowing them to redistribute the wealth created by their elders. After all, how many parents let their children vote on what their allowance should be?
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Mar 17, 2004|
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