William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Create Tax Refunds That Must Be Donated To Political Parties?

In the State of the Union address, President Obama thought it would be pleasant to slam the Supreme Court, shaming them for their recent Citizens United v. FEC decision. Our Leader claimed that, because of the Court’s mistake, foreign powers will soon take over our elections.

Fear!

As Mr Obama was wagging his Bill-Clinton at the audience, and the Democrats surged to their feet, Justice Alito, surrounded, could be seen mouthing, “Not true.”

Not sure how it would have turned out if a riot did break out. Alito is a big guy, as is Thomas. Scalia is scrappy and Roberts backs down to no man. But the rest of the Court is fairly scrawny and would have been chosen last at the playground.

Still, a few more fightin’ words from Obama, and we would have had a scene right out of George Romero movie. It would have been a supreme battle, but short.

Professor Bruce Ackerman and Representative David Wu would spare us this bloodshed. They too fret that the Court’s decision will give corporate interests “disproportionate” and “outsize influence on campaigns.”

Solution? In a 27 January Wall Street Journal article, the pair suggest giving every citizen who files a tax return $50 with which they must donate to “federal candidates.”

Actually, they didn’t say “must.” They said “could.” But if it’s not “must”, most people will not donate: what family wouldn’t like an extra hundred bucks back? It must be “must.”

They also did not say where the money would come from for those who are not due a refund. Presumably—in the ever-numbing interest of fairness—these folks would be given the money gratis. That money would have to be taken from those who have it and given to those who do not.

The program of “electronic transfers” would be called “democracy dollars.” How much democracy is this? They figure the 120 million people who voted in the last presidential election is about right, which makes six billion. Six Billion!

In the 2008 election, the spending by all candidates, including the primaries, totaled about two billion. That money would not go away with the advent of democracy dollars. Thus, the total amount available to spend for elections under the Ackerman-Yu plan would be increased to eight billion. Eight billion!

Talk about outsize.

The professor and politician argue that this flood of money will caused candidates to “find new rewards by appealing to mainstream interests.” Politicians will have to tout for those democracy dollars. This touting would give citizens “a renewed sense that they could make a difference in politics.” Happiness would abound.

And that naughty Supreme Court would have a “very hard time striking down democracy dollars.”

Striking down!

Here is why the idea won’t work and why democracy dollars, like many academic ideas, would have the exact opposite of its intended effect.

Once democracy dollars are in place, the first thing that will happen is the creation of many new candidates for political office. Political people are going to want to get their slice of that enormous, juicy pie. Primaries will be longer lasting and more diffuse because the number of candidates will double or triple.

Third party candidates—socialists, communists, Wiccans, and on and on—will join the queue and scream for theirs. And who can turn them down? To do so would be to discriminate. And not just in the politically correct sense.

If the government does not define what a legitimate political party is, then anybody can be one (as they can be, now). I’ll be one: just so I can pocket some of that money. This general largess will be seen as unacceptable. Thus, the politicians already in government will be made to decide who can be—and who cannot be—a politician. It will also require them to decide what opinions and actions legitimate politicians can have.

Small donors—those only giving democracy dollars—will still be less important than large donors. The masses will still be seen as the faceless masses, and whales will still be allowed to swim upstream. Politicians will still have time for their largest donors and will still be too busy to see every citizen.

All that will be accomplished by the sudden quadrupling of the money in the election system, will be a quadrupling in corruption. Political candidates—those that are defined as legitimate—will hire larger staffs, fund more activities, engage in more favor making. They will spend more money.

And why stop at quadrupling? If it’s $50 this year, why not $60 next, and $100 in three? There is inflation, after all. Some of that money will also, invariably, be shunted to other activities that are deemed associated with elections. Groups like “community organizers” will be allowed—in the name of equality—to have a small cut.

Given all these likely scenarios, Ackerman’s and Yu’s program should be re-named “oligarchy dollars.”

12 Comments

  1. What was it that Buckley said about a Boston phonebook and the faculty at Harvard? God save us from those with good intentions.

  2. Here’s the thing: I don’t like either Citizens United v. FEC (though I’m not sure it’s legally wrong) OR the idea of giving more money to bloody candidates by some fiat.

  3. While it sounds good that more, maybe qualified, candidates would come out of the woodwork, I can envision a “community coalition” of fanatics who would garner hundreds of thousands of peoples’ $50 to support another BAD, anti-American candidate. Thus, only those who are organized would prevail. Many of us, including those who have learned their lesson, would not be able to support a G-d fearing, constitutional candidate unless we, too, unit to form a coalition. In these bad and getting worse days, I don’t think we will do this, as it’s evil rhetoric that screams the loudest and only evil rhetoric will be heard – in the irresponsible media, which continues to infect American listeners and readers of that these media call “news”, but what is really propaganda. These are the ways this idea could backfire. Nevertheless, the idea of having $50 to give to a GOOD candidate is tempting – but so is the devil, who lives in the details.

  4. Sorry I lost the link, but a blogger pointed out that Citizens United is only a problem if you think political advocacy directed to the voters as a whole is a bigger problem than corporate lobbying directed to a few elected politicians.

  5. David Wu, like so many Oregon politicians, is a rapist and sex pervert. Maybe “attempted rapist” would be more correct, since he is as weak as a kitten and his intended victim threw him aside like a ragdoll. Google him if you don’t believe me.

  6. Something tells me that allowing currently elected politicians to define who is allowed to succeed them is effectively stifling some God-given Right — but then, I suppose that illuminates the stupidity of the proposal. OTOH, the same problem appears in the definition of legitimate religion which may explain the raised eyebrows when I introduce myself as pastor of the Church of the Holy Tax Dodger. (memo to self: remove David Koresh from the mailing list).

  7. Liberals believe that spending other peoples money to do good makes them morally superior. Those that don’t want to spend their money on the liberals pet projects are obviously a bunch of evil Scrooges.

  8. Ray,

    I don’t think that.

    Matt,

    My biggest issue with the ruling is not that it will give foreign interests a say in the government (honestly, foreign corporations have plenty of influence without this), but that I don’t trust large opaque factions– and corporations are factions with plenty of power regardless of this ruling.

    I’m on the fence about the jurisprudence itself, but I know it bothers me how much influence unelected bodies have in American politics. I’m not some corporate-hating crunchy type. I’m just a guy who doesn’t like having big, unelectable bodies having influence over the process.

    What’s worse is that the response by the two Dems is just… lame. Both parties have no spine when it comes to these issues, and everyone’s in some MNC’s pocket in some way. I’m wondering if this will deepen those hand holds.

  9. How about we only let taxpayers vote and they could only vote for federal candidates? Gah! Why make them vote once on who to give the money to and again on who to elect? What a dumbass idea.

  10. In general the ruling has little relevency. The money already funnelled to campaigns and advocacy groups . Foreign corporations and individuals will always be unable to make contributions and it is still illegal to accept these donations. It was basically apalling that the POTUS would call out the SCOTUS in this very inappropriate manner.

  11. Ray: “Liberals believe that spending other peoples money to do good makes them morally superior. Those that don’t want to spend their money on the liberals pet projects are obviously a bunch of evil Scrooges.”

    Close. Liberals lay claim to all money.

    Actually, I think there are three kinds of liberals: leaders, cheerleaders, and team.

    The really big group is the team: that (large) portion of the population who, for whatever reason, cannot envision succeding on their own, hence their best strategy is take from those who can.

    The leaders: the faction of the political class who promise the team other’s money in exchanger for votes.

    The cheerleaders: The Ackermans and Wus of the world – the true believers. Generally academics and/or elitists who’ve little experience of the real world. They dream up wealth redistribution and other inane schemes ’cause it makes them feel good.

    The cheerleaders package this stuff as social justice (or similar) and sell it to the leaders, who use it to bribe the team.

    …OK, that’s a bit tongue-in-cheek, but not terribly wrong. :-).

  12. Is there any reason to believe that corporate money is more corrupting that PAC money, private money, or tax dollars?

    “I’m just a guy who doesn’t like having big, unelectable bodies having influence over the process.” Unelectable bodies already have enormous influence over the process.

    The kind of giving I find most infuriating are those who give $1 million to both the Republican and the Democratic candidate in the same race. It says “I don’t care who wins, but I want them to owe me.”

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