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Title Editor's Blog # 4: Taxation Without Representation

To be taxed unfairly without being represented in the taxing body is somethig people do not ordinarily accept without complaint. We Americans have a long history of both complaining and taking action to remedy matters - when we are taxed without representation. Yet, despite our forefathers' willingness to "stand up and be counted,"  we present-day ordinary Amerians allow ourselves to be taxed without representation - and without making any substantial complaint.


US Taxation without representationj did not end with King George III 


Prior to our revolution, we Americans were being used by England as a convenient source of income. We were a convenient source largely because we were not represented in Parliament. Our forefathers rensented this taxation without representation. They petitioned King George III for relief - but their peitions were ignored. Eventually, their patience wore thin and they rebelled. Their rebellion  was successful and resulted in our 1776 Declaration of Independence. After five years of hard fighting, we drove the British from our shores.


The government of the state of Massachusetts, however, had learned little from King George III's mistakes. It used the farmers of western Massachsetts as a convenient source of income. The farmers petitioned the state government for relief on the grounds that the state legislature was largely made up of wealthy businessmen.  The farmers believed they  were being taxed without representation. They petitioned the government,  but their petitions were ignored. Their patience wore thin and eventually, under the leadership of revolutionary war veteran Danial Shays, they rebelled. They were succesful in preventing some foreclosures by "ocupying" county court houses and puting them temporarily out of business. Their rebellion, however, "failed" when they "occupied" the Springfield Armory in early 1787 and were routed by the Massachusetts militia. While Jefferson believed Shays's Rebellion to have been consistent with the principles of the Revolution, many of his colleagues disagreed.  Shays was pardoned, but two of the rebeling farmers were hanged.


Taxation Without Representation Today


The most virulent form of taxation without representation occurs when people of moderate means are taxed by bodies made up of people of wealth and high incomes. This is the case in America today. The result, of course, is heavy taxation for Americans of moderate means and light  taxation for people of wealth and high incomes.


 Representational diascrrimination on account of wealth and income


Discrimination on account of low and middle incomes and wealth is assured by the ability of corporations and the wealthy to make disproportionate campaign contributions.This discrimination is exacerbated by the fact that the Members of Congress themselves are wealthy and have high incomes. The following table shows the absence of congressional members who share the interests and concerns of middle and lower income/wealth groups.



INCOME[1]                                Median Family            Median Individual

                                                   Income in US             Salary in Congress     


                                                       $60,000                          $174,000                                                    



WEALTH[2]                               % of  Millionaires       % of Millionaires

                                                          In US                          in Congress


                                                        Less than1                      47



Until recently, our major representational problem in Congress was that there were very few members who understood at first hand the needs, wishes, problems and aspirations of the various minority groups. We have made some progress toward solving this problem. However, we have made no progress at all toward providing representaion for middle and lower income and wealth groups. 


It is clear from the above data that it is in the economic interest of the Members of Congress to tax ordinary Americans heavily and wealthy and high income Amricans lightly. If all Members of Congress were white, we would certainly believe that  minorities were being taxed without adequate representaion. Yet all Members of Congress have high incomes and 47 percent are millionaires. This 47 percent represents less than one percent of our population. We accept this over representation of wealthy and high income Americans with hardly a murmur. Yet there can be little doubt but what it contributes to our income and wealth gaps.




This lack of representation, when considered along with the ability of wealthy individuals and corporations to make disproportionate campaign contributions, presents our democracy with a serious problem.  We can resolve this two-pronged problem only by petitioning our state legislatures to apply for a 2nd constitutional convention made up of delegates elected without the benefit of private campaign contributions.





[1] These figures were taken from the 2009 Bureau of the Census  Table 696 on family income and   “Salaries of Members of Congress,” Wikipedia.

[2] Shine, Tom, ABC News, Sept. 16, 2011

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