I have a weakness for standup comedy. Specials on Comedy Central, live shows around town, streaming it on Pandora at work – I don’t care what medium it’s delivered in, as long as it makes me laugh. If a comic can make me laugh while simultaneously making great social commentary, I’m won over for life. George Carlin was the king of this. The guy offends the absolute hell out of me, but I keep listening to him because his social commentary was damned brilliant and occasionally makes me reconsider my view of the world.
When I ran across Carlin’s bit on politics and voting a few years ago, it started a train of thought that eventually lead to my decision not to vote in the presidential election of 2012.
My reasoning is that when neither party is doing anything useful, I’m actually causing the country harm by throwing my support behind one of them. It implies that I like what they’re doing, and encourages them to keep being worthless. My lack of a vote was a personal way of telling both parties that I’m not satisfied with their performance.
On top of this, my vote genuinely doesn’t matter. If you live in Ohio or Florida, congratulations, you’re important. I, however, live in Tennessee, the buckle of the Bible belt. It was obviously going Republican in 2012. Why waste my time filling out a ballot?
For some reason this attitude pisses people off. I’ve had family members practically scream that I’m “not a real American” because I didn’t participate in the democratic process. They get offended that I didn’t exercise my right to vote. I’m supposed to value that right.
Have you ever listened to someone talk, though, and realized that this idiot’s vote counts just as much as yours?
Your vote is just as valuable as a doctor’s. Mine is as valuable as a teacher’s. The two of us together have the exact amount of combined voting power as one Kardashian and Honey Boo Boo’s mom. Everyone from the Harvard educated to the most backwoods redneck to the members of the Westboro Baptist Church have equal say in the direction of this country.
I see this as a message that a single vote holds no value. It should, though. Seeing how the country is kind of messed up right now, I think it’s the perfect time to make some changes. I don’t see anyone else coming up with any great suggestions, so I humbly submit my own.
Instead of treating voting as a right, let’s make it a privilege.
I know, I sound crazy. Hear me out, though.
The ability to vote should be something you qualify for based on your merit as a citizen, not just for being 18+ with a pulse. Nothing too difficult, I’m not trying to screw the common man out of a say so that a handful of wealthy aristocracy can control everything. This isn’t the 1800s, after all.
No, I only want two qualifiers:
1) You contribute more to the system than you take from it.
2) You pass an intelligence test.
Number 1 is fairly simple: I want you to pay more in income tax than you get in benefits. Yes, this means that people on welfare don’t get to vote. Sorry, guys. I recognize that some of you legitimately need help through a temporary rough patch – No problem, we’ll happily give you that help! Once you’re back on your feet and contributing again, you’ll immediately regain your voting privileges. For the handful of leeches who ride welfare indefinitely: I don’t care anymore. I’m actually pretty cool with you sponging off my tax dollars in this situation. If you’re willing to give up your voice for some extra money, that’s your issue.
Now we can’t have a rule that picks exclusively on poor people. That’s unfair, and I’m a strong believer in pissing everybody off equally. So here’s what we do: We leave all the current tax loopholes open, and continue to allow people to exploit them. I recently read this article where a guy making $150,000 a year paid $150 in federal income tax – that’s a .1% tax rate. If you’re making several million a year and have a good accountant, I imagine he can work similar magic.
That’s actually impressive if you stop and think about it. However, I argue that the man who wrote that article is getting more than $150 worth of value from the intangible benefits of having an operational government and the protection of a strong military. By my logic, he’s leeching off the system. So let’s put a value on the intangible benefits, say a flat 10% of your income. This is NOT an additional tax; it’s a minimum threshold you need to reach. If you’re making 150,000 a year and don’t pay at least 15,000 in income tax, then you don’t get to vote. 2 million a year in gross income means you can’t pay less than $200,000. The wealthier you are, the more you’re required to pay for the privilege of voting. If taking advantage of every loophole and saving thousands of dollars is worth more to you than the ability to vote, then you have the right to do that. I wouldn’t recommend it, but you do have a choice.
Number 2 is a bit more complicated. I’m having difficulty with what the specifics of an intelligence test would look like. We don’t need every voter to be a genius, but I would like some basic level of competency. You’ve seen the videos of people who don’t know the Vice President’s name — those are the morons we’re trying to screen out. Show you know who the VP is, the Speaker of the House, the governor from your state. Be able to list half of the items on the Bill of Rights. Prove elementary levels of math and spelling ability.
Once the incompetent are gone, I’d also like to find some way of filtering the crazies. A multiple choice section, perhaps?
Question 1: How good of a quarterback is Tim Tebow?
A – He was an outstanding college quarterback who couldn’t really cut it in the NFL.
B – He loves Jesus, just like me! That makes him a good man, and I root for whatever team he’s on.
C – TIM TEBOW IS PART OF A HIDDEN RACE OF LIZARD MEN WHO SECRETLY CONTROL EVERYTHING!
If you picked A, congratulations, you passed. B, half point against your overall score for not actually answering my question. C, instant failure, we caught another crazy! Or someone who’s just immature enough to pick this answer, meaning we don’t want you voting anyway.
Question 2: How important is race when electing a president?
A – Completely irrelevant, let’s discuss their politics.
B – I don’t want a (insert skin color here) president!
C – Race doesn’t matter, but you should have to provide a birth certificate. And it has to be real, none of that photoshop nonsense that Obama showed us! HE’S NOT A LEGITIMATE PRESIDENT!
Again, if you picked A, you passed! Well done, you’re a decent human being. B, you’re a racist, but at least you’re honest. Half point against you. C, you’re one of those damn birther nutjobs, instant failure. (My apologies to certain family members who just got offended).
These are just examples of course, but you get the idea. Maybe throw in one that filters out the people who blindly vote along party lines regardless of issue. Another that eliminates people who think that every gay man is a child molesting monster. Someone smarter than me can handle those.
Once the voting pool has been narrowed down, there’s one final change I’d like to see: Weigh the votes in favor of people who are the most involved. A person who votes in the midterm elections will have their vote count for double of someone who only votes once every four years. People who are actively involved at the local level (where the most noticeable changes happen) get 6 votes in national elections.
Sadly, this is never going to happen. It’s like communism – great in theory, but generally ends in a horrible mess once applied to real people. Imagine the riots that would break out when a significant portion of the population is officially told that they’re too stupid to vote. It may be the truth, but the end result would be total chaos.
And if, for some unfathomable reason, the American people actually decided to support this, it wouldn’t make any difference. An electorate comprised solely of intelligent, contributing citizens, who are rewarded for taking an active interest in their government? I’m pretty sure that’s every politician’s worst nightmare. Who would believe their rhetoric and campaign promises? Pelosi and Boehner would happily work together for maybe the third time ever to block that bill. Congress would never let it through.
It does make for a wonderful fantasy, though.