With the discussions continuing to rage concerning budget reductions and the correct policy of taxation in the US, the issue of fairness within a democracy is coming under an increasing focus. It is something that is entirely subjective to each individual and their own circumstances, and yet is often cited as reasoning when debates ensue about democratic policy and government rule. The issue of subjectivity is something that is difficult to incorporate when attempting to enforce a policy or law within a democracy, and can lead to complication in terms of the decision making process.
Taxation is a case in point, especially in the light of the suggestion that the US government will increase the tax liability of the rich in order to relieve the burden on lower income individuals and households. Backed by Barack Obama, it has instantly won the approval of an estimated 72 percent of the US society, who are in favor of focusing on the top two percent of earners in the country to reduce the vast national deficit. This is where the issue of fairness becomes important, and influences the thinking of voters and government officials alike.
The Processes of a Democracy
Democracy affords each individual member of a society a voice and opinion on any prevalent social issue, which can influence a government in imposing legislation and policy. However, a government cannot satisfy the requirements of each independent voter, and so must therefore make a decision that best suits the opinions and interests of the vast majority of it citizens. This is a slight anomaly that can complicate the process of a democratic regime, as some individuals can unreasonably expect that a democratic government should cater their their specific wants and needs.
It is a known and accepted fact that Barack Obama’s preferred policy with regards to tax is to increase the liability of the wealthy, while easing that which rests upon the shoulders of low and middle income households. This is a measure that is apparently well supported within the US government, with a vast majority of Republicans, Democrats and Independent representatives all in agreement that individuals or households who earn more than $250,000 per year should bare the brunt of plans to reduce the national deficit.
Not only this, but US citizens also seem to agree that this is the most positive step that their government can take with regards to taxation. The New York Times recently revealed in a poll that an estimated 72 percent of adults approve of increasing federal taxes on households earning $250,000 per year or more, which is a significant portion of the voting demographic in the US. Though this suggests that the government and its subjects are in accordance, there are economic and ethical issues concerning such a practice within a free and democratic land.
A Thriving Economy
From a purely practical standpoint, there are two significant reasons why increasing the tax liability of the rich would be either inconsequential or potentially detrimental to the economy. Firstly, given the effects of the global recession and subsequent recovery, there are a paucity of individuals and households who earn more than $250,000 in the US. This means that by targeting this demographic as opposed to imposing a 1 percent increase on each level of household income, the government will acquire far less reveneue over the next decade than they have the potential to.
The model of American government is fairly unique, and significantly different to other democratic nations across the western world. Though the federal government retains ultimate power, beneath its wings are the law makers and governors of 50 individual and somewhat independent national states, who are able to wield an influence that is shaped by their own perceptions and ideals. While this may be generally seen as something positive which prevents the federal government from imposing an authoritarian will, it has and will continue to cause issues where local legislation differs vehemently from the values of the Whitehouse.
Tackling Arizona’s Immigration Law
This internal conflict was reflected by recent events in Arizona this week, where a federal appeals court affirmed a previous injunction imparted on the states much debated immigration law. The law, which would empower local law enforcement officers to detain suspected illegal immigrants and help in their eventual deportation, was delayed last year after Barack Obama’s administration sued while claiming that the process of apprehending and deporting immigrants is the sole responsibility of the federal government.
After being prevented at the 11th hour last year and now delayed for the longer term, Arizona state officials are considering their options and are expected to issue a petition to the Supreme Court of the US. Their argument remains strong and considered, and claims that their proposed legislation is a response to the inability of federal government to secure the nations borders and effectively manage immigration. Given the negative consequences that illegal immigration can reap within communities, they clearly feel that they have a duty to protect their citizens accordingly.
However, they appear to be in a minority, and even influential
Yesterday we discussed the current stalemate facing the US government, and the potential for a federal shutdown that would have a discernible impact nationwide. However, while opposing factions of government and personal persuasion are having a stalling effect on the negotiations, it is interesting to consider exactly what the consequences would be should a resolution fail to be reached by midnight on this coming Friday.
Of course he concept of a federal government shutdown, whether it be partial or more widespread, is one that causes great concern for citizens. However, it is a rather vague and ill defined notion, and one that gives little indication as to the exact implications for society at large. So, what would be the immediate or long term consequences of enforced government inactivity, both in terms of the nations financial performance and the welfare of its workers and citizens?
The Financial Implications for a Nation
Financially, the partial closure of government institutions would be especially troublesome, and would create specific issue with regards to tax assessments and the funding of public sector ventures and small business enterprises. In a depressed fiscal climate, the forced inactivity of public sector bodies and their workers will only serve to slow the processes of economic recovery, and create an unhealthy cycle of increasing unemployment and subsequent closure of small and independent businesses.