Ryan Donmoyer - Articles and ruminations
               

Tom Perkins' Vote-per-Tax-Dollar Scheme Would Have Helped Obama


Venture Capitalist Tom Perkins, who made headlines by comparing what he sees as the persecution of the wealthiest 1% to the plight of Jews in Nazi Germany in a letter to the Wall Street Journal, is now proposing to disenfranchise the proverbial 47% of Americans who don’t pay federal income tax.

Perkins told CNN that he believes America’s voting system should operate more like a corporation: The more you pay in tax (i.e., the more shares you own), the more votes you should have. So, if you pay $1 million in tax (meaning you’d need an income of around $3 million), you get a million votes. If you’re a peasant taking handouts from Uncle Sam, you get none.
               
Now, there are many obvious objections that should be rightfully raised about this “the more you pay, the more you say” scheme: It’s unconstitutional, it would cause the disenfranchisement of tens of millions of American citizens (try explaining to combat soldiers and senior citizens why they’re ineligible vote), and it amounts to a poll tax.

But it seems to me Mr. Perkins intended the proposal as intellectual exercise, albeit a deliberately provocative one. I also suspect he believes  the outcome of our last election might have been different if the moocher class had been denied the right to vote.
So, I decided to accept this challenge. The ludicrousness of his proposal notwithstanding, it’s worth asking: Might it have changed the results of the 2012 election? Here I have compared the amount of federal income taxes paid by state in fiscal 2012 to the number of Electoral College votes each received, and which candidate each state elected: Democrat Barack Obama or Republican Mitt Romney.

The results, with the important caveat that I held ideological breakdowns for taxpayers constant, is that Obama would have won by an even wider margin.
The table blow shows Romney won only one state (Texas) among the 10 biggest contributors of individual tax dollars to federal coffers in fiscal year 2011, and just three of the top 15.

 State
 Individual taxes paid
 Electoral College 
 2012 winner
 1. California
 $177.2 billion
 55
 Obama
 2. New York
 $121.2 billion
 29
 Obama
 3. Texas
 $118 billion
 38
 Romney
 4. Florida
 $88 billion
 29
 Obama
 5. Illinois
 $63.9 billion
 20
 Obama
 6. Pennsylvania
 $57.2 billion
 20
 Obama
 7. New Jersey
 $56.4 billion
 14
 Obama
 8. Massachusetts
 $42.7 billion
 11
 Obama
 9. Ohio
 $42.7 billion
 18
 Obama
 10. Virginia
 $40.1 billion 
 13
 Obama
 11. Georgia
 $37.7 billion
 16
 Romney
 12. Michigan
 $36.7 billion
 16
 Obama
 13. Washington
 $32.3 billion
 12
 Obama
 14. North Carolina
 $32.3 billion
 15
 Romney
 15. Maryland
 $31.3 billion
 10
 Obama
 16. Connecticut
 $27.6 billion
 7
 Obama
 17. Minnesota
 $23.6 billion
 10
 Obama
 18. Colorado
 $23.6 billion
 9
 Obama
 19. Tennessee
 $22.8 billion
 11
 Romney
 20. Indiana
 $22.5 billion
 11
 Romney
Sources: Internal Revenue Service, Federal Election Commission

The table shows individual taxpayers in the top 10 states contributed $807.4 billion, collectively, to the federal government. If you back out the share from Texas and Georgia, the eight states states in that group carried by Obama contributed $689 billion, or nearly half of the $1.38 trillion of income tax the IRS collects from individuals annually. By comparison, Obama’s take from the top nine states equaled 209 of the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the presidency.

The Perkins system also would give states like Connecticut and Massachusetts more relative power than their current Electoral College standings do.

To be sure, we can’t know for sure that the votes would break down along similar partisan lines under a pay-to-play electoral regime. And it’s also true that there were 304,118 tax returns filed in fiscal 2011 that reported income above $1 million. Collectively, those people paid $244.1 billion in tax.

It’s probably a flawed assumption to believe a majority of those millionaire dollar-votes would be cast for a conservative. One only has to look at campaign finance filing to understand that there are 1-percenters of both liberal and conservative persuasions; for every American Crossroads 527 group, there’s an ACT Blue. There’s no way to know whether George Soros and Sheldon Adelson’s votes would cancel each other out (in part because we don’t know how much they pay in tax!)

But the tax data does show pretty convincingly that Mr. Perkins’ way would have worked out pretty well for Obama. After all, Connecticut, Minnesota, and Colorado ranked 16, 17, and 18, respectively, on the above table. Add their 26 combined Electoral College votes to the 247 he would have received from the 12 states he won in the top 15, and he would have locked down a second term.


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