accounts of monies paid and received

Tax and Tyranny

Table of Contents

In popular culture, the American Revolution against the autocracy of the British monarchy can be summarized in one slogan: No taxation without representation! 

That quote is commonly attributed to James Otis, although there doesn’t seem to be definitive proof that he actually uttered those words. It seems more likely that the phrase was first uttered in a sermon by Jonathan Mayhew. 

We do know for sure, however, that Otis wrote: “Taxation without representation is tyranny.” 

The Right to Vote

In the aftermath of the recent Presidential election, I find myself reflecting upon those sentiments. I have lived in the US for eleven years now. I have been granted permanent residence in the US (sometimes called a green card) — and I pay social security, income tax, sales tax, property tax, and sundry special taxes and duties levied on different items and services. 

Yet I didn’t get to vote for the US President. 

In fact, I don’t get to vote for any member of the US or Florida legislatures either. I can’t vote for state judges, members of the school board, or even the local property appraiser. I just have to put up with whomever others happen to select. 

Whatever happened to “Taxation without representation is tyranny”? 

Worse than a Felon?

Indeed, I am treated worse in this regard than many convicted felons, who may now have their right to vote restored to them. And I haven’t even been convicted of a misdemeanor. 

In practice, I recognize that the one vote I could have cast in each of those elections would not have made any difference to the result of any of those elections. But that isn’t really the point, especially since there are many others in the same position as me. 

All the members of the Republic are supposed to be able to participate in the body politic precisely because they are expected to contribute to it. And yet that right is being denied to me — and to them. 

Tax and Immigration Status

There seems to be some sort of urban myth doing the rounds that only American citizens pay American taxes. Unfortunately, that myth seems to have been treated by many voters in the recent election as if it were true. 

Evidently, they think that we aliens — that’s the term federal US law uses to describe us — get some sort of special deal from the IRS and state legislatures. It may be that men are from Mars, and women are from Venus, but this Martian hasn’t worked out a way to be relieved of any of the taxes to which my colleagues, friends, and neighbors are all subject. 

It still often comes a shock to friends and colleagues to learn that, although I am not an American citizen, I still pay virtually all my taxes here. 

On learning this, many of them become indignant on my behalf, and assert that, in that case, I should have the right to vote. One student was recently particularly strident about that. 

I appreciate their support. Unfortunately, some (not all) of them undermine their position by adding the following qualification: … because you are a permanent resident. 

Undocumented Migrants

I am sorry, but my immigration status is completely beside the point. Immigration status does not determine whether a person pays tax. Undocumented migrants pay the same taxes I do, and we both pay the same taxes that American citizens pay. 

Yet it seems that a significant reason for Donald Trump’s garnering the number of votes that he did in the recent Presidential election was his call for the deportation of so-called undocumented migrants. 

Trump and his supporters — many of whom like to portray themselves as proud defenders of the nation and its Constitution — have apparently forgotten a fundamental, formative period of American history. Have they forgotten too that those who forget history are condemned to repeat it? 

Rather than boasting about deporting undocumented migrants, the President-elect should be faithful to the founding fathers and American revolutionaries who established this nation. Upon taking office, he should work to ensure that they (and I) are permitted to vote. 

Anything less smacks of monarchical tyranny.