Today I’ve mused quite a bit about both how much I hate Dallas and also about a small constitutional question. I accidentally bought a Dallas Morning News instead of an Austin-American Statesman today at lunch, and this article was on the center of the front page. This was my first clue that I had bought a Dallas newspaper because it was an article pandering to the old and the rich rather than an interesting or relevant demographic. Old, rich, and uninteresting describe Dallas pretty well. I know because I’ve lived there.

The gist of the article is that the city has decided to raise property taxes by 6.6 percent and also by removing an exemption of $69,000 from the minimum taxable value of a home. However, any resident aged 65 or elder currently enjoying this exemption remains exempt. This means that basically, they get a tax cut for being old. A quick Google search revealed that Congress too likes to play at age discrimination even though they made agism illegal for anyone who isn’t the government.

I don’t understand at all how that falls under the equal protection provision of the14th Amendment. I don’t see much difference between agism and racism. If racist legislation is a big 14th Amendment faux pas, agism should be too.

I could understand the city allowing a tax cut for the retired elderly who have a miniscule income and who honestly can’t afford the tax increase. The progressive nature of our income tax affirms this reasoning. However, a blanket tax cut based on age for the millionaires and destitute alike is clearly unfair and is likely unconstitutional.

Maybe it’s just because I’m still in college, but I don’t like being punished just for being young. I’m already paying into a social security system that I’ll never benefit from, and I don’t see why old people and oil companies get all the tax breaks.


10 Responses to “More Young People Need to Vote and Fewer Old People Need to Run Everything”

  1. 1 James

    I suppose I don’t understand.

    I think you really have a problem with demographic politics. You suggest that is unfair for older Americans to have systemic, institutionalized advantages due to their age. Is it then also unfair for other Americans to be targeted for benefits based on an arbitrary factor? Are other federally funded benefit programs – for the blind, the deaf, for those with non-onset medical conditions – also unfair to those unaffiliated? Is it unfair to the old for the Federal Government to spend money educating young people on issues that apply exclusively to their demographic? Is it unfair for men to pay taxes that are in part spent on subsidizing feminist agendas? Is it unfair for Americans who are against the war to pay taxes that are spent financing it? The theoretical answer lies in governmental theory. The American answer lies elegantly (and clearly) in the Preamble, which calls for the promotion of the general welfare.

    Then you argue:

    However, a blanket tax cut based on age for the millionaires and destitute alike is clearly unfair and is likely unconstitutional.

    This is another unavoidable consequence of demographic politics. This loophole (that is to say, general grouping based on one characteristic and not an exact situation) also allows rich African-Americans to manipulate the Affirmative Action system that is only constitutionally permitted because it allegedly enhances opportunities for under-privileged African-American youth. Also, it will be difficult to prove any part of any tax code as logistically “unconstitutional”, seeing as how the Constitution’s only mention of taxation is to enable the legislature to do so. If “tax cuts based on age are unconstitutional,” so too are income taxes, ballroom dancing, property taxes, piñatas, sales taxes, chewy Spree, bottled water, estate taxes, platypuses, abortion, assisted suicide, DailyWrit, The Louisiana Purchase, febreze, and the President’s role as Commander of the Air Force – as none of them are explicitly mentioned in the Constitution.

    You are correct in saying that the Equal Protection Clause prohibits denying citizens “equal protection of the laws.” However, just because you are not 65 does not mean that demographic litigation and lawmaking pandering to olds does not equally impact you. Constitutionally, you are “equally [protected]” as long as it remains possible that you could live to be 65. Similarly, my grand-parents might argue that it is unfair for young people to get so many tax breaks. You get one when you buy your home, get married, have kids, send your kids to school, buy that cool insulation for your attic, and when you get a car. So let the olds have their tax break.

    Regardless, AJ: you do not pay one cent in property taxes, and you do not own a home impacted by this change. So is it really unfair to you, anyway?

  2. 2 your friendly neighborhood (blog)stalker

    who’s AJ? i ask because

    1) the info page hasn’t been updated
    2) I don’t think that’s the name of an ex-debater from plano who graduated in the past two years. doesn’t that like. disqualify him from writing for this blog?

  3. 3 sorry,

    ^ that was christine

  4. 4 AJ

    The gist of your argument seems to be that some demographic legislation is legal and that therefore all demographic legislation is legal. Although they appear so, not all demographic legislation is based on arbitrary factors. In US v Butler, the Supreme Court decided to overturn a federal tax and spending code that blatantly and arbitrarily favored farmers. In Steward Machine Co. v Davis, the same court upheld an economic redistribution plan that was enacted demonstrably for the general welfare as opposed to blatantly in favor purely of farmers. Both cases contain overtones of federal-state relations, but both cases are also very much about demographic legislation. The point here is that not all demographic legislation is arbitrary, and those which are not arbitrary are protected.

    I touched on this distinction in my post by addressing the concern that the elderly are less able to pay this tax. While some elderly may be less able, the remedy is not to favor all elderly but is to favor all the unable. Demographic legislation favoring the poor in this case is less arbitrary and easier to uphold constitutionally than demographic legislation favoring the old.

    I’ll now address the rest of your contentions in turn.

    1) Legislation favoring the blind, deaf, disabled, etc.: Most of the legislation on this topic is actually designed to prevent anti-14th Amendment discrimination of these groups, such as providing them an equal level of education or employment. Although the per capita spending for these groups is unequal, the allotment of basic rights is still equal, which is more important over all. The deaf are not granted a special place in American society in the same way the aged of Dallas are.

    2) Everyone pays money into the federal government for every agenda. You could say that young people pay taxes sponsoring education for issues affecting the elderly demographic as much as you could say old people pay for young issues. Some feminists pay money into the government for the deaf agenda and some deaf people pay into feminist agendas. Describing where any one person’s taxes are spent is silly, and you should know better.

    3) The rhetoric of your next paragraph is underhanded and not befitting anyone privileged to write for this auspicious blog. However, you have forgotten that Art I Sec 8 does state that taxing and spending must be in the “common Defence and general Welfare,” which is a point touched on in US v Butler.

    4) I can’t choose when to be 65 as I can choose whether to own a house. If I choose to own a house, I also choose to pay for the government to maintain the utilities and area around the house. I can’t choose when to be and when not to be 65 any more than I can choose when to be and when not to be black. A better analogy then is racist-based legislation rather than income-based legislation, which is something I pussy-footed around saying but never said explicitly in my post. I don’t think you would honestly support lesser taxes for black people, which is demonstrably analogous to supporting lesser taxes for old people.

    5) Old people are just as able as young people to buy homes, get married, (old men may) have kids, send kids to school, buy insulation for my attic, and get a car. Young people are not equally free to choose to be 65.

    6) I don’t pay property taxes now, but I’d like to address the issue while it is young now rather than when it has already become aged precedent, which it will be by the time I buy a home. Furthermore, why can’t I stick up for people’s rights everywhere other than my own? The Supreme Court should be barred from deciding cases that do not affect jurists by your logic.

  5. 5 James

    This is a waste of time, but OK:

    First of all, you are REALLY misinterpreting Butler. You say “the Supreme Court decided to overturn a federal tax and spending code that blatantly and arbitrarily favored farmers.” This is misleading (…or wrong), due to the fact that the decision was entirely independent of anyone being “favored.” It was based entirely on the fact that the act invaded the reserved rights of states. I know because the majority opinion says that they struck down the code because it “invaded the reserved rights of the states.” Thus, the actual case was not about demographics but about the permissibility of regulation through taxation (essentially, the government paid farmers not to produce so that prices would be higher). The Constitutional question was based on 10, not 14.

    You then misinterpret Steward. You say “the same court upheld an economic redistribution plan that was enacted demonstrably for the general welfare as opposed to blatantly in favor purely of farmers.” But, again, their decision to affirm had nothing to with who was “favored.” The case was argued purely on 10th amendment grounds to determine the legality of forcing states into compensation systems.

    Although the idea of demographic politics applies to both of these cases, neither was argued on 14th amendment grounds. Both were pursuant to federal authority.

    Then you argue “While some elderly may be less able, the remedy is not to favor all elderly but is to favor all the unable.” As soon as you come up with a way to do this, you just may be appointed to the President’s Council of Economic Advisors. In the mean time, you can read the chapter in my (our?) economics textbook about how taxation can never be logistically designed to address individual circumstances.

    Now I will address your sextuplet of incoherencies.

    1). You say “The deaf are not granted a special place in American society in the same way the aged of Dallas are.” When was the last time you saw a special language (namely, Braille) invented and (optionally) implemented on every federally funded machine, document, building, etc? Do old people get their own language? Can you buy a book that is written in “old,” AJ?

    2). While I am amused to the point of laughter by your assertion that “I should know better,” you have actually not combated my point. Instead, you restated it and then pretended like you had said something of consequence. What I’m saying is that it is equally unfair for your money to be spent on the deaf agenda and the elderly persons’ agenda – both are unrelated to you, yet both benefit the general welfare. After all, according to one of the most frequently quoted lines of Butler, “Congress consequently has a substantive power to tax and to appropriate, limited only by the requirement that it shall be exercised to provide for the general welfare of the United States.” So, pretty much, I’m right. Unless, that is, you think the survival of old people does not contribute to the general welfare.

    3). I don’t understand how I was “underhanded.” What did I say that was dishonest? Also, did you really say “anyone privileged to write for this auspicious blog.” All you have to do is be literate and ask Kedar for a username.

    4). This one was your most confusing. You say you “can’t choose when to be 65.” Isnt it also true that black people don’t choose to be black? “Cant choose” is the definition of arbitrary. That means that all of those factors we previously discussed are arbitrary, doesn’t it? Then you say “I don’t think you would honestly support lesser taxes for black people, which is demonstrably analogous to supporting lesser taxes for old people.” First, I don’t know when I said I supported lesser taxes for old people. What I said was that the break was not unconstitutional. Second, we already do have a system that supports African-Americans blindly and arbitrarily as a race. It’s called Affirmative Action.

    5) You say “Old people are just as able as young people to buy homes, get married, (old men may) have kids, send kids to school, buy insulation for my attic, and get a car.” Yes, “just as able,” but far less likely. This like you trying to argue that you and I were the target audience of the Prescription Drug Care Benefit. Technically, we were (as we are all Americans), but you and I are far less likely to take advantage of the PDCB. Unless, AJ, you’re having problems in the bedroom…

    6). “The Supreme Court should be barred from deciding cases that do not affect jurists by your logic.” LAWL. This is SUCH a stretch! It makes Lopez look like a direct connection. Go ahead and stick up for whoever you want, AJ. I just have the feeling that you won’t be as emotional after you turn 65.

  6. 6 AJ

    1) You missed my point completely. I said the the allotment of basic rights is equal for the cases you suggested. Whereas blind people may now read building numbers with an ability equal to my own, old people enjoy a SUPERIOR tax position.

    4) Maybe the way I typed it was unclear, but we are basically agreeing on the point that age is as arbitrary as race. Moreover, maybe affirmative action should be unconstitutional, and, as it stands, the constitutionality of many of its applications has been voided. Arguably, affirmative action is a functionalist piece of patchwork that shouldn’t impact other policy areas.

    5) My point still stands. The benefits of those bills are not as rigidly inaccessible as the Dallas bill. Also, my soldier salutes just fine, thanks for asking.

    2) and 3) and 6) are mostly personal bickering which is cool I guess because you are a dumb, but also not worth putting up where the big chunk of important words is.

  7. 7 James

    I see you’ve abandoned the Butler charade, eh?

  8. 8 AJ

    I have to go back to my case book before I talk about it any more. Most of what I’m referring to was dicta and sub-argument.

  9. 9 Michael Klichowski

    Great post. Im almost in my mid- 20′s, registered voter, and registered for the draft. I work as a pizza delivery driver for extra cash to make ends meet. Working at the pizza place, I work with some teenagers who are very nice people, but are completely uneducated on the what their rights are. I try to tell them to go register and they see almost no point in it, and act as if its none of their business. I say things like; “why would you register for the draft, but not register to vote?!” My point being, people need to get out there and register, hell ill take them myself if i have to. DO NOT GIVE UP YOUR RIGHTS TO REGISTER AND VOTE!!! You wouldnt want someone *Caugh* Government */Caugh* to take away any of your other rights would you? WOULD YOU!? GO REGISTER NOW!!!

  1. 1 A Constitutional View On Age-Discrimination at DailyWrit

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