Discouraging poor voters shortsighted

We bailed out a bunch of “too big to fail” investment banks, then found a way to blame it on poor people who couldn’t afford a house. We cheered when Florida decided to drug-test welfare applicants, then stopped paying attention when the testing costs outpaced any savings.

And now we’re trying to discourage poor people from voting.

Those aren’t my words. They’re from Andrew Vadum of the American Thinker, who argues against the left-wing approach of increasing voter rolls. His title: “Registering the Poor to Vote is Un-American.”

The problem, Vadum wrote last week, is that those poor people will just vote for their own self-interests, at the expense of other Americans who’d have to foot the bill for social welfare programs.

“Registering them to vote is like handing out burglary tools to criminals,” Vadum wrote. “It is profoundly antisocial and un-American to empower the nonproductive segments of the population to destroy the country.”

I thought it was ridiculous last year when Pat Sajak made the argument that government employees shouldn’t get to vote for policies that would give them more wages and benefits. After all, the entire point of voting is to vote for policies that personally affect you, and it’s shortsighted to say that rationale should only apply to a small segment of people.

Vadum’s approach is also shortsighted. He says nonproductive people shouldn’t vote, but requires we adhere to his very limited definition of what’s unproductive. If you don’t think there are rich people who could be categorized as unproductive, you’ve clearly never seen an episode of “Keeping up with the Kardashians.”

How would Vadum feel if an argument was made that discouraged those likely to vote for what he’d prefer?

Consider this: There are 37 states that receive more than $1 in federal money for every $1 they contribute in taxes. Just for fun, let’s call them, “nonproductive segments of the population.” Only one state, California, gets back the same amount it pays.

That leaves 12 states that are subsidizing the rest of the country, and nine of them are blue states. Let’s apply Vadum’s argument to the real way a president is elected, the electoral college, and only encourage those productive states to cast their electoral votes. You’d have 174 electoral votes. And 130 of them come from states that voted for Barack Obama.

I assume some of you are reading, and telling me that’s a very arbitrary way to decide who gets to vote and who doesn’t. And that’s the problem — every method is arbitrary. How do you decide who you encourage to vote, and who you don’t encourage to vote? Is the poverty line your definition of poor, or is it higher? Must you own a house, and if so, do we make an exception for military members who rent rather than buy and sell a home every time they PCS? Do citizens lose voting rights after they retire, since they’re no longer producing, but living off of the retirements they spent their working lives paying into?

And yes, it’s arbitrary to say that people who are 18, who haven’t been convicted of felonies, should all be considered proper voters. But I thought the point of our nation’s progression was to give rights to people, not roll them back.

Vadum sees a block of people who won’t vote for what he wants. What disappoints me is that instead of convincing them his side is right, he labels them as unproductive criminals who are destroying the country and says they should be discouraged from even taking part.

There’s nothing stopping him from making that argument. But there’s nothing requiring we take it seriously, either.

Kevin Wilson is a columnist for Freedom New Mexico. He can be contacted at 763-3431, ext. 313, or by email:

kwilson@cnjonline.com