Skin in the game

2012-09-29 14:48

The phrase “skin in the game” comes in and out of fashion. I always rather liked it; it’s evocative.

It is occasionally used to argue that if people pay no income tax, they don’t have any reason to care about the tax code. I don’t think this is generically true; many people who pay no income tax now would start if the tax code were changed. For instance, some people pay no income tax due to tax credits or tax breaks. Many people have friends or family who pay income tax. There are many taxes other than income tax, such as payroll tax.

But the basic idea that if something won’t affect you, and you can vote on it, that can lead to undesireable outcomes? Sound reasoning.

Most of the people expressing concern about this are Republicans. And I have a proposal to make to them: I will support you in your quest to ensure that more people are at least somewhat affected by the tax code, but I want to see you put your money where your mouth is on this one.

If you don’t have a uterus, you can shut the fuck up about laws pertaining to abortion. Without a uterus, you do not have skin in the game. The (overwhelmingly male) legislators who passed the Texas law requiring doctors to rape women with a ten-inch plastic rod before performing first-trimester abortions? They were passing a law that could not possibly affect them. Ever.

When the people who are worried about voting decisions by people who don’t pay taxes are absolutely consistent in that none of them ever vote to restrict abortions unless they personally have a uterus, I will be a lot more inclined to believe that they have a sincere principle going here, not just a convenient excuse to disregard the poor.

This is not to say that there is not a legitimate concern to be had; it is pretty obvious that at least the short-term best interest of someone who won’t pay taxes either way is generally going to be to increase spending (and probably taxes along with it) on programs that benefit them. But I am not so sure that the entire voter base is incapable of thinking past the short term, and I suspect that there are a lot of people who are pretty aware that there is a real need for effort to get the budget balanced. Nonetheless, this is far from the only case in which people are making decisions about stuff that doesn’t affect them, and it’s far from the most egregious.

Peter Seebach



  1. If you aren’t ever going to marry someone of the same sex, then the legality of gay marriage doesn’t affect you, so you aren’t allowed to vote on it.

    Yep, I like it!

    — SorchaRei · 2012-09-29 22:55 · #