Just a little explanation: I was raised in the former Soviet system, then I lived through the systemic change, and now I live in the US. I understand that the US is a semi-democratic country. I understand that capitalism in some ways suppresses democracy; in legal ways (people have no equal ways of buying legal help). But I always thought that the US has equal rights for the masses of people (being the poor) to somehow submit propositions, and try to tax the bank accounts of the wealth, and thus create a little more financial equilibrium. I also understand that in the US there is no mandatory free education, so maybe the masses of people just don't know they have a change to submit something.

But now I live here and I am stunned that there are no propositions about that (or anything that would equalize in a big way)? Maybe I do not know enough about the proposition system or the political system. All I know is that in Europe, even in the post-Soviet countries, you can create an idea, then collect enough signatures from people(who have the right to vote), then submit the idea as proposition (they call it a petition) to the house (may that be called parliament, house, senate, congress etc), and then they will organize an election for it, and the people will vote and decide. Isn't that the same in the US? Please somebody explain to me.

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    Because the US is not a democracy. It is a representitive Republic. Citizens can not directly propose any legislation. Capitolism is an economic system not a political system. But the real problem is that the people who are supposed to be our representitives have been bought off by special interests who have no interest in paying higher taxes. Commented Oct 11, 2016 at 19:23
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    There are many states that allow a referendum (some refer to it as initiative). But the federal government has no such populist approach.
    – user5155
    Commented Oct 11, 2016 at 19:27
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    I also understand that in the US there is no mandatory free education That's not true. You might say that since it is sometimes possible to get an exemption from public school that it is not "mandatory", but it there is public school throughout the US, and every child is by default expected to attend. Commented Oct 11, 2016 at 19:46
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    @ÁrpádSzendrei "representative republic" is a redundant term. Most people say "representative democracy" or "democratic republic" Commented Oct 11, 2016 at 20:11
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    Most rich people store money in shares rather than bank accounts.
    – Anixx
    Commented Oct 18, 2016 at 15:05

3 Answers 3


In the United States, there's no formal way for citizens to petition the government directly with legislative proposals. They can do it indirectly via voting for their representatives or lobbying their representatives.

About half the states in the US, however, do allow for some form of citizen petitioning. These can be (state) tax related.

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    A good response as to the constitutional methods of lawmaking in the US, but we also should address the deeper part of the question, as to why US citizens don't vote for an equitable redistribution of wealth.
    – user24000
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 20:12
  • @user24000 that's an abstract concept and not something we directly vote for. We vote for representatives that hopefully fight for at least some of the ideals we have as individuals--which could include that. But it's an indirect vote, for sure.
    – user1530
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 22:37

They do. The rich do pay most of the taxes.

I'll address the question literally for a moment. It's easy to move your bank account to a jurisdiction that the IRS can't touch, or to move it into other assets. Most wealthy people don't hold much of their wealth in bank accounts. So taxes fall on income and property, which can of course include bank assets.

Tax transfers form a major part of the income of the poorer citizens of the USA, in the form of various subsidies, welfare, medicaid and medicare, and free education. Some 49% (or 47%) of Americans receive at least some income from the government - generally from the taxes of the better-off. The USA is not greatly different to other OECD countries in wealth transfers to the poorer citizens. (See here.) Of course, very many of the country's wealthy people, like Buffet, Gates and so on, are perfectly content with this. Others, less so.

It's a fair question as to why the Russians, Brazilians, or South Africans don't vote for higher taxes.

  • Regardless, I don't think this answers the question being asked.
    – user1530
    Commented Oct 12, 2016 at 21:52
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Philipp
    Commented Oct 14, 2016 at 8:00
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    The top 1% pay the most taxes in terms of a percentage of the total tax base. However, they pay the smallest percentage in relation to their individual wealth--which is actually what the OP is talking about. The 47% number is also misleading as it refers to those that pay no federal income tax...which obviously includes the very wealthy (if we are to believe that people like Trump are as wealth as they say). cbsnews.com/news/fact-checking-romneys-47-percent-comment
    – user1530
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 22:43
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    The rich pay the most taxes in absolute terms, which is what you would expect. But they certainly don't pay the most in relative terms. The top 1% have 35% of the total wealth, but pay 24% of the total taxes. The bottom 40% have 0.2% of the total wealth, but pay 4.2% of the total taxes. When you compare the groups the top 1% control nearly 175 times as much wealth but only contribute 5 times as much tax.
    – Qwerky
    Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 10:14
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    Wealth is not income. Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 17:10

In addition to what others have said about there being no such petition process at the national level, you need to realize that "the poor" are a pretty small part of the population, and that the permanently poor* are an even smaller part. So if such a petition could be organized, it would almost certainly lack majority support.

Now as to organizing that petition, many of the permanently poor are in that situation because they lack the education & skills needed to do better. Often they have e.g. substance use problems or mental health issues as well. So how are they going to organize such petitions themselves? Indeed, when we find similar things advanced, they are organized by liberal elites (e.g. Bernie Sanders supporters) thinking to use the poor as a power base**. Which of course alienates a majority of the non-poor, and the proposal gets voted down.

*That is, many of us go through a stage of (relative) poverty after leaving home/school, but eventually attain prosperity or even wealth. Thus for instance most college-age Bernie Sanders supporters will find their views changing in a decade or two :-)

**We have, after all, seen similar measures tried elsewhere - e.g. the USSR and its satellites. They notably failed to enrich anyone but the party elites. I assume, rightly or wrongly, that a person does not get into liberal politics without some knowledge of history. (Conservative politics, alas, are a different matter :-() Since they can see that extreme redistributionist ideas like the one under discussion didn't actually help the poor, why would they try to enact them, if not to increase their political power?

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    This is a rather leading answer--esepcially the part that 'wanting to help poor alienates everyone that's not poor' and only liberal elite want to help the poor because it's a power base. Also, though one could argue what 'pretty small' means, about 7% are considered the working poor in the US (not the total poor), which is still a good chunk of people. Remember that rarely is it a 'majority rule' issue as much as a 'try and convince people it's the right thing to do' issue when it comes to legislation in general. bls.gov/opub/ted/2015/working-poor-over-10-million-in-2013.htm
    – user1530
    Commented Oct 12, 2016 at 18:02
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    unfortunately, the US has an avarage GDP/capita of $60K, but the median value is $20K. that alone says it. But to understand, you have to know that the 90% of the nation lives on less then $20K/year of income and less then that of wealth. That's 90% poor considering the living costs. Commented Oct 12, 2016 at 18:04
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    @ÁrpádSzendrei while $20k is technically true. A more meaningful figure is probably the median household income of $54,462
    – lazarusL
    Commented Oct 12, 2016 at 18:18
  • well, a household can have children. As mine has. discrimination everywhere in LA for people with kids. So $54K for a family is really poverty with these costs I think. Considering big ratio of people rent. rents are so high. In Europe, we lived on 10K a year. But owned a house from family. very strange. Commented Oct 12, 2016 at 18:23
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    @ÁrpádSzendrei "the median value is $20K [...] 90% of the nation lives on less then $20K/year" That is self-contradicting. When the median is 20k, then those below it are by definition 50% - 1.
    – Philipp
    Commented Oct 14, 2016 at 8:03

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