Thursday, June 9, 2011

Banning Fairness

A gaggle of activists flocked into Boston demanding a new state tax code that would shift the burden to higher income residents who are accused of not paying their fair share. The President is hitting the campaign stump, promoting the maintenance of an obscene level of government spending and debt in the protection of America as a fair society. Honestly, I don’t know what they exactly mean.

The word “fair” should be removed from adult discourse. It is a subversive word. “Fair” is supposed to mean that both parties in an agreement have determined that the value in the outcome is deemed equal to each, but the word in politics is most often used as a weapon to manipulate and sabotage the person with whom you are not agreeing. There are presumptions made by the use of this word in political discourse. In order for one position to be fair and therefore right, there has to be the assumption that one side is truly right and the other definitely wrong. Without that assumption, the side that plays the “fair” card is simply expressing a subjective opinion, which carries no more weight than the viewpoint of other side. Every ten year old recognizes this. Using fairness also presumes that the party arguing for fairness knows what is right and wrong and that the other side either lives in ignorance, or is to selfish to abide by this moral certainty. The side that calls on fairness to win the argument stakes out the moral high ground, with the hope that the other party will be shamed and intimidated into submission. Fairness then requires that something of value is lost to the side that is not fair, because without value, there is no concern about fairness.

We should agree to ban the use of “fair” after we leave the fifth grade playground. “Fair” should be replaced with “legal”, “contractual”, and “agreed-upon” to more reflect adult reality. By the way, the more academic version “equity” should also be thrown out on the same heap.

In the name of fairness, Democrats at the federal level are shielding entitlement spending from any reconsideration of structure or spending levels. This is in the face of an immense debt burden that looms over the future of the next generations. My parent’s generation suffered through the twin traumas of the Great Depression and World War II, and then buckled down to build an industrial giant that they passed onto their children. My generation, faced with the likelihood of profoundly damaging the prospects of our children’s future, is whining about getting a fair share of entitlement spending in Medicare and social security. This doesn’t seem too fair to me. For the good of the country’s impending financial catastrophe, let’s agree to postponing eligibility for these entitlements by one year, a maneuver that would save billions, assuming that the federal government could keep itself from turning around and then squandering those savings.

I am not against graduated income taxes. However, the top 5% of Americans earn 33% of the income in the U.S. and pay 57% of federal income taxes. The top 25% on the income scale earn 66% of the U.S. totaI and pay 85% of federal taxes. Over 45% of Americans pay no income taxes at all. So, what is fair, and what is fair enough? Money gets redistributed from one person who earned it to someone else who didn’t. Who is in a rightful position to make this determination, and on what moral certainty do they rely?

I believe that all Americans with any income should pay some state and federal taxes, even if the amount is quite nominal. There are two reasons for this: first, every citizen benefits from the services provided by each level of government, whether it is for schools, roads, police and fire protection, or national defense, and should contribute to the cost. More importantly, we as a people can never have a real conversation about the level of government spending if nearly one half of our citizens don’t care because they pay no taxes and yet enjoy those benefits at the expense of the other half. Every citizen with an income should pay some taxes. I think that’s fair.