Taxes, Fairness, and Equality

President makes a big deal of his Progressive concept of “fairness,” and he makes no bones about his desire to use taxes to impose his fairness on the rest of us.  He also says plainly that his tax moves are “gimmicks” intended solely to impose his fairness, and they are not at all intended to be any sort of mechanism for improving our economy.  Fairness over growth—and he channels Theodore Roosevelt in the process.

Let’s explore this Progressive concept and an alternative concept of what is fair.

Candidate Obama said in a 2008 interview with Charlie Gibson,

Well, Charlie, what I’ve said is that I would look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness.

Last week, President Obama said,

There are others who are saying: “Well, this is just a gimmick. Just taxing millionaires and billionaires, just imposing the Buffett Rule, won’t do enough to close the deficit.”  Well, I agree. … I’d just point out that the Buffett Rule is something that will get us moving in the right direction towards fairness….

What the Progressives want is equal outcomes, all in the name of “fairness.”  Progressives insist that there comes a time when we’ve “made enough money,” and after that, we should “spread the wealth around.”  But is this truly fair?

What our Declaration of Independence talks about is

…all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness[.]

What John Adams talked about was

All men are born free and independent, and have certain natural, essential, and unalienable rights, among which may be reckoned the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties; that of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property; in fine, that of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness.

What Theodore Roosevelt talked about, what he opened his “New Nationalism” speech with, was a desire for

an economic system under which each man shall be guaranteed the opportunity to show the best that there is in him

These all add up to equal opportunity.

“Fair share” is President Obama’s refrain.  Everyone should pay it.  Yet the top 10% of Americans by income paid nearly 70% of the total personal income taxes collected by the Federal government in 2008.  The bottom 50% paid nearly 3% of the total that year.  Further, the rich may be getting richer, but they’re also paying increasingly more in income taxes.  In 1999, those top 10% paid a little over 66%, and the bottom 50% paid 4%, of the total.

Under what economic system, though, is it most possible for a man to “show the best that there is in him,” to fully realize the potential in the opportunities open to him: a system where the most successful have their success truncated by having a government-defined excess trimmed off and given to another man, a system where the less successful are given, without effort of their own, a part of the earnings of another?

Or a system where each man can, indeed, achieve his fullest potential independently of the possible outcomes for others, even when that results in unequal outcomes?  After all, unequal outcomes are inevitable since while each of us is equal in our rights, equal before our Creator, we are not at all equal in our innate talent, our work ethic, our degree of interest in this or that endeavor.

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