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Of Course, Itâ€™s About â€œFairnessâ€�
If I hear President Obama or his supporters tell me one more time that raising taxes on the “rich” is only a matter of “fairness,” it is quite possible that my head will explode. As it turns out, you see, I could very well be what they call rich; not that any real people who know me would agree. Moreover, even if I do fall into that category, it is not at all clear that having some bureaucrat take from me and give to someone they, in their convoluted logic, deem more worthy has anything to do with fairness. You see, I’m like most people they call rich in that I didn’t start out that way. In fact, I had a lot of tough years; years of hard work; years of personal and family sacrifice. I’m not complaining, mind you, but I don’t need some bureaucrat or ideologue telling me to give my own and my family’s hard-earned cash to other people simply because they refuse to do the same. That’s not only unfair, it’s also not right.
Perhaps as a technique to save my sanity, perhaps as a genuine part of debate, I find myself responding to advocates of “fairness” by asking them two questions. The first is: What do you mean by rich? How much money makes someone rich, and does that change with factors like location, moral and other obligations, family size, and so forth. And who will make those determinations and adjudicate appeals? For Pete’s sake, I usually cry out in frustration with their non-answers, just tell me who’s rich. The other question is: What’s someone’s fair share? Being a homeowner in Cook County, Illinois, I spend a lot more time working for the government than I do for my family. How much more would I have to pay in order to be doing what’s “fair”? And when frustration overtakes me again, I plead, “In the name of all that is good and right, just tell me how you define my fair share.”
Well, since I never get any answers to these questions, I came up with my own “fair tax.” First, everyone would have to file a statement of their income by a certain date. The almighty government would then calculate what percentage of the GDP that income represents and notify each citizen (oh-oh, am I forgetting anyone?) that their tax liability is a percent of some large pool. I think it should be the federal budget—assuming, of course, that we eventually have a president willing to pass one—and the notification would include the dollar amount each person must remit by a certain date. It’s simple, and I really like several things about it. First, everyone pays something no matter how little they make. We all have skin in the game. Second, it insures a balanced budget—no messy Capitol Hill battles driven by political considerations rather than what’s best for the American people. Third, it means that every time Congressmen or Senators vote for increased spending, they’re taking money out of their own pockets—and their relatives’. Imagine the phone calls from family: “Hey, it’s your brother. Don’t vote for that bill, you’d be costing me $500 that I need to pay your niece’s college tuition.”
Of course, there’s downside. If I know that making more will increase my percentage of the federal budget, there could be times when I opt to forego the additional work, additional spending, additional hiring—the additional innovation—and stay pat. It also makes me dependent on a government with discipline in its spending habits, a thought that should give everyone of us sleepless nights. And it confirms the principle of our lives being in the hands of a cabal of self-interested men and women, most of who could not last five minutes in our employ.
But at least it’s some definition, since the purveyors of “fairness” refuse to supply any.