Life isn't fair, but common sense wouldn't hurt

The philosophy that the government should redistribute wealth is as flawed as the belief in trickle-down


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Tony Paradiso of Wilton is an author, professor, entrepreneur, radio and TV commentator. His website is tonyparadiso.com.

If I hear another Democrat drone on about the rich paying their “fair share” I may lose my lunch. The president has probably uttered this divisive and dishonest line a thousand times. But before commencing my tirade, let me state unequivocally that I believe that taxes should be increased on the wealthy.

This “fairness” strategy is the height of hypocrisy. If life were fair, politicians would live by the same rules as we do. If life were fair, an army of lobbyists wouldn’t be allowed to distort the political system. If life were fair, corporations wouldn’t have the same political free speech rights as actual humans. If life were fair, incumbents wouldn’t be able to use their office to further their own mercenary ambitions.

I could go on with such “life isn’t fair” examples, but you get the point.

This isn’t about what is fair, it’s about the Democrats’ philosophy that the government should redistribute wealth. This philosophy is as flawed as the Republicans’ belief in trickle-down.

The government should not be playing Robin Hood. It should be ensuring that the poor have exactly the same opportunity as the rich to achieve success. And the government should not assume that the rich are all members of the Mother Teresa fan club. The wealthy have a habit of abusing their wealth and power to achieve greater wealth and power.

These flawed philosophies are in part why there is a growing wealth disparity between the rich and poor. And history shows that when this disparity becomes too large, problems ensue.

The CBO’s numbers

Another underlying problem with “fair” is that it is subjective. What is fair? One could argue that it would be fair if everyone paid the same percentage of taxes. I wouldn’t subscribe to that notion of fairness, but there is logic to it.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office examined the tax base and its findings were enlightening.

The CBO found that, although taxes on the wealthy have fallen over the last several years, between 2007 and 2009 wealthy Americans paid nearly 68 percent of the federal tax burden. However, they only earned about 50 percent of all income. Is that fair or unfair?

The infamous 1 percent earned 13.4 percent of all pre-tax income, but paid 22.3 percent of taxes in 2009, although the percentage of taxes paid was down 4.4 percent from 2007. Conversely, the bottom 20 percent of American earners paid just three-tenths of a percent of the total tax burden.

Somewhat surprisingly, over the last few years the biggest tax burden losers were the “not quite 1 percenters.” The other 19 percent in the top 20 percent income strata saw their taxes go up.

Here’s another interesting CBO tidbit: the 1 percenters were hit the hardest by the recession. They saw their income drop from $1.9 million to $1.2 million. The lowest incomes only dropped from $23,900 to $23,500.

I’ll be shedding no tears for the 1 percent. Somehow I think they can eke by on a million-two. And this is central to why the wealthy need to pay a little more. It is not a matter of fairness. Rather, with federal tax rates at their lowest point in the last three decades, and the country in need of revenues, it’s a matter of necessity.

Of course, if Washington wasn’t totally incompetent, tax revenue would be used efficiently, everyone would have equal access to education and opportunity, the powerful wouldn’t exert undue influence, and everyone would be paying lower taxes. I suspect most people would consider that fair.

Tony Paradiso of Wilton is an author, professor, entrepreneur, radio and TV commentator. His website is tonyparadiso.com.


 

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