The Right Opinion

What Price 'Fairness'?

By Mona Charen · Nov. 20, 2012

Realistic Republicans understand that President Obama and the Democrats head into fiscal cliff negotiations in a far stronger bargaining position now than in 2011. When voters were asked on Nov. 6 whether they favored raising taxes to reduce the deficit, a total of 60 percent said yes (47 percent favored increasing taxes for those who earn $250,000 or more, and 13 percent approved tax increases for all).

So taxes will be going up. As a matter of political strategy – not to say survival – Republicans will have to agree to raise taxes on those defined as rich. It's more than just the exit poll on support for tax increases. Republicans must also contend with the Pew poll that asked who would be more to blame if a fiscal cliff deal were not reached. Before a single meeting has been held or talking point fed to the press, 29 percent said they'd blame President Obama, while 53 percent said they'd blame Republicans in Congress.

President Obama sounds so reasonable when he asks for a “balanced approach” to deficit reduction. Whether the implied spending cuts – the flip side of his balance – will materialize is the great question.

Obama is the anodyne face of a leftist party – a party perhaps best defined by Massachusetts Senator-elect Elizabeth Warren. Her speech to the Democratic Convention in September was a protracted roar of grievance, a fulmination against the (imagined) entrenched interests who were “rigging the system” against the poor and the middle class.

Wow. A nation that is skating to the brink of bankruptcy because it spends so much on the middle class is whipped into a righteous frenzy about how rigged the system is toward the rich? As the Washington Post's Robert Samuelson wrote in April, 60 percent of the federal government's non-interest spending goes to transfer payments to the poor and middle class. Spending on the 10 largest means-tested programs – that is, programs for the poor – has increased from about $4,300 per person in 1980 to $13,000 per person in 2011 in inflation-adjusted dollars.

The bill for this spending is disproportionately paid by the wealthy. The top 20 percent of income earners pay 70 percent of the taxes. Soon they will pay even more. If this is what happens when the rich rig the system, the poor and middle class should beg them to keep rigging it.

The Democratic Party is consumed by the insatiable appetite to make America “fairer” – by taking from some to give to others. As noted above, the U.S. tax code is already steeply progressive. You needn't love the rich to understand that chasing the goal of redistribution rather than growth can result only in everyone becoming poorer.

Like many European social democratic countries, the U.S. has gotten into trouble by spending far more than it collects in taxes. Andrew Biggs, Kevin Hassett and Matt Jensen examined studies on how other nations have recovered from their fiscal improvidence. Looking at 21 countries over 37 years, they concluded that effective resolutions are rare (only about 20 percent of cases) and successful attempts to balance budgets rely heavily on spending cuts, whereas failed ones rely on tax increases. What about the “balanced” approach? “On average,” the authors noted in the Wall Street Journal, “the typical unsuccessful consolidation consisted of 53% tax increases and 47% spending cuts.”

Yes, taxes are going up, but let's remember, as we bow to the inevitable – that raising taxes on the rich will put only the most trivial dent ($80 billion according to one proposal) in our trillion-dollar annual deficits. This is the great god “fairness” appeased, while the demon debt continues to breathe fire.

The sane policy goals for a nation in the kind of trouble we're in would be economic growth and entitlement reform. The progressive agenda, Richard Epstein writes in “Why Progressive Institutions are Unsustainable” (Encounter Books), supplies a “one-two punch.” First, it reduces the private sector by ill-advised regulation. “Second, it imposes extensive and counterproductive programs of redistribution that cannot be supported by a stagnant economy and a shrinking productive wealth base. As that base gets smaller, the demand for a stronger safety net induces yet another round of transfer payments and makes the tax burden heavier and the rate structure more progressive. The new redistributive tax regime in turn exerts greater negative pressures on production levels.”

And down we go. The worship of “fairness” is a death cult.



Capt. Call in New Mexico said:

Around and around and around we go, and where we stop, we all know----bankruptcy! Who was it who said, "The only thing we learn from history, is that we don't learn from history!" Socialism always fails.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012 at 12:30 AM

Army Officer (Ret) in Kansas said:

For the last several months Republicans (including a great many who comment here at the Patriot Post) have been saying that THIS was the most important election in the history of the Universe - and THIS time they meant it (presumably like they meant it every other time they said it). But THIS time they really, Really, REALLY meant it. THIS one was the real mostest importantist election ever.

But Romney lost, and it wasn't really even all that close. So what do Republicans do now? If their rhetoric is to be believed - since THIS time was the last straw - for real: THIS time they meant it - then the only thing to do is to prepare for the imminent end of the American republic.

Let's face it: when republics die their streets run red. And plenty of Republicans said that the re-election of Obama signaled the imminent end of, "A republic, madam, if you can keep it."

Yet Republican congressmen and pundits aren't ACTING like we're on the verge of anarchy or tyranny. Instead, they're doing what they always do: strategizing, and looking for a deal on taxes, and positioning themselves for 2014 or 2016. They are, in fact, planning for the future as if they believe the existential danger to the nation was nothing more than a marketing strategy to keep people from voting for somebody... ANYBODY, who might threaten the two-party stranglehold.

Unless all that shouting was just so much noise, why else would Republicans even contemplate making a deal on taxes (which will happen right away) in exchange for spending cuts which will never materialize? If Obama is going to run us off a cliff it hardly matter whether the sheeple blame the guys in the red ties or the guys in blue ties, because there won't be a republic left anyway. If we're going down no matter what (which is what they said would happen if Obama was re-elected) - why not at least go down swinging?

The House of Representatives controls the nation's purse-strings and Republicans control the House of Representatives. It looks like it's time for Republicans to put on their big-boy pants and cut off the President's allowance - or FOREVER shut up about the importance of electing Republicans.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012 at 1:39 AM

Tod the tool guy in brooklyn ny said:

Well said, U.S. Army. The blind sheep of our nu Amerikka have spoken---They do not believe their vision=Karl Marx+J.M.Keynes=FAILURE. Blind Sheep need to live the NIGHTMARE of full-blown SOCIALISM. A short vacation to GREECE ain't sufficient for ignorant, blind sheep, they need permanent residence! The founding Fathers VISION is embedded in our hearts, forever; Constitutional/Limited Aunt SAMantha.R.W.R.=GROWTH.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012 at 6:08 AM

Dave S in Indiana said:

The federal government has a spending problem not a revenue problem. Spending like drunken sailors on shore leave. What programs will the liberals cut besides the armed forces? None. Zero.When we go off the cliff Obama,, liberals,and news media will blame the republicans for causing it because all they care about is the greedy rich. Liberals caused the problem and republicans get the blame. Liberals will then push for more controls and regulation making it worse. Sadly most Americans will believe their lies .

Tuesday, November 20, 2012 at 12:34 PM

Trudy in Alabama said:

Don't know about you, but I keep hearing "We have to ask the rich to pay more"---What if they say NO? 'Ask' my foot, this is compulsion under threat of the IRS.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012 at 2:46 PM

RudyT in Pittsburgh, PA replied:

...and "compulsion under the threat of the IRS" will start with strongly worded letters...but it ends with the IRS pointing a gun at you.

legalized plunder. Somewhere in hell, Karl Marx is laughing

Tuesday, November 20, 2012 at 5:16 PM

pete in CA said:


Raise tax rates across the board.

"Level the playing field," "make EVERYBODY pay their fair share."

And that includes the 49% who pay NOTHING!

Taxing them alone will do more to fix our economy than a 90% tax rate on all millionaires (most of whom are either liberal politicians or close liberal friends and will exempt themselves and their buddies).

Tuesday, November 20, 2012 at 10:04 PM