The Right Opinion

The Kingdom of Fairness

By Victor Davis Hanson · Dec. 6, 2012

We are still borrowing more than $1 trillion a year. Barack Obama has added more than $5 trillion to the national debt in just his first term alone. Such massive borrowing is unsustainable. Someone somehow at some time has to pay it back.

Obama would agree. He once alleged that George W. Bush's much smaller deficits were “irresponsible” and “unpatriotic.” Obama himself vowed to cut the budget deficit in half by the end his first term. Instead, Obama's annual deficits have never gone below $1 trillion.

Three ways to establish a long-term trajectory toward a balanced budget were under discussion. One was to adopt the proposals of the nonpartisan Simpson-Bowles Commission appointed by Obama. The commission offered a balanced mix of tax reform and greater revenues, along with cuts in federal spending. But the president was not interested. The commission's findings now seem stale just two years after they were issued.

Another way would have been to adopt the Bill Clinton-Newt Gingrich compromise formula of the 1990s that balanced the budget through a series of across-the-board tax hikes and spending cuts. But while the administration talked grandly of a return to higher “Clinton-era tax rates,” it never mentioned the necessary second half of the old equation – “Clinton-era spending cuts.” That balanced solution is dead, too.

Finally, we might have just enacted the income-tax rates of the Clinton era now and work on the spending cuts later. But the administration did not wish to take that third approach either. Instead, it prefers returning to Clinton-era rates only for those who make more than $250,000 a year, while leaving the lower Bush-era income-tax rates – once soundly ridiculed – on all other Americans.

The problem is that such a soak-the-rich move would only give the treasury about $80 billion a year in new revenue – about 7 percent to 8 percent of the money needed to make up for the massive annual borrowing. Even with proposed accompanying tax hikes on capital gains and larger estates, we still would fall hundreds of billions of dollars short. There simply are not enough affluent sheep who make more than $250,000 to shear.

Spending is the real problem but goes largely unaddressed. Obama's first-term borrowing of $5 trillion was, in part, designed to stimulate the dormant economy while expanding entitlements to those suffering from the recession. But despite the addition of millions of Americans to those who already were receiving unemployment insurance, disability insurance or food stamps, and despite massive loans to green industries, the unemployment rate and GDP growth are about where they were four years and $5 trillion ago.

Now the president wants another $50 billion in new borrowing. But why would borrowing another $50 billion jump-start the sluggish economy when 100 times that figure in deficit spending so far has not?

“Pay your fair share” was a winning Obama campaign theme – given that nearly half of all Americans do not pay any federal income tax and receive some sort of federal or state entitlement. Yet if the targeted 5 percent of American taxpayers already pays almost 60 percent of all federal income tax revenues, what would the president consider their proper “fair share” – 70 percent, 80 percent, 90 percent or 100 percent?

We are now entering a rare, revolutionary period in American history. The present administration is not just re-examining the traditional physics of taxing and spending, but the very basis by which Americans are compensated in the workplace.

For Obama, it is inherently unfair that a few – a surgeon, a small-business woman, an investor or a lotto winner – should make so much. Thus it is the government's obligation, along with state and local governments, to take much of it away from the suspect few and redistribute it to far more deserving others.

All the old criteria that decide in a free-market economy how much we are able to make – education levels, hard work, personal responsibility, particular tastes and values, skill sets, self-discipline, or even sheer luck, accidents, relative health or inheritance – now matter far less.

Instead, Obama's all-knowing, all-powerful federal government, through higher taxes, more spending and greater deficits, will set right what the unfair marketplace has so skewed. At last, we learn what Obama really meant when, in unguarded moments, he sermonized about “redistributive change,” the need to “spread the wealth,” knowing the proper time not to profit, and at some point making too much money.

Do we need any longer to heed the ancient advice – scrimp to leave something behind for your kids; try to get a promotion; make sure your savings account is larger than what you owe – if some inequality results?

There is now only one commandment in the new Kingdom of Fairness: Make less than $250,000, and the government will ensure that you, the deserving, get your fair share. Make more than that, and the government will demand that you, the undeserving, will pay your fair share.

That is all ye need to know.



Patriot Pat in in Pacificica, Ore said:

As usual, Victor Davis Hanson shows his brilliant observations on what has become the most egregious administration in recent history, perhaps all of history. One gets the sense that Mr. Obama had an agenda to begin with but skillfully concealed it until he got control. I shudder to think how much more damage he will do in his, hopefully, last term. I say hopefully because I have come to understand some of his off-cuff remarks - once elected - about what his real intentions are: destroy this country. His background says it all - once you get to understand it.

Thursday, December 6, 2012 at 1:22 AM

Tod the tool guy in brooklyn ny said:

Australian has about 100 million sheep.In bible times, herds of sheep and goats were valuable and necessary, for survival. Wool is still a valuable commodity-it keeps hunters warm, even when wet! The Good Shepherd was born in a stable in Bethlehem, of Judea-Greatness had humble beginnings! Humility---that's something that you just don't find in Wash D.C.,nowadays. God gives GRACE to the humble, but abases the PROUD! Merry Christmas VDH.

Thursday, December 6, 2012 at 6:21 AM

Wayne in Hinesville, GA said:

One thing I know for sure, if you make 1 dollar above the amount needed to qualify for some of these welfare programs you won't recive any help at all. These programs are set up for the lazy, illerate, baby mommies who are unmarried, and those who can convince a doctor they are unable to work. There is no fairness in today's system of taxation. When you can file a tax return even though you haven't worked and get a refund then the entire structure is corrupted,.

Thursday, December 6, 2012 at 1:57 PM

Robinius in Broomfield, Colorado said:

"Instead, Obama's all-knowing, all-powerful federal government..." These are attributes formerly used to describe God. Wait a minute...

Thursday, December 6, 2012 at 10:23 PM

p3orion in Midland, Georgia said:

Fair, unfair... it doesn't matter anymore, as we have already gone off the economic cliff, to the tune of $87 trillion in debt and unfunded liabilities. All the pols can do now is tinker with the date of the final collapse to ensure they are out of the line of blame when the collapse comes.

Bring it! Just as an orderly bankruptcy in Detroit would have allowed it to shed the unwise labor union contracts that put it in such dire straits (rather than kicking them down the road until the next inevitable crisis) the collapse of the American economy will give us a chance to start over and get it right this time, beginning with actual OBSERVANCE of the Constitution's limits on federal authority to spend.

Friday, December 7, 2012 at 9:35 AM