Remember when you were growing up and the most effective argument you could raise on the playground was that something wasn't "fair"? Remember when Tommy got that really neat new bicycle for his birthday and you thought back that the previous month you got a pair of pajamas and a six-pack of tube-socks? You cried and went running to your mommy and claimed it wasn't fair that Tommy got that bicycle.
Maybe your mommy said, "we love you and that's all we can afford." Or maybe she pointed out that Tommy's daddy had a very good job and worked very hard and Tommy didn't have two sisters and a brother to share with, so his daddy could buy him that special bicycle.
What didn't happen was that your mother went down the street to Tommy's house and told his parents that fairness would rule and Tommy would give his bicycle to you for three days a week so that it could be fair. At least I hope that didn't happen.
This week we've been learning about America's new fixation on fairness. It appears that there is a new emphasis on fairness and that stress is going to increase considerably in the coming months.
If someone is successful, it won't be fair to the rest of us. I could easily point at the President and say he is the focus of the fairness trend and it would be difficult to deny that he depends upon it more than most. But we could easily look at the GOP presidential contenders and see the fairness issue. And certainly the media is positively festooned with fairness.
Taxes are a big issue apparently. We need more fairness in our tax structure. It simply isn't fair that, for example, Mitt Romney only paid a trifle over $3 million dollars last year in income tax. That isn't fair somehow because according to our tax laws, which he didn't write, his capital gains rate was just under 15% while Warren Buffett's secretary (who I'm sure is compensated nicely by uber-billionaire Buffett) pays income tax on her salary at about a 28-34% rate. She didn't write the law either, but I haven't heard her screaming about the fairness. She is merely an example of the unfairness.
When someone plays a game and wins, they have earned the glory. There were rules written for the game beforehand. If the victory comes and the winner played by the rules, that was fair. If the rules were violated then that was unfair. But simply because there was a winner and a loser does not imply unfairness.
The fickle finger of fairness points at those with the highest income. The President did it last night and will do it increasingly in the coming months because it plays well with the people who don't really think much about these things. Those with high income need to contribute a "fair share" to the support of this nation's government.
Does no one notice that roughly 50% of the people in the nation currently pay nothing into the federal treasury? Is nothing a "fair share" of the burden of government for them? Does fairness have anything to do with anything here?
Can we notice something largely over-looked in the fairness of Mr. Romney's 15% capital gains tax? What created the capital gains? It was investment of money which he had already earned. Hence it was income which had already been taxed as income at the "unfair" rate of Mr. Buffett's secretary. Since it was a munificent income, we can assume he paid at the top income tax rate already. Now he piles another 15% on top of the first 35% or so which he has paid. Is it "fair" yet?
Maybe we can simply tolerate unfairness in compelling the successful to contribute an unfair "fair share". Does that effect us? Surprisingly, it does. You make a nice wage. Maybe you earned a bonus last year. You paid all of the taxes that the law requires. Now the money is yours, right? That's fair!
Better not put it in savings, or stocks, or bonds, or funds. Because then you will get interest or dividends and they will tax it again...just to be fair you see.
And, don't you dare die and try to leave it to your kids because they will come for half of it again. Because that is fair to give most of what you've earned to those who contribute nothing and are demanding more fairness from you.