On the Veterans Day edition of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos", US Senator Patty Murray discussed with her Republican counterpart Saxby Chambliss of Georgia that both sides must come together in Washington to protect the country's economy and resolve the fiscal cliff crisis. If Democrats and Republicans cannot reach a compromise, all of the Bush tax cuts will expire, and an automatic sequester will cut hundreds of billions from military and defense spending.
Speaking for the Democrats in both chambers of Congress, Murray drew a line in the sand: "The rich must pay their fair share." If the Republicans cannot offer a compromise which does not raise taxes on "the rich", then the country will go over the fiscal cliff. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich later commented that Republicans should refuse any deals pressured out of fear, nor should they agree to any tax increases without itemizing then finalizing the spending cuts and entitlement reforms.
No one has yet bothered to focus or parse Senator Murray's three harmonious and assonant expectations: the "rich" must pay "their fair share."
First of all, how does one define "rich"? Compared to almost four-fifths of the world's population, Americans, even the residually undefined homeless, are quite well off. The vast majority of people living in third-world countries have no access to clean water, nor can they find charities which offer them adequate nutrition in spite of their poverty. Even those who eke out a living selling goods in a local swap meet or who grow their own food barely scrounge enough sustenance to maintain themselves from week to week.
I live in a safe city with food, water, shelter, and easy access to libraries and fast food restaurants. Despite the crippling Great Recession which has not recovered fast enough to replenish this country's massive job losses, my neighbors still have work, they still make money, and they are able to get by. At any time, we can call the police or the fire department in case of danger. We can appeal to our city leaders in weekly council meetings should we have any concerns about the status of our city's stability or integrity. In many ways, we are very rich.
Does Senator Murray want people like me to pay "their fair share"?
Then one should consider the union interests in this country. Despite the backlash from taxpayers and statehouses about the unsustainable pensions and benefits obligations, unions still command enough numbers to intimidate legislators and stall government business in select state capitals. These union leaders rake in significant sums of money from their members, who have to contribute in twenty-six states, although Michigan just recently became the twenty-fourth state to pass "right to work" legislation.
Then there are the federal legislators, Congressmen and Senators, including Murray. They receive Cadillac healthcare benefits and receive hefty pensions once they leave office. While President Obama is lining up to force Americans to purchase health insurance or pay a fine (tax), it appears that Washington's Congressional delegation will not be giving up their current health insurance to participate in the statewide ObamaCare exchanges.
Besides her pension and her health coverage, Senator Murray loves to spend other people's money, our federal tax dollars, on pet projects, pork, and any other bill that she can pass without alarming too many talking heads in the Beltway or in the Evergreen State. From her Congressional pay to her pork, Murray is "rich", and she better pay her "fair share."
In effect, "fair" as an arbiter for determining anything not only founders in the face of more penetrating inquiry, but this notion of "fair" ends up conjuring up results precisely the opposite of what leaders in Washington claim. Tax hikes on the "rich" end up hurting middle class, working class, and even impoverished citizens in this country. Tax increases induce wealthy and well-connected investors to store their assets in trust funds and tax shelters, where the money accumulates interest for one person. The same funds could start or expand businesses, which would hire more workers, get more people out of unemployment into stable work. More business, more jobs, more spending, more tax revenue, and the state would take in more money than government officials would ever predict from raising tax rates.
Also, the idea that entrepreneurs and industrious investors are obligated to "share" what they have earned is insulting as much as injurious. The state has no moral right to take more from hard-working individuals or profiting corporations simply because they "have more".
"Rich" describes far more people than one realizes. "Fair" is so arbitrary as to be dangerous in its meaninglessness; and "share" is immoral if it is the government forcing someone to part with property or money which they have legitimately accrued. Besides, the focus should be on the "rich" in government, like Senator Patty Murray and the public sector unions who support her. When are they going to pay "their fair share"?