Senator Patty Murray: Pay Your 'Fair Share'

US Senator Patty Murray claims that the "rich" must pay "their fair share" to resolve the federal "fiscal cliff". When will she pay? What about the unions? Will her constituents have to pay, too?

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"?

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rentonben December 24, 2012 at 12:21 AM
Janet, a passive agressive apology is still passive aggressive. If you goal was to get others to view see your viewpoint, you have probably failed.
Saskia Davis December 24, 2012 at 03:17 AM
@ Bryan, The writer writes in the blog, " it is immoral if government is forcing someone to part with property or money they have legitimately accrued." Taken to it's logical extreme, this argues for no publicly held services. There would be no way to count on their funding. If we agree that it is not immoral to require that people pay taxes for common services, then we simply disagree on what percent of their income each class of people should be contributing, and probably also, for what.
Bryan December 24, 2012 at 04:34 AM
@Saskia. The founders argued about this extensively. They obviously realized that there needed to be funding for Government so there was always a plan to have taxation. That is not a question. However, from the beginning the founders always worried that the electorate, if given the power, would begin "confiscating" large sums of money from others to be transferred into the public treasury that they could then vote for themselves. I have heard entire talks where the founders are portrayed as greedy, old, rich, white bas_ _ rds who cared nothing of the poor and who they just left to fend for themselves. This is complete hogwash. The founding fathers who we are most familiar with were setting up the Federal Government for which they only gave the power to do what was felt necessary. All other powers were left to the people and/or to the respective States. You have to go to the history of the States and even down to the local community to find the story of how they dealt with the poor. To say that the United States was a horrible place until the country instituted liberal social programs is absurd. Such a country would not have had such incredible amounts of immigration that it came to the point that there were more people of a specific nationality in the U.S. than what remained in the old country.
Jon H December 24, 2012 at 05:42 AM
Oh please. If this situation was reversed, you'd be out here talking about the 'courage' and highlighting the 'bi-partisan' spirit. Instead is is doom and gloom. If anything this turn of events saves the Dems from the inevitable result of the continuation of their never ending tax and spend ways. Patty Murray is a toady and brings home big bacon for the military operations here, nothing more. A reliable 'D' vote doesn't make a leader.
Saskia Davis December 24, 2012 at 06:26 PM
Bryan, You have addressed me, but not the point that I made. From my point of view, the subject that you have brought up is interesting but not central to the question and far too complex for a blog discussion. Please note that I have not said that our country was ever a horrible place.....although now that you have brought it up, it is much better for those who have a lot of money than for those who need but cannot afford basics such as food, shelter, transportation, healthcare and time for education, protection & care due to disabilities. From the very beginning, it has been thus.
Saskia Davis December 24, 2012 at 06:35 PM
@Bryan. I'm sorry if the answer above discounted your contribution. That was not my intention. I do thank you for the points you made.
Bryan December 24, 2012 at 07:20 PM
Of course we agree on this and it will always be the case everywhere, always. What we can do is make certain that all people are given access to health care, and education. . . We can debate as to how much and what kind of access. As far as health care is concerned, the Feds have been the ones who have helped the system become the nightmare of an expense that it is today and then with Obamacare they turn around with the pretense that they can help fix it. What the Fed really did was create a larger nightmare that compounded the source of the problem even further. Many people think that Obamacare is wonderful because they believe it provides health coverage to people who didn't previously have it. This is not really true and the discussion is too long for this post. All I can say is that there have been people for years offering solutions on what we could do to correct some problems seen in the health care industry (including controlling costs). These options didn't include a bureaucratic nightmare, taking away freedom of choice and all the other nightmares that some of us see with Obamacare. It's was a complete power grab, that's all that it was. There were other solutions but those solutions didn't give the Feds the complete power to control and that is what the Feds wanted control. Some people are useful pawns believing that Obamacare was born out of compassion. Those who actually wrote the regulations knew it's true purpose.
Scott Rush December 25, 2012 at 04:17 AM
When I first started thinking about our tax system, I wondered what was a "fair share". The conclusion I came to was that each American receives the same benefits of national defense, legal system, and rights and responsiblities under the Constitution, therefore each citizen has the same obligation to support the Federal government. I realize that an amendment to the Constitution allowed a progressive income tax and I thank those who have more to contribute more. We are all given the same opportunity to succeed, some do, some don't. We are all blessed by this great country. I would ask that Congress be governed by the same laws and be given the same benefits that the rest of Americans have i.e. health care and retirement plan. It should not be that Congress can give themselves special treatment.
Saskia Davis December 25, 2012 at 07:51 PM
Merry Christmas, Scott . You are right: We are blessed to live in this country. I disagree that "We are all given the same opportunity to succeed". This a myth. If we were all to have the same opportunity to succeed, we would have to be starting out with the same privileges or lack of them. This is impossible given the structure of our society. It's something like saying, we all are in a race, but some people get to start out 10 feet from the finish line and some must start out 10 miles from the finish line. We have the same amount of time to reach the finish line, but those who start out 10 miles from the finish line will be further handicapped by obstacles to be overcome or gotten around. With the lack of obstacles on the race course for those who start out 10 feet from the finish line, all of them will finish in winning time. A few who started out at the 10 mile mark may finish the race, but many will not make it because of the size, number and nature of the obstacles. The race organizers have set it up so that those who cross the finish line first receive great rewards. Those who cross it at all are recognized and rewarded variably. Those who started 10 miles back and didn't make it to the finish line are SOL.
Saskia Davis December 25, 2012 at 08:16 PM
I should have said that I see the position represented by Sen Murray as compassionate and practical, a stance to help prevent more unnecessary obstacles being piled on the path of those struggling from having entered the race from so far back!
Arthur Christopher Schaper December 25, 2012 at 09:03 PM
"We are all given the same opportunity to succeed". This a myth. If we were all to have the same opportunity to succeed, we would have to be starting out with the same privileges or lack of them." Opportunity as evaluated in comparison to everyone else is not "opportunity", but a fantastic notion of "equality" which wars against opportunity. Life is not a race, nor is success a finish line. The government in Washington, OIympia, or Bellevue cannot nor should they attempt to define "life" "success" or outline the "race" or the "finish line" for anyone. Merry Christmas.
Bryan December 25, 2012 at 11:39 PM
I agree with you Mr. Schaper. I was born to parents who started with nothing. MY grandfather was a janitor for school district. Today, I am just middle class ( My working wife and I both make about 55-60k a year making our family income around $110K ). Just a couple of years ago my wife only made about $38k a year We could have made different choices and probably made a lot more a year. But I am not complaining and I am fine with what I have. It is true that some people get a tremendous head start -- Parents who can afford to pay for their colledge ( I didn't have that ) or set set them up in business etc.. At the same time, I know people who came into this world with less than I have, and I would argue are a far less educated. They, however, had this incredible desire to get out of their circumstance and worked very hard from very young and today many of these people have more than I do. All the power to them. What I am concerned about is the war that has been waged on the middle class and it is government that has been responsible. It is the goverment that has been responsbile for puting the entire economy of the United States into the hands of a few and each day with every action which they claim is to help the poor really only achieves one thing -- it puts more of the wealth into even fewer hands.
Joe Davenport December 25, 2012 at 11:41 PM
So the election results indicate that Sen Muarry et-al are voicing the will of the majority of the electorate. So why in the heck is this piece coming out of California? What makes this guy such an expert on our states politics? I make it a point to play in my sand box unless the issue at hand is directly related to labor unions (public sector and representation in particular) because basic labor is basic labor law and I have two decades of experience in the field. So yeah on a union story I might comment on something out of California-but I have no business sniping at the folks that citizens in another state.
Scott Rush December 26, 2012 at 03:26 PM
We all are indeed, given the same opportunity to succeed. Not all start at the same point, have the same quality of parents, nor have the same abilities or skills. We are a free people and can do what we want with our lives. Government should not pick winners or losers or provide for equality of outcome. If you work hard and make good choices, your children have a better chance of having a better life than you have now.
Arthur Christopher Schaper December 29, 2012 at 06:25 PM
I am not sniping at folks. I am responding to a fundamental value proferred by a US Senator in a debate which affects every person in the country. I am more than well within my rights (First Amendment) to comment on the opinions and actions of US Senators, no matter what state they represent. That is not "sniping", that is democratic discourse in a republican representative govenrment.
Jon H December 30, 2012 at 12:32 AM
The government's job isn't to be a charity. Further, why should the Federal government have to get involved in issues that can be better managed at the local level? It is a silly and sick notion that to be 'fair' we have to ship our $$ to DC in order for the political players to decide what equalization needs to occur. It is made worse by debt spending.
PC Boy December 30, 2012 at 04:58 PM
The problem is government overspending. The solution is not to "tax the rich". If the rich (over a million net worth) donated all their money to the government, it would only run the country for less than a month. This is just a scheme to get the middle class to hate the rich. Another push toward Socialism..
Saskia Davis December 30, 2012 at 05:38 PM
Not a scheme to get anybody to hate anybody. Just a "scheme" to save the economy while taking care of our collective interests.
Arthur Christopher Schaper December 30, 2012 at 08:25 PM
PC Boy: You are "Perfectly Correct" on this point. Taxing the rich at any level will be a tax on the poor and the middle class. Honestly, I see no reason why Republicans should compromise on any tax increases unless the spending cuts are enacted first.
Arthur Christopher Schaper December 30, 2012 at 08:27 PM
"Collective interests" That is a phrase which smacks of socialism. Socialism is an "anti-social" and "anti-society" program of government.
Jon H December 30, 2012 at 09:34 PM
Saskia - How can you claim it 'saves' anything when the reality is that there isn't enough money to extract from the 'rich' to run our government for more than a few weeks. How exactly does a few billion solve a multi-trillion dollar problem? It is about creating enemies to draw attention away from those who really deserve the public's ire.
Saskia Davis December 30, 2012 at 09:59 PM
Arthur, I suppose this means you oppose public roads, highways, utilities, libraries, and schools, law enforcement, emergency medical response, fire departments, and military defense. By your definition, all of those are anti-social and anti-society. I would not like to live in the world you would have us create. I am glad you are not in charge.
Janet Way December 30, 2012 at 11:00 PM
All this talk of "socialism" and "anti-society" is kind of absurd. I don't know about the rest of you (except Sass), but it is really a throwback to the red-baiting era of the early 50's. And those of you too young to remember it, may not recall how many lives were damaged by the red--baiting, black lists, and paranoia generated back then. As Saskia said, unless you think that public roads, utilities, libraries, schools, firefighters and police and defense are "socialism", I think you'd have to admit that we as a society must do things "collectively" for the common good. Otherwise, why would we have a nation at all? And the only known way to pay for those services is taxation and fees. What Patty Murray is saying is that the rich and everyone else should pay in proportion to their incomes. And the record shows that in the past few decades the proportion paid into our nations revenues is at the lowest rate ever. I think all this hysteria about calling Obama a "socialist" is a scare tactic deployed to make him, as the first black president appear ever more menacing. Let's just put that out there. And yet, he is about as conservative in reality as Eisenhauer was. Let's hope that congress and the prez can find a solution by tomorrow, or just slide down the cliff and then we'll be lowering taxes on us all. And won't that make you happy Arthur?
dexterjibs December 30, 2012 at 11:41 PM
"He is about as conservative in reality as Eisenhauer was". Geez, Janet, get ahold of some bad crack? In reality Janet, Obama is a socialist. In his financial policies and his world view. In case you are not aware, socialism does not mix well with freedom and the Constitution.
Jon H December 31, 2012 at 05:18 AM
Saskia - That response is such a joke. The commerce clause and 'promote the general welfare' in the Constitution have been abused beyond recognition by the progressives over the past century. Obamacare barely hung by a thread on the taxing powers (a position contrary to the Obama admin's case). Most of the things you point out can be managed at the county/local level. Why do we need to send our dollars to DC first? Many of those functions you list are largely paid for by local taxes and other revenues. For example, Mercer Island just recently passed a bond to built a replacement fire house and some new equipment. Many are supportive (myself included) in funding improved facilities for our schools. Once again, we shouldn't have to send our money to DC or even Olympia to take care of much of the items you cite. Only military (foreign) defense falls under the enumerated federal powers of the Constitution. So tell me why we need a homogenized, centrally planned system? How does that improve the circumstance for any citizen beyond the ones in power?
Jon H December 31, 2012 at 05:32 AM
I think it is pretty clear that Obama's positions are in fact socialist in nature. He stands for more, centralized government. A government that is deeply engaged in the matters of business and the economy (GM, Solindra, et al). This isn't a scare tactic and while some might get all wound up about the term on both sides, I for one don't see an issue with calling a spade a spade. Earlier I stated in a response to Saska this who notion of sending my tax dollars to a central authority who can then best decide how the money is spend is absurd when you really thing about it. Patty Murray is not rocket scientist and I certainly wouldn't hire her for advice on money issues, let alone pretty much anything else. As far the debt ceiling, Obama has yet to display anything approaching leadership. Spouting campaign talking points and focusing on the tax issue and not the real issue of spending is beyond amazing. Thank goodness for him, he has the media in his pocket.
Saskia Davis December 31, 2012 at 05:46 AM
Good points, all, Janet. Call it socialism or public services or whatever you like: as a society we need the services. Do we need them administered federally or locally? Perhaps it is good to have both. What we have found in regard to people with developmental intellectual disabilities (mental retardation complicated by other disabilities) who need services and who are unable to advocate for or defend themselves, all too often there is not enough protection for them from the local level. In fact, until federal programs were initiated for them, they were ignored or very mistreated and abused. Since I care very much about people of such vulnerability, I prefer systems in which there is optimal protection for them. Some in this discussion may object to this as "socialism", and probably don't want their taxes being used for such purposes, but what I care about is the pragmatic results of the care and protection that they receive or do not receive as a result of the level of their program administration. Fortunately for those who object to services to meet our collective interests, I have a limited amount of time for this discussion; and it is about used up. Otherwise, I could fill pages on the subject. Not that it would persuade anyone if I did. Blessings for a Happy New Year, All. I am bowing out.
Mary L. Ballard, MD December 31, 2012 at 03:31 PM
It's spelled "Eisenhower" people.
Arthur Christopher Schaper January 01, 2013 at 12:04 AM
Roads are "public works", not collective enterprises. I do not oppose such outlays. Socialism implies a complete governmental take over of the means of production and capital. Public works is not socialism or collectivism. Do not misconstrue the two. Contributions through taxes for public works are acceptable. The Constitution outlines a Postal Service for example. Yet the Constitution never institued an income tax or even a sales tax. The Federal Government was supposed to operate on the revenue from tariffs and land sales. That would be a nice set-up. Saskia, to quote Mr. Buckley: "You are a pyromaniac in a field of strawmen." But do not feel burned. Even the fire than burns away the chaff of misnomers makes for good discussion.
Arthur Christopher Schaper January 01, 2013 at 01:53 AM
"Pay in proportion to their incomes." What does that mean? The same problem emerges, just like with "their fair share." Who makes these decisions? As has occured time and again in this country, a small tax on the wealthy becomes a tax on everyone. The US Government is going over the cliff, and I am glad. The hyperpartisanship born of a President who won't preside, followed by a Senate which refuses to do anything should be enough of a rebuke to those who chose to send the President and Senate back in to power.


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