The perverse nature of “fairness”

What is “fair?” The dictionary defines “fair” as “In accordance with rules or standards; legitimate, just or appropriate under the circumstances.”

That’s not a helpful definition, in my view, because it leaves too much room for everyone’s subjective notions of fairness to fit the definition. He who makes the rules or set the standards decides what is fair.

Obama says it is not fair for anyone to earn money beyond an amount that he arbitrarily determines. He would overturn the traditional idea of taxation from the device by which government derives the funds necessary to carry out legitimate government functions into a system of rules or standards for determining what fraction of the money one earns with their own labor and investment will be fair for them to keep. All amounts in excess of that arbitrary fraction should be confiscated by government, because to allow anyone to keep more of their money would not be “fair.”

Economists point out that when tax rates exceed a certain optimal level the amount of revenue collected by the government actually is less that it would be if the rates were lower. The revenue to the government falls with higher rates of taxation because people are discouraged from working and investing if too much of the marginal income and gains from their efforts will be expropriated by the government.

Obama doesn’t care about that, he wants the higher rates anyway. As he told Charlie Gibson of ABC News in 2008, even if those higher tax rates produce less revenue for the government, The government should take away the money as a matter of “fairness.”

According to this line of thinking there is a certain point when having too much money, even if all of it were legally earned, is simply not legitimate. In order to make you legitimate again the government will relieve you of your excess wealth and give it to “somebody else.”

“Somebody else” was at the center of Obama’s speech at the Roanoke, VA fire station last Friday when he said, “If you have a successful business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen!” So of course, “somebody else” is entitled to a percentage of the wealth you derived from the business you thought you built with your own legal efforts.

Michael Barone says in a brilliant column today:

High earners don’t deserve the money they make, Obama apparently thinks. It’s the gift of government, and they shouldn’t begrudge handing more of it back to government.

…Obama’s Captain-Ahab-like pursuit of higher tax rates just comes from a sense that no one earns success and that there’s no connection between effort and reward.

Why is Obama pursuing this nonsense with such vigor? I think it’s plain to see what he is up to. First of all, the common vice of human envy of anyone who is more successful plays a part in this. Playing to the most base instincts of human nature has always been a Democrat strategy. Moreover, Obama hates the whole idea that while America offers the chance for anyone to get rich, there is no guarantee of that. Getting rich depends too much upon one’s ability and willingness to work extremely hard. We are not all equal in these traits so we are not all going to end up equally wealthy. Of course, luck also plays a part but the harder one works the luckier one is, it seems.

Here is the real reason Obama is going around sounding like an idiot. It just might work. Work how? Work by convincing enough people that no wealthy person got their money legitimately. Anyone with wealth must have cheated “somebody else” to get it.  So the government is justified in taxing it away. And giving it to Obama’s cronies and political pals, but we’re supposed to ignore that part.

There are certain exceptions that make vast wealth A-OK and fair, of course. If you marry a rich woman who is also a good liberal (John Kerry) then you got your money legitimately. If you inherited a massive fortune from a father who made it my running illegal liquor during prohibition and if you’re a devoted liberal Democrat (Kennedy clan) then you’re good. If you are a Hollywood actor or movie mogul, liberal of course, then clearly you deserve every penny you have. Wealthy athletes get sanction also, but always conditioned upon their liberal credentials.

Oh, and of course if you are a Chicago machine thug who got a few million by writing a dull and self absorbed autobiography (except for it’s recounting of his composite girl friends and drug binges) that’s just fine also, even if they only reason you made one dime on that book was because of your political promise to a bunch of other Chicago thugs.

Michael Barone ends his column with this:

The Obama Democrats seem to believe there’s no downside risk in threatening huge tax increases for everyone and in asserting that if you’re successful “someone else made that happen.”

But the Wall Street Journal’s Colleen McCain Nelson reported yesterday how affluent Denver suburbanites have soured on Obama. Obama tied John McCain 49 to 49 percent among voters with more than $100,000 income in 2008, but in NBC/WSJ polls this year, they’ve favored Mitt Romney 50 to 44 percent.

Affluent voters trended Democratic over two decades on cultural issues. But economic issues dominate this year, and they may not appreciate Obama’s assertion that they don’t deserve what they’ve earned.

Maybe this time the politics of envy and class warfare isn’t going to work out so well. At least in won’t if there is any real fairness in this world, and a bit of natural justice.

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