Much has been written about the recent tax debate regarding the “Buffett rule” and the soon-to-expire George W. Bush-era tax cuts (“Obama’s man crush on Reagan,” Comment & Analysis, Thursday). What concerns me most in it all are the “fair share” quotes coming from President Obama.
One can debate the definition of “fair” ad infinitum, and therein lies the problem. If one person makes five times more than another person and pays five times more than that person in taxes, that may seem fair to many people. If taxes are used as a punishment for the highest earners, that may seem fair to everyone except those highest earners. In fact, one would suppose (or fear) that what seems fair is a tax policy that redistributes wealth and benefits via higher tax rates for anyone in a tax bracket higher than one’s own.
If I were told that, based on an objective formula, my tax rate needed to increase in order to balance the budget, I might be able to get comfortable with that equation, assuming I think the government’s spending is necessary and appropriate. But the subjective use of the term “fair share” is overtly a class-warfare technique. It is divisive politics at its worst and is being employed deliberately in today’s populist rhetoric.
The mathematical truth behind the additional revenues from the Buffett rule and the expiration of the Bush tax cuts illustrates this strategy. These measures do nothing to address the deficit, but they do much to stoke malignant populism ahead of an election. If voters cannot see through this ploy, we will get what we deserve. Ultimately, the government may gain enough ground to scare everyone. Let’s make sure we see it coming.
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By James A. Lyons
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