Sunday, January 8, 2012

Fairness for some, or for all?

Fairness is the subject of much debate today.  How true to the traditional meaning of fairness do these discussions fall?

Fairness, is defined as the quality of having an unbiased disposition. It is the characteristic of being just to everyone, of treating them without discrimination or partiality. It is the absence of prejudice.

The concept of fairness seems too have a simple ring to it. Despite this, fairness stands for a complicated set of moral and practical principles informing us since childhood. Consequently, fairness presents knotty problems in application. 

Democracy is based on the principle of equality and freedom.  Everyone is treated with the same rules and laws, and free equal opportunity in their pursuit of happiness.

Communism/Socialism is a political ideology that is based on a common ownership, mainly concerned with equality and fairness. Fairness is expressed as equal outcome.  Despite dramatic distinctions between the have and have not's under communism, adherents like the 1% continue to use this as their defining term for fairness.  Yet the fact that it never worked out that way in reality, deters them not at all. It is a path that quickly leads to disappointment, mediocrity, class warfare, and envy (the desire to take the possessions from others).

The main obstacle in the pursuit is the simple fact that ability, motivation, charisma, leadership, work ethic, appearance, and innumerable other abilities, skills are not equally existent in each person.  So to expect equal outcome is as much a fantasy as no one losing in the lottery.  Sorry, Phyllis Diller was never equally beautiful as Rita Hayworth.  Though ultimately she was probably as happy and successful in the appearance dominated Hollywood, possibly even more so.  Equal provision does not dictate equal outcome, nor does unequal provision dictate unequal outcome. 

One writer expressed it as
It might be thought fair to give everybody the same provisions, whether they worked for them or not, such as socialist systems try to do, to be fair to everybody.  This overlooks the production of wealth and maintenance, which depends of motivation and reward.
This issue arose in a Betty McCollum townhall discussed in an earlier article.  A man in the audience essentially voiced the view that all profits are made by stealing the money from labor of the worker “Which by the way is mostly our money! Its not the money of the rich, and its not the money of the corporations!”.  Rep Betty McCollum did little to disagree, and redirected, or equating, to a discussion on tax cuts.  The reality is that ultimately, without the corporation or the entrepreneur, those like that man would probably have neither job nor income, and the government nothing to tax and redistribute as Betty McCollum appears to promote (which is not a democratic governments responsibility anyway, but charity is another discussion).  Wealth is not a finite resource to be equally divided. It is something created anew by the ideas and sacrifice of those who create a product or service business.  Others participate in it by either risk investing or by agreeing to work for a no risk-no sacrifice salary (please, that is not to say that personal hazards do not exist, its that they have no particular fiduciary risk involved, they are guaranteed their salary).  There is a parable in the Bible where those who had agreed to a certain payment were grumbling that they were given the same pay after a days work as those who began work in the last hour [this is a parable about faith, but expressed in the context of wages for labor as a concrete example].
Matthew 20:13-15
And the landowner replied to one of them, “Friend, I am not treating you unfairly. Didn’t you agree with me to work for the standard wage? Take what is yours and go. I want to give this last man the same as I gave to you. Am I not permitted to do what I want with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?

As Charles Krauthammer declares
Obama is a leveler. He has come to narrow the divide between rich and poor. For him the ultimate social value is fairness. Imposing it upon the American social order is his mission.

This redefinition of fairness to the current “economic fairness” could perhaps be more based on envy and the negative human tendency to want tear others down so “no one should have more than me”.  No where is this more clear than in the 1% arguments that have been looking to crushingly tax one small group of citizens versus another.  Equal, un-prejudiced, treatment? Its sad that so many seem to agree.

A political pressure group, “Courage Campaign,” which wants to raise California’s top tax rate from 10.3%, has come out with a video arguing that Kardashian is paying way too little tax. Kim Kardashian was certainly chosen for the comparison because as a woman who appears to make a living as a professional dilettante she will engender little or no sympathy or consideration for “fairness”. Emotions will say “stick it to her”, smackdown.

In paraphrasing a article:

Their claim is that “Kim Kardashian made more than $12 million in 2010, but she only paid 1% more in taxes than a middle-class Californian”, earning, they estimate, $47,000 [in reality, census numbers show its $59000]. A claim of minimal truth and maximal misrepresentation.

The minimal truth is that the marginal tax rate, the percentage paid on income above $46,766 is 9.3% and the rate above $1 million is 10.3%, thus stating there is a difference of 1%.  But truth ends there.  The maximum misrepresentation is that while the middle-class family only paid $2,200 for an effective of 4.7%, Kardashian paid about $1.23 million in state taxes. Making reality 56,000% more in real state taxes than a middle-class Californian.  Bottom line? If including Federal Tax tables, Kim Kardashian pays $5 million in taxes, and the middle-class person pays $9,600, Kardashian has paid 52,000% more in taxes. Even using their respective effective tax rates Kim Kardashian would be paying about 42% of her income in taxes, the $47,000 middle-class family would be paying 20%, considerably more than a 1% difference. These are the debate style calculations used to create their point.  Its unlikely that either party would really pay the straight table based tax.  Many middle class people would probably pay far less after 401k, and other deductions, as potentially could Kardashian.  Some of the middle class might pay nothing, or even get government payments.  But ultimately the comparison will almost certainly remain the same.

Sadly, despite this, or any, discussion, many will still see only the way of the 1%, and fairness as a tool they can distort to continue to spend other peoples money.  Justifying abdication of their own responsible participation and “paying their fair share” to support the Nation.

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