by R. Lee Wrights
“There is nothing wrong with a strategy to avoid the payment of taxes. The Internal Revenue Code doesn’t prevent that.” – Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist
In “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” Sally asks Charlie Brown to write a letter to Santa Claus for her. She dictates, “I have been extra good this year, so I have a long list of presents that I want … send as many as possible. If it seems too complicated, make it easy on yourself: just send money.”
She concludes, “All I want is what I have coming to me. All I want is my fair share.” We laugh at that line because we understand what Sally really means. She doesn’t want merely what she thinks is due her, she wants more than the other guy. We laugh because we understand this really isn’t her “fair share.”
Fairness is an inherent belief of all Americans. We believe everyone should be treated equally and everyone should play by the same rules. That’s what Thomas Jefferson meant when he wrote “all men are created equal.”
Politicians know this, and unscrupulously manipulate this trait of American character to advance an agenda that’s exactly the opposite. In the name of fairness, they callously convince Americans to support policies and laws that are anything but fair and equal. President Barack Obama has adopted fairness as his campaign mantra. He repeated it so many times in his State of the Union address he sounded like a preacher asking for an “Amen.”
To our great shame and detriment, we let them get away with it, because no one wants to be against fairness. Whenever a politician says they want “the rich” to pay “their fair share” in taxes and we nod our heads and applaud we reinforce this subterfuge. And no one ever defines the terms. Who are “the rich?” What is “fair?” And who decides?
When politicians talk about fairness they’re just like Sally writing to Santa Claus. They don’t mean “equal,” they mean “let someone else pay.” When the president and his supporters allege that “the rich” don’t pay their “fair share” in taxes, what they are really saying is that the rich should pay more.
The simple but unspoken truth is that it is never right or moral, even if it is legal, to take money by force from one person and give it to another. That is theft. No one, not even the government, has the right to do it. Theft is theft, no matter who is doing the stealing. The claim that most Americans won’t have to pay more in taxes is not a justification.
That claim is also shaky, notes the Cato Institute’s Michael D. Tanner. The rich who President Obama so despises encompasses some 2.5 million Americans, including 750,00 independent and small business owners. By the president’s standards Tanner notes, a New York City teacher with 22 years service, married to a police captain, is rich.
When it comes right down to it, the charge that the rich don’t pay their fair share and should pay more is just another way of saying “from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs.” Income redistribution has no place in a free society. Besides, stealing from the rich is no more justified than stealing from the poor.
The charge that the rich don’t pay their fair share is also a “bit specious,” according to Tanner. I would call it a deliberate lie. He notes that the top one percent of Americans who earn 16 percent of the income in the U.S. pay 36.7 percent of all federal income taxes. And the Congressional Budget office reports that the wealthy Americans who earn about 50 percent of the income in the United States carry nearly 70 percent of the federal tax burden.
Oh and by the way, the same president who protests that the rich don’t pay their fair share employs 36 people who haven’t paid their share at all. According to the Internal Revenue Service, which President Obama supposedly oversees, they owe $833,970 in back taxes. Looks like it pays to know people in high places.
It’s not surprising that those who pose as our political leaders resort to the Orwellian tactic of reversing the meaning of words. It’s merely one tactic used throughout the ages by ruling elites to pit one group against another in order to maintain the grip on power. It’s a valuable instrument for catering to the masses by giving them entitlements in exchange for their votes. In other words, buying their votes using their own money that was forcefully taken from them.
Only Libertarians have the courage to discuss the real issue. The entire federal tax system, particularity the income tax, is not only unfair to everyone, it is immoral and unsustainable. Rather than putting a band-aid on a sucking chest wound, we need major surgery. Rather than forcing one group to pay more, why not have everyone pay less? We can start by abolishing the income tax and replacing it with nothing.
Of course, that would mean that we’d have to stop out-of-control spending, particularly in the areas of entitlements and national defense. It would require our leaders to make drastic decisions which, alas, they lack the moral courage and intellectual integrity to even think about and discuss, let alone make.
Economics is not a zero sum game. If rich get richer, it doesn’t mean the poor get poorer. Libertarians envision a society where every person can achieve their full potential and tap their creativity to its full potential. A free society is one where politicians don’t tear down one group at the expense of another.
All people may start out poor, but the free market allows them to become prosperous, even rich. The best way to create wealth and prosperity, the way that has been proven successful time and time again in history, is not through government force, but by the voluntary cooperation and interaction of free persons working in a free market. Don’t allow President Obama and the media to tell you any differently. No matter how much you make, it is never fair to take your money.
R. Lee Wrights is a writer and political activist living in Texas. He is currently the Vice Chair of the Libertarian Party national committee. He is the co-founder and editor of the free speech online magazine Liberty For All. Contact Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org.