Menu

Who Is Fair, Mr. President?

One of the most outstanding things about Americans is, as a nation, we are a fair people. Most Americans have an inner sense of fairness which is upset when they think something is unfair.

Witness the crowd at a little league game when there is a very bad call by an umpire. Nearly everyone in the stands yells out the same message,” That’s not fair.”

In evaluating life’s events, we tend to use our personal standard of fairness to decide if a thing is good or bad, and sometimes that framework may be a bit off. Witness a student who believes that their grade isn’t reflective of the value of their work. “It’s not fair.” Or a child who protests when asked to pick up their room, “That’s not fair.”

Inherent in our belief of fairness is a tendency to root for the underdog. We like to see rewards go to people who have worked hard and “done it themselves.”

Using this innate sense of fairness recently has become a way President Obama uses to frame his political arguments.
New tax levies are presented as, “making the rich pay their fair share.”

The president talks about increasing taxes on hedge funders, corporations, and just about anyone who has accumulated enough wealth to put them in the $250,000 to $500,000 income range as being a good thing, because it’s fair.

These people have been singled out for a special sacrifice to have their taxes increased simply because they, in most cases, work hard and have been lucky enough, or smart enough to make an income the president deems is unfair. In the president’s eyes they have so much money they won’t feel the burden of paying more. So how fair is the president being when he taxes the people more, who have worked hard and made it themselves, just because they were able to realize the American dream?

How fair is that? Whose definition of fair is he using? He speaks of shared sacrifice, but taxes only those he deems rich, which includes corporations, hedge funders and apparently corporations owning a jet.

Right now the rich already pay more taxes than the average American, but that tax is based on what Congress at the time thought was fair. Yes they have more, but will raising their taxes actually put more jobs in our economy, or put the Federal fiscal house in order? Economists say no.

It’s a nice P.R. sound bite, but the framework is off. It’s a campaign slogan, not based in reality, but on an effort to emotionally infuse a terribly serious issue by replacing America’s idea of fair with his own.

How fair is that, Mr. President?

Sue Kelly represented New York's 19th District in Congress from 1995 to 2007.