Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, reminds us that there is nothing inherently fair about equalizing incomes:
‘Spreading The Wealth’ Isn’t Fair
Surveys show Americans think taxes are already too high, even for the rich.
Most Americans think tax rates are already unfairly high. A February 2009 Harris poll found that on average, Americans believe the maximum amount anyone should have to pay in total taxes is less than 16% of income. The Tax Policy Center notes that families earning $75,000 and above are paying more than this in federal taxes alone; the highest income earners pay much more.
Nor do Americans believe it is fair to expand the pool of people with no income tax liability at all. According to a Tax Foundation poll in April 2009, 66% of Americans agree with the statement that “Everyone should be required to pay some minimum amount of tax to help fund government.” People understand that good citizenship means we all contribute in some way to the national project.
Simple facts about our tax system do not support the contention that it is “unfair” in favor of the rich. According to the most recent IRS data, the top 5% of earners bring in 37% of the income but pay 60% of the federal individual income taxes. The bottom half of earners bring home 12% of the income but pay 3% of the taxes. Today, according to the Tax Foundation, 60% of Americans consume more in government services than they pay in taxes.
What is fair, then?
Real fairness, as most of us see it, does not mean bringing the top down. Yes, free markets tend to produce unequal incomes. We should not be ashamed of that. On the contrary, our system is the envy of the world and should be a source of pride. Generation after generation, it has rewarded hard work and good values, education and street smarts. It has offered the world’s most disadvantaged not government redistribution but a chance to earn their success.
Too bad so many legislators can’t seem to understand this – except when it comes to their earnings.