Life’s Not Fair

It was not surprising, though certainly disappointing, to read that a Senate Committee killed the so-called “Buffett Rule” that would have required the wealthy to pay 30% of their income in taxes each year instead of the miniscule amount they now pay with the many tax breaks they enjoy. Warren Buffett tried to call the bluff of the wealthy, but the wealthy Senators (who obviously have a hidden agenda) killed the rule before it could get killed by the House of Representatives. Buffett must have known the Senate was playing with a crooked deck.

The argument by the Senators is interesting for its twisted logic. It is buried in a brief story  recently that also addresses the concern in Washington over the cost of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s numerous trips home to California last year — at a cost of $860,000 — and the G.S.A. Vegas junket that cost tax payers nearly as much.  Let’s take a look:

Any discussion of federal budgets is doomed to the obfuscation of scale: We can vaguely imagine what we’d do on an $800,000 trip to Vegas. It’s harder to fathom what we could do with $1 billion, especially on the scale of huge governmental deficits and debts. To help paint that picture, the opponents of the Buffett Rule were quick to point out how the new revenues would be less than 1 percent of the projected debt under Obama’s 2013 budget proposal.

Logicians call this a non-sequitor. More precisely, it’s a red herring. The issue is whether or not the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes, not whether or not it would help to lower the national debt. Clearly it would help somewhat, but not enough to make any real difference. But that’s not the point. The fact remains that we all pay our fair share so why shouldn’t the wealthy? If we follow the logic of those who voted down the Buffett rule, none of us should pay taxes since none of us pays enough to make a real dent in the national debt. That’s where their argument leads. It is fallacious and even absurd. But it won the day because it was a foregone conclusion and the Buffett Rule was defeated before it got a fair airing in the public arena. I dare say logic has no place in politics. Neither does common sense.

I have to believe the public would love to see the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes. We all worry each year at this time about the amount we have to pay out of our limited income — will the dreaded I.R.S. will allow that $230.00 deduction for my kid’s dancing lessons? — and it is galling to realize that those with the largest incomes in this country not only control the strings attached to the politicians, but they get to keep most of their filthy lucre. And despite the fact that it would not make a dent in the national debt, the wealthy in this country should start paying their fair share.

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