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Life Is Not Fair

1:50 PM, Apr 11, 2012 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
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“Look, I want folks to get rich in this country,” Mr. Obama said. “I think it’s wonderful when people are successful. That’s part of the American dream.”New York Times

Obama reading

But the president would, it seems, rather distract audiences by talking about the "Buffett Rule."

Which leads one to wonder: where, among the torments keeping Americans awake and fearful in the small hours of the night, does the fact that Warren Buffett’s secretary pays a smaller percentage of her income than he does rank?

Well, if you belong to a certain age cohort, probably somewhere below the amount of student debt you will be obliged to pay off ... if and when you get a real job and can move up from waiting tables and out of your parents’ house.

And if you are the parent of that young person, you probably do not worry too much about the unfairness of those relative tax burdens. You’d like to help out and share the pain but you have the underwater mortgage to worry about, and there is only so much time in the day.

And, if your concerns are less personal and more abstract and you measure the health of the nation by how free and how prosperous it is – and appears to be trending – then tax fairness seems like a boutique sort of worry when just about everyone is less prosperous and less free than they were not so long ago and the trends are not encouraging.

If this Buffet anomaly is really a big problem, then why not do something that would really ease the general stress level and lower the rate at which the secretary is taxed?

And if the Obama forces should ask, “But what about the deficit?”

Well, what about it?  As the White House (or someone who works there, anyway) admits, dinging the Buffetts of the world for an extra few billion will not do anything to reduce the deficit. One of the administration's supporters in the Senate speaks straight on this:

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) on Wednesday acknowledged GOP criticisms that the Obama administration’s Buffett Rule “isn’t going to balance the budget,” but he argued that the proposal was important as a matter of “values” and “fairness.”

“This is an issue about fairness,” Coons said on MSNBC. “It isn’t going to balance the budget, but it is important for values and for showing some fairness.”

And, finally, as secretary of the treasury has said, the administration has no plan for lowering the deficit.  

So what difference does it make how much we collect? Just as long as it is fair.

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