What’s the Definition of “Fair” and “Rich?”

I read For Obama, Taxes Are About Fairness in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal. The opinion piece by William McGurn mentioned Saturday’s debate that was moderated by Rick Warren. I did not watch the debates as I was on a weekend getaway with my wife and did not dare suggest that we stay in our hotel room and watch a political debate.

Anyway, according to the opinion piece, one of the questions Warren asked both McCain and Obama was:

“OK. Taxes. Define rich. I mean give me a number. Is it $50,000, $100,000, $200,000? Everybody keeps talking about who we’re going to tax. How can you define that?”

According to McGurn, McCain struggled with this question at first but eventually said that someone who makes $5 million a year could be defined as rich.

McGurn then goes on to detail Obama’s response:

Mr. Obama, by contrast, started out much more directly, suggesting that if you make $150,000 or less you may be poor or middle class. A family with an income above $250,000, he went on to say, is “doing well.” And if you find yourself in that category, he’s going to target you for a tax hike — all in the name of creating “a sense of balance, and fairness in our tax code.”

In fact, the idea of fairness is at the heart of his whole economic argument. And he goes back to it in almost every public appearance.

He talks about it as a general theme: “It is time for folks like me who make more than $250,000 to pay our fair share.”

He invokes it as a solution for Social Security: “[W]e will save Social Security for future generations by asking the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share.”

I just have two questions: What is the definition of the “fair?” What is the definition of “rich?” How do we define “fair?” I was always taught that “fair” meant something like “equitable.” In my mind, “fair” means EVERYONE pays the same percentage (aka “flat tax”). The more money you make, the more you pay in taxes. That’s FAIR!

As far as “rich” goes, it shouldn’t matter. If we were under a FAIR tax system, then there would be no need to define the word “rich.”

As far as his Social Security statement goes: the wealthiest Americans are already paying MORE THAN their fair share because they will NEVER get back what they put into the system. Raising the cap will only make it more unfair.

What’s your definition of “fair?” What’s your definition of “rich?”

56 thoughts on “What’s the Definition of “Fair” and “Rich?””

  1. Actually, the part where McCain is described as “struggling” with the question is where he answered it. He said he doesn’t care. How rich a person is shouldn’t factor into how much he is taxed because when it does you’re leaning toward communism (or at least socialism) : To each according to his needs, from each according to his means.

    What McCain said is, “I don’t care what level you choose, I just want everyone to have the same opportunity to become rich. I don’t want to penalize you for being wealthy.”

  2. Rich: has enough income from personal wealth that one does not have to work in order to maintain a decent, middle-class lifestyle (house, two cars, spouse, 2.5 kids, one or two annual vacations far from home).

    If you can do all of the above without having a job or living off the dole, then you’re rich in my book.

  3. “rich” and “poor” are states of mind.. I see ALOT of people that make 3 or 4 times what i make, that are “BROKE” and living paycheck to paycheck. Where me… I not only can make my necessities but can have a few wants now and then and still hold back a good amount to save for a rainy day. This Class envy crap HAS to go. For those that say Rich people can afford to pay the higher taxes because they are so rich they dont care, completely miss the boat. a good share of this country’s wealthiest people started with nothing and climbed up the mountain. They busted thier ass, and watched thier money really carefully. So to say rich people dont care if they pay more because they can afford it.. thats not true.. Rich people really pay attention to where they money goes.. thats how they got to be rich people.

  4. Heather said:

    First, I’m disappointed to see that so many of you have the money = success mindset. I realize this is a financial blog, but life ain’t all about the money, people!

    This message permeates our society. I’m certainly infected with it; as a result I am consumed with self-loathing.

  5. Money may not be what life is all about, but *having* money sure makes it easier to do whatever it is that life *is* all about:-)

  6. What always gets left out of this debate is what we get out of our taxes. We tend to think of the rich as self-sufficient, and the poor as dependent. However, the rich actually benefit from the taxes proportionally to the benefits they reap. What do the rich get for their money? Stable markets in which to invest. An educated and productive labor pool. Stable government. Law enforcement. Research and development subsidies. An robust intellectual property system. A military to protect our interests abroad. Favorable trade treaties with other nations. And so on.

Comments are closed.