GOP's not-so-secret weakness: unfairness

Many staunch conservative are proponents of the just-world hypothesis, claiming that the rich are rich and the poor are poor because that’s the way the Universe wants it, or some such nonsense.

Two US presidents that were members of the Democratic Party, John F. Kennedy and Jimmy Carter, went on record stating that life is unfair, with the implication that people shouldn’t look to the government to solve their problems.

In Carter’s case it was referring to the fact that some women weren’t able to afford abortions even after Roe v. Wade, and was very likely colored by his own evangelical views towards abortion.

In Kennedy’s case it was referring to the fortunes of war and the everyday administrative workings of the military.

I still think that fairness is worth striving for in many circumstances however.


“In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep
under bridges, beg in the streets, and steal loaves of bread.”


i like the general tone of your comment here but i would hasten to point out that the people at the bottom do pay taxes even if they don’t pay income tax. examples of the taxes that the bottom 47%(just to take a number at random, ha ha, ha ha) pay would be payroll taxes which go into social security and medicare, sales taxes, and property taxes (either directly or as part of their rent). on the whole a flat tax is one of those simple ideas that sounds great but would be almost impossible to make equitable.


Maybe this is just a nit that I’m picking, but I think things like taxes need deep, informed public discussion: this kinds of caricature is totally at odds to informed discussion.

When I was younger a friend and I started an Internet company (this was in 94). I worked for six years, seven days a week, not taking off a single day (even brought by computer and modem on my honeymoon). I slept with my beeper (hey, this was the 90’s!) on my beside table, I took it into the bathroom when I showered, etc.

In 2000 we sold the company, and we made a nice profit (not as in “we’re rich,” but as in “at least we got some monetary gain for our hard work”). Of course, at the sale we were charged capital gains for the money we received.

Characterizing capital gains as "making money off money) is just stupid. Sure, it can be that too, but such cartoonish characterizations are one of the things that keep us from having the real, in-depth public discussion we need. It’s the half truth that’s worse than the lie.


Why shouldn’t you be taxed on your “nice profit”? Yes, you worked really hard and it resulted in you and your partner making money. That profit represented a taxable gain in real money no different than a trader making a profit on a stock trade. Granted, your gain involved significant personal investment and that is commendable but I don’t see it as somehow deserving of tax exemption. Had you lost money with your business then you could have claimed the loss on your taxes in the same vein.

I understand your nit pick, however a majority of capital gains are a result of paper gains on investment activity and not on labor such as yours so the characterization is fair albeit a simplification.


What a weird world we live in that one year is considered long term investment. But I guess when people are stringing cables between NY and Chicago to get the most direct route possible to cut off a few ms from the transaction, a year seems like an eternity.


Exactly. The same argument people use for a flat tax could just as easily be used to argue for a poll tax.

And yeah, as @chgoliz said, nearly all of what passes for capital gains special treatment never results in even one cent of new money going into a business. It goes straight to another investor from whom you bought the stock. That kind of trade, I don’t see why it should get special tax treatment.


The most eloquently written, solidly backed plea for equality will be instantly forgotten and replaced by searing contempt for the poors the moment someone shows a picture of someone buying soda or Pop Tarts with an EBT card. (“We never had that stuff when we were growing up; why should my tax dollars support it?”)

I suspect there is something wired into human psyche, or maybe just the American soul, that makes us more outraged by people a rung below us on the socioeconomic ladder getting “something for nothing” than someone way, way, way up at the top subverting every institution that created a middle class and civil society.


All of this tax shit would be a whole helluva lot less important if the budget were about half to 2/3 of what it is. We could do that by belt-tightening healthcare spending with a single-payer system and severely restricting the amount of waste, graft and outright profligacy in the military budget. Those two things alone, if done right, could reduce the annual budget by about 1/3 to 1/2. But we won’t, because, as @euansmith astutely observed, this civilization was designed by psychopaths for psychopaths.


“Fairness” is an obsession of children. JFK’s famous speech about “fairness” comes to mind. This particular bid over “fairness” shows a pathetic degree of ignorance regarding economics. Capitol gains taxes “money made from money that that was made from work and already taxed.” That’s why it is taxed at a lower rate.

Furthermore, money doesn’t make anything. It is made from money saved by refraining from consuming (on leisure and trifles and appetites) that is then put to work – typically with some degree of risk. How are people supposed to make money from labor (which will then be taxed again) if we don’t encourage money to be invested rather than spent on Alaskan cruises? I agree that we should not tax income from labor OR investment. It is incredibly “unfair” to do so – as well as counter productive since those are activities we greatly want and taxing something gets you less of it (as we all well know when it comes to cigarettes). We should tax consumption only. But then we’ll figure out that that is “unfair”. It doesn’t matter if it make us all more affluent and employed. What matters is that it is “fair”. Boo hoo.

emphasis added

Fairness is not about treating everyone identically. It’s about treating everyone fairly and equitably. Broad shoulders should carry more of the common burden.

Success requires the failures of others, not their being ground into the dust.


A lot of the comments here are basically arguing all the different ways taxes can be deemed “fair.”

A flat tax appears fair because everyone pays the same percentage, except in actuality it’s not fair because it has a very different impact on different strata of society: a millionaire would still be very very wealthy with a 50% tax rate, a huge part of the population would suddenly be below the poverty line. Ironically it would increase the ranks of the poor so much that the government would have to raise that flat tax to pay for new social programs to prevent a revolution (or else pay for thousands of new jails-- either way it’s government spending.) Whatever money the wealthy save in taxes they would end up paying in increased cost of home security, including body guards and moats.

If you’re going to argue that graduated taxes “punish success” then by that logic we should increase taxes on the poor to incentivize them moving up into the ranks of the wealthy (except of course that would prevent them from ever getting ahead.) Similarly you should argue that the inheritance tax should be close to 100%, since A.) it’s hard to argue you actually “earned” that money simply by being a blood relative, and B.) being born into wealth provides no incentive that you ever work a day in your life.

So, rather than debating what’s “fair”, how about we figure out how to make life better for the most people. We all have something to gain by decreasing suffering and struggle in this world.


You misunderstand the nature of money and spending. First off, most people do not fritter away money they could be investing on “leisure and trifles and appetites”. Nor Alaskan cruises. In addition, every penny they spend – on whatever product or service – provides employment and sales tax. Money spent is money invested in our economy. Consumers are the real job providers.

Meanwhile, the money they spend is post-income-tax…does this mean whoever receives their payment can pay a lower tax rate on it, because those dollars have already been through the tax system? Nope: every time money changes hands, tax is collected. Investors shouldn’t be exempt from that rule.


How about ‘from each according to his ability, to each according to his need’.



What the fuck are we gonna do about it?

I say it’s about time those of us with a clue seize some goddamn agency.

Sovereignty, now.


Tax exemption? I was taxed, and in fact I was hit with the Alternative Minimum Income Tax, and ended up paying more taxes than I would have otherwise paid.

Please keep in mind that I’m not saying capital gains shouldn’t be taxed: I’m taking exception to the assertion that capital gains are “making money off of money.” The reality is much messier, but with the simplification like this we’ll never have the public discussion that we need.

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I would not only like to lend my endorsement to this, but also point out that the eminent Mr Holtz pretty much wants to create a device to facilitate the punching of people over the internet, which, as I’m sure you will all agree, is a laudable goal, your personal politics notwithstanding…

Out of curiosity - source on the 23.5% rate for the top 1%; was that just income tax? Or did that include sales tax and property tax? Was that just for the U.S.? All states? And top 1% by income or by net worth?

Mittens belief is so strong in [TeaBilly/GOP’s WILL] that he’ll have your son or daughter [you people] go to fight in another GOP made up war [WMD’s] to make it real.

Meanwhile, his children will be jet-skiing, encouraging their mom’s horse dressage, and reminding us of how patriotic their never worn a uniform dad [5 deferments from Vietnam] really will be for America.

Mittens dissociation from Global reality is really quite pronounced, he is not living in our world, nor encountering the challenges we face in the [you people] America.

& I can’t believe we are still talking about him. He’s not coming back.