State of Fairness


Published January 26, 2012, issue of February 03, 2012.
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A Republican commentator complained of the State of the Union speech just after its emotive conclusion that all Barack Obama wants to do is redistribute wealth, spend more of other people’s money, and take from those who have and give it to those who don’t. Actually, what the president did in this overly detailed but ultimately satisfying annual ritual is show just why the federal government needs to spend more of our money, and why those fortunate enough to have a lot of it need to share it with those who don’t.

Call it the Fairness Doctrine. In this election year, we’ll hear a lot more about it, and we should.

Mitt Romney probably thought that by finally releasing some tax returns on the morning of Obama’s speech, he’d ensure that his shocking findings — effective 13.9% rate, tax shelters in Switzerland and the Cayman Islands — would get lost in the media shuffle. Quite the opposite. His returns actually made Obama’s case for a reform of the tax code even stronger.

As a New York Times analysis noted, Romney’s returns illustrated “the array of perfectly ordinary ways in which the United States tax code confers advantages on the rich, allowing Mr. Romney to amass wealth under rules very different from those faced by most Americans who take home a paycheck.” Whether it’s his use of the so-called “carried interest” provision that allows him to pay a much lower rate on deferred income, or other legal loopholes, Romney and those in his class are able to dramatically reduce their tax rates. And even though the actual dollars they send to the federal treasury dwarf most lifetime earnings, they don’t amount to a fair contribution, and are far less a percentage of income than the rich have paid in even the recent past.

Romney is playing by the rules, but the rules have been rigged to help only those able to take advantage of them. That must change.

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