Semantics, Common Terms and Fairness

I was watching The Five on Fox News last night and one of the segments was a discussion about the “fiscal cliff” and the latest GOP plan that the White House and democrats have shot down as being not balanced.  Keep in mind that the plan offers increased federal revenue on the order of the CBO estimate for expiring the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for “the wealthy” and also attempts to address entitlement reforms for deficit reduction.  Also keep in mind that the “balanced” approach that President Obama has offered simply calls for increased tax rates on the “wealthy” (and the rest of the country when you look at dividend and other investment taxes in addition to Obamacare taxes) but defers the specific planning for cuts until next year and implementation of any reforms for 10 years.   Bob Beckel on the show and several democrats including Harry Reid in video clips presented called for the “wealthy to pay their fair share”.

We need to stop the discussion right there and nail this down.  Too often conservatives allow liberals to use the generalities of “fair share” lightly and without reason.  It is time to call them to the mat and nail down a common understanding of what they mean by “fair share”.  How would they measure “fair”.  Put some factual perspective to the argument:

Based on the latest publicly available tax return data that I could readily find (2009):

Group Income Split
(Bottom income in bracket)
Group’s Share of Total AGI* Group’s Share of Income Taxes
Top 1% $343,927 16.9% 36.7%
Top 5% $154,643 31.7% 58.7%
Top 10% $112,124 43.2% 70.5%
Top 25% $66,193 65.8% 87.3%
Top 50% $32,396 86.5% 97.7%

The top 5% and top 10% pay a share 27% or higher in income taxes than their share of the total AGI.  Is this a measure of fairness?  Can someone suggest another way to measure “fairness”?  The democrats seem insistent on making the “wealthy” pay their “fair share”.  The numbers thrown about seem to indicate that the “wealthy” can be described as those earning over $250,000 per year.  We’ll assume this means an AGI of $250,000 which puts this somewhere around the top 2 or 3% of federal taxpayers.  They already pay about double what their share of the total AGI is for the country.

Let’s stop allowing such grossly generic and misleading terms to go unchallenged.  Those advocating for “fair share” payments have the onus upon them to define what they mean by “fair share” in some measurable way such that the rest of the country can really digest what they are championing.

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