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Listen to just about any liberal speak about the budget and taxes these days, and it won't be long before you hear the phrase "The rich need to pay their fair share." This is one of those standard lines in politics that has become so universal and commonplace in the progressive world that it's barely noticed any more. It's a mental checkbox that everyone on the Left ticks without thinking about it. Of course the rich should pay their fair share: only a sociopath would disagree with a statement like that, in the abstract anyway.

But there's the rub: the statement is only widely acceptable because everyone gets to define it however they like. "What's fair is fair," we sometimes say. Well, not really…

Frankly, for a while now, the call for "fair share" taxation has been making me vaguely uncomfortable every time I hear it. Whenever some liberal icon like Paul Krugman or Bernie Sanders would repeat it, I'd give the obligatory mental nod, but somewhere in the back of my mind I'd feel a tiny tug of rebellion—and then I'd dismiss it and move on with whatever I was reading or listening to. To the extent that this feeling received conscious articulation, it was along the lines of "They need to come up with a better argument than 'fair share'."

And they do. Because—it should be obvious, really—it's going to be a frosty day in Miami before Americans achieve anything approaching a consensus about what constitutes an appropriate tax level for the top echelons of society. And while a majority of Americans agree that the rich should pay more, the devil is in the details of just how much more would be "fair."

Which leads me to say "to hell with fairness." Here's why…

We all believe that we care about fairness. But it's such an inherently squishy concept that it can be used to justify virtually anything. I suspect Hitler sold his ideology on the grounds that it wasn't "fair" that Jews should have power or influence in Germany. Closer to home, we hear that it isn't fair to make employers who have a religious objection to contraception pay for its coverage in their employee health plans. The basic formula seems to be: it's fair if you support it; it's unfair if you don't. And good luck ever getting the rich (with a few honorable exceptions) to support higher taxes on themselves. Why, that would be unfair!

So, basically, we're stuck. We might be able to enact the President's goal of bumping up taxes a bit on the wealthy, but we'll never get them to agree that this is anything but a totally unwarranted and unfair confiscation of their property. Which means, of course, that the "fair share" argument will only work on the people who are already convinced. And the 1% will continue to wield their daunting and ever-growing influence to subvert any further attempts to augment government revenue at their expense (as Krugman has noted, this has become practically the entire reason for the existence of the Republican party). Thus my sense that the Left needs to come up with a better argument for anything more than token tax increases. When all is said and done, the fairness argument is a loser (Have you ever heard a conservative use it when advocating lower taxes? I don't think I have; they're too savvy to get caught in an endless and ultimately fruitless wrangle about what's fair. No, conservatives tell us that lowering taxes will boost the economy, that a rising tide lifts all boats, and that ultimately we'll all be better off. "Fairness" doesn't even enter into it. If you accept their framing, it's all about enlightened self-interest.)

Then, some days ago, something crossed my inbox: a piece in the American Prospect by Liam Malloy and John Case entitled "Want Less Inequality? Tax It". It recast the whole fairness issue in a new light, and pointed the way to the solution I'd been wishing for. In a word, the answer to the "fairness" problem is to ignore it. Let me explain:

I'm going to touch only lightly on the article's opening section, which recounts the career of British economist Arthur Pigou. Pigou was once considered that country's leading economist, but these days his chief claim to fame is that he was a mentor of the legendary John Maynard Keynes. He was, say the authors, "one of the earliest classical economists to notice that markets do not always produce the best possible social outcomes." In fact, markets often give rise to externalities, or unintended side effects that can impact—either positively or negatively—people who aren't involved in the original transactions (the classic example of a negative externality is pollution from a factory, which affects everyone's health but isn't accounted for in the price of the factory's products).

Pigou said, very simply, that society should deal with externalities by taxing the bad ones and subsidizing the good ones. This may seem obvious today, but was a novel idea in the early 20th century. Among the modern incarnations of the principle is the carbon tax, which is designed to make companies pay for the privilege of dumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere we all share.

Now along come Malloy and Case, proposing to treat out-of-control income inequality as a problem of externalities. They argue that excessive wealth concentration imposes costs on all of society, and that society should therefore act to discourage it, namely by taxing the wealthy more aggressively.

What exactly are these negative externalities that concentrated wealth leads to? The authors offer three examples, which I have rephrased somewhat and augmented with a fourth (update: and now a fifth, contributed by Robert Reich. update: a sixth. update: a seventh):

•  Workers are deprived of sharing in the fruits of their labor. Back in America's "Golden Age" (the post-WW II era up until about 1973), workers' pay tracked their growing productivity closely, doubling the median income and creating a broadly shared prosperity. Since then, productivity has nearly doubled again, but wages are up only 20%. Meanwhile, the average income of the top 1% has tripled. If the income distribution during the Golden Age still held, the median income today would be over $86,000 instead of $50,000. That yawning gap is a direct cost imposed on the 99% by the outsized incomes of the 1%.

•  Society loses the skills of many talented people to the narrow goal of getting rich. The more rich people there are, and the more wealth they have (and the lower their taxes), the more attractive the idea of getting rich becomes. It's been argued that the decline of American manufacturing is due in part to the "brain drain" that leads our most capable people to pursue the much bigger rewards of the finance industry. In 1986, only 18% of Harvard graduates planned a career in business. Last year, the figure was 41%, with 17% going into finance. And the prospect of making a ton of money—and getting to keep most of it—provides a powerful incentive to pursue high-risk deals with potentially disastrous consequences (see: the recent financial crisis).

•  The rich gain undue power and influence. We've seen ad nauseam how politicians march to the beat of the wealthiest segment of society. Members of Congress have to spend hours every day cultivating the well-to-do. The richest banksters got a taxpayer-financed bailout—seemingly without much effort—while the rest of us were left to fend for ourselves. And there has been essentially zero accountability for the Masters of the Universe who crashed the economy in the pursuit of obscene wealth. As Joseph Stiglitz writes in his new book The Price of Inequality: "Political rules of the game have not only directly benefited those at the top, ensuring that they have a disproportionate voice, but have also created a political process that indirectly gives them more power." And every perk and government preference the rich engineer for themselves is both a threat to our democracy and a net loss to the rest of us—another negative externality. We should ask ourselves: is "too big to fail"—one of the consequences of wealth concentration—really the best way to structure our economy?

•  Entrenched wealth and power act to suppress innovation. Great wealth will make a conservative out of almost anyone. We've seen plenty of examples of how the rich use their influence to promote conservative causes and attack progressive ones. People and companies at the top of the economic pile, raking in huge profits, have little incentive to innovate, and large incentives to keep the gravy train rolling. Often they get laws and regulations passed to perpetuate the status quo, protect their monopolies, and suppress upstart competitors and fresh-thinking innovators. Again, the rest of society loses when they win.

•  The rich hoard their money instead of spending it, which is a drag on the overall economy (h/t Professor Robert Reich). I sent a link to this diary to Reich, and he promptly responded as follows:

Good piece, but you left out one of the biggest costs of inequality. When the middle class gets a shrinking portion of total income, it doesn’t have the purchasing power necessary to keep the economy going. As Keynes noted in the last chapter of his General Theory, the rich save too much and spend too little.
A very valid and important point!

•  Taking from the poor to give to the rich increases demand for social services. People in low-wage jobs without benefits are forced to rely on the government for things like health care, housing subsidies, and other forms of support. In fact, Wal-Mart is notorious for encouraging their employees to rely on such taxpayer-funded services—another direct cost to society of excessive inequality.

•  Excessive inequality is literally bad for the health of the citizenry. As discussed here, life expectancy in the U.S. is lower than virtually every other advanced country, in spite of our spending up to twice as much on health care. Why?

To really understand America’s poor health standing globally, epidemiologists like Bezruchka posit, we need to look at “the social determinants of health,” those social and economic realities that define our daily lives.

None of these determinants matter more, these researchers contend, than the level of a society’s economic inequality, the divide between the affluent and everyone else. Over 170 studies worldwide have so far linked income inequality to health outcomes. The more unequal a society, the studies show, the more unhealthy most everyone in it — and not the poor alone.

Can you imagine a more serious, wide-ranging "externality" than degrading an entire population's health and life expectancy? We are literally paying the price of excessive inequality with years of our lives.

Take another look at these four (update: seven) points, which we might collectively refer to as costs to society of not doing anything about wealth concentration (no doubt there are others, too). Notice something? The word "fair" doesn't appear anywhere in them. And in a way, that's the whole point: when excessive wealth concentration is objectively and demonstrably detrimental to a democratic society, then society can, and should, act to reduce that harmful concentration. And the way to do that is with higher—in some cases, much higher—taxes. Fairness. Be. Damned.

Notice another thing: this line of thinking doesn't come within a mile of the argument that the government needs more revenue and the rich should supply it. It says nothing at all about what the government should do with the money. In fact, the main goal of this policy—to reduce the concentration of wealth—would be achieved if the additional tax revenue was simply poured down a rathole. Of course that wouldn't happen, and progressives have plenty of ideas about what to do with it. My personal choice would be to mount a serious assault on the problem of global warming, a truly life-threatening emergency that the "free market" has so far failed miserably to address. But, as they say, that's another discussion.

On the surface, of course, this new regime of taxation would look very much like just about any other progressive tax, with a series of brackets and rates that increase for higher levels of marginal income (and, for perspective, we shouldn't forget that the top tax rate in the Eisenhower "Golden Years" was 91%). The difference—which has more to do with how we talk about the plan than with what the plan looks like—is to be found in its philosophical underpinnings:

First, as I've already alluded to, is the stated purpose of the plan. Emphatically, it is not to make everyone pay their "fair share." Its purpose is simply to reduce harmful levels of inequality. We don't have to defend it on any other basis.

Second, the plan is designed to achieve its purpose by changing incentives. A series of higher and higher tax brackets would essentially put a "soft cap" on income. Multi-hundred-million-dollar compensation packages would lose some of their appeal—both for the CEOs who get them and for the companies that pay them. Talented people might consider something besides their personal bottom lines when choosing how to deploy their talents.

But would limiting pay this way deprive us of the talents of our best people? Well, first you have to ask whether engineering ever more complex and risky financial deals is the best use of that talent for society, and secondly, past experience suggests that we would still have plenty of qualified applicants for the top jobs. There would still be no shortage of super-rich Americans, and the top earners could still enjoy a lifestyle the rest of us can only dream of. And remember, in America's heavily-taxed Golden Age, we still managed to enjoy the strongest quarter-century of growth in our history. Evidently the incentives were adequate to keep American business humming.

Economists have studied the impact of taxes on productivity, and there are actually two countervailing forces in play. One is the notion beloved of conservatives that taxes reduce the incentive to work. The other is the motivation to work more as taxes rise, in order to maintain your current level of take-home pay. According to Malloy and Case, for most workers these two effects roughly cancel out, meaning that people tend to produce the same amount, independent of changes in marginal tax rates. They concede that high earners may dial back their efforts a bit as their tax rates go up, but in many cases this doesn't have the expected effect of reducing total output of the economy. The explanation is that a lot of what the rich do consists of "zero-sum" activities, in which one person's loss is another's gain. In fact, Malloy and Case note, "some individuals in the top income group pursue quite a number of activities that others might be glad to see them spending less time on." Examples might include increasing corporate earnings by holding down wages, or lobbying Congress for protection from competition. The bottom line is likely to be a welcome increase in earnings for the middle class, with essentially no effect on overall output.

Malloy and Case acknowledge that the kind of tax reform they envision is, for the time being, off the table. Their near-term hope is that citizens may begin to see the continuing concentration of wealth at the very top as an externality with broader negative consequences—almost like, say, pollution—and to entertain the idea of fighting it the same way we might fight pollution, by means of the tax system. As they put it, "the lack of any limit to outsize economic rewards turns out to have a measurable cost, which Americans who aren't so wealthy keep getting asked to pay." Their recommended tax strategy "might start to do what has lately seemed impossible: give the best-paid Americans an interest in common again with the men and women with whom they work, and remind us that we're all in this together."

And to hell with fairness.

(Cross-posted at

Wed Nov 28, 2012 at  5:08 PM PT: Update: Robert Reich added a valuable comment, which I have inserted in the diary (another cost of inequality)

Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 12:49 PM PT: Updated again to add another (#6) cost of excessive wealth concentration.

Update: Not really relevant to the issue of fairness, but there's another compelling argument for redistribution: the rich suffer from having too many choices, while the poor suffer from having too few. And I mean "suffer" literally: psychologist Barry Schwartz, author of the well-known book The Paradox of Choice: why More is Less, has shown, counterintuitively, that having too many choices actually decreases our overall happiness (Schwartz's TED Talk on the subject is here). The upshot is that relieving the rich of some choices and giving them to the poor would actually make both groups happier.

Since writing this I've realized that there is another way to address income inequality: raising the minimum wage. This won't get you all the way there, but it can be an important component of a solution. In fact, a prominent conservative, Ron Unz, who publishes The American Conservative, wrote an excellent article on this subject. He lists a wide range of benefits that would come from raising the minimum hourly wage to $10 or even $12. Recommended.

Originally posted to RobLewis on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 11:51 AM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions and Community Spotlight.

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  •  Tip Jar (261+ / 0-)
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    What is valued is practiced. What is not valued is not practiced. -- Plato

    by RobLewis on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 11:51:20 AM PST

  •  It really IS about changing the conversation (59+ / 0-)

    I posted on Modern Monetary Theory today and that is the same basic principle. As progressives we need to directly address the language and our understanding of the underpinnings of our beliefs. If we aren't rigorous and thoughtful about words like "fair" and willing to dive down past them for the real core of the issues than we will turn in to that which we so despise - a party of people who can't spell their own protest signs. I jest, but seriously, when we talk about the so-called fiscal cliff and are weighing austerity measures against one another or we speak of "fairness" in the tax system, we are not clear on the foundational theory. This diary is excellent and it should be required reading. Thank you so much for taking your time to post it.

    "When in doubt, do the brave thing." - Jan Smuts

    by bunnygirl60 on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 12:42:25 PM PST

    •  Agree completely, excellent diary (35+ / 0-)

      So little of our current economic discussion covers externalities such as pollution, carbon emissions, loss of natural beauty or wildlife. It's time to push the discussion toward the ideas that there is more to these decisions than how much everything costs in money, and further into the harm that income inequality exacts on our entire economic system and way of life.

      It drives me nuts how bizarre the current conservative arguments are, ignoring all these completely obvious (to me) points.  Not everything is about how much money is spent or saved.  Not everything is about whether something is fair.  Don't you want to make the pie higher? ;)

      Thank you, Rob, for this diary.  Tipped and Recced.  I'll Facebook it too.

      •  What about thing like fracking? (8+ / 0-)

        That is about the most destructive process (other than burning coal to generate electricity) that I know of. Why aren't we as a society taxing fracking until it is no longer economic?

      •  This shouldn't be an impossibly hard sell (5+ / 0-)
        So little of our current economic discussion covers externalities such as pollution, carbon emissions, loss of natural beauty or wildlife. It's time to push the discussion toward the ideas that there is more to these decisions than how much everything costs in money...
        And, it  can be tied to money if need be for the time being. Wealthy people DO care about pollution, carbon emissions, loss of natural beauty and wildlife. If that were not true, they wouldn't choose for themselves homes in the most naturally beautiful, unpolluted spots like Hyannis Port, Kennebunkport, and La Jolla.  

        “Social Security has nothing to do with balancing a budget or erasing or lowering the deficit.” -- Ronald Reagan, 1984 debate with Walter Mondale

        by RJDixon74135 on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 07:25:40 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  You can augment fairness without tossing it out (14+ / 0-)

      The diary's recommended lines of argument are all excellent. But the critique of the "fairness" argument, I think, fails.

      While it's true that twenty people will have twenty different perceptions of where the "fairness" line falls, and many of the wealthy will be convinced that it's unfair for taxes on them to be as high as (whatever the current level happens to be, no matter how low) - most of the populace will and does perceive the current levels of inequality as unfair, and the polls bear that out.  So it's a political winner, even if not logically compelling.

      So? Talk fairness and also the diarist's externalities. Progressives should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time.

      One common theme of several of the externalities the diary highlights can be framed in a simpler way. A way that incorporates an appealing rhetorical ju-jitsu.

      Tax policies which allow the perpetual allocation of higher and higher proportions of wealth to a small elite are not conservative. To be genuinely conservative is to strive for stability. The redistribution of the last thirty years has changed the economic makeup of the polity, and the change will only accelerate and grow more drastic without policy changes favoring less inequality.

      A genuine conservative could argue about what the ideal distribution of wealth, and the ideal level of inequality, might be. But he cannot be genuinely conservative and claim that it's just fine for the distribution to grow ever more top-heavy from decade to decade.

      Further, to be consistent he must acknowledge that the ideal level of inequality is smaller than the current level - since the current level allows the economic elite to purchase legislation that exacerbates the instability.

      •  the essense is that the fairness issue isn't just (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        LilithGardener, OhioNatureMom, zett, wbr

        about the fairness of taxes. It's about the fairness of the whole distribution of burdens and rewards in our society.

        The wealth of our society is not produced solely by the rich people who risk their money in investments as conservatives seem to imply. It is produced by the collective work of those who labor. That the rich should be able to capture the majority of that wealth that is produced largely through the work of others -- even if their work is directed by the rich -- is simply not fair and taxation is one means of mitigating that unfairness.

        This is, of course, the same point the diary author is making in his first bullet point. His point is only missing the obvious idea that the thing that is wrong with workers not sharing in the fruits of their labor is that it's unfair.

        •  The diarist makes a case that it is in the state's (8+ / 0-)

          interest to remove extreme inequality, whether fair or not.  There are many, many reasons a nation would want to limit inequality:  economic and political stability, better outcomes in the next generation of citizens, lower social services costs, broader tax base, etc...

          These capitalists generally act harmoniously and in concert to fleece the people, and now that they have got into a quarrel with themselves, we are called upon to appropriate the people's money to settle the quarrel. Abraham Lincoln

          by Nailbanger on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 08:44:43 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Not to mention the preservation of democracy (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            wbr, Nailbanger

            Which is the very foundation of this country, and SHOULD be the number one test of all public policy and laws enacted in the US.  

            We got rid of the existing English aristocracy with our original revolution, but aristocracies (wealth bubbles) always re-form eventually.

            The worst "externality" of unchecked wealth accumulation is the "pollution" of democracy.  And our society needs to be protected from extreme wealth/power divergences, because it is un-American.

            If we are dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, then we need to make sure our laws and public policy support individual equality (at least politically).

            Wealth divergences in this country are the result of laws and state activity (the state prints money, writes tax law, protects "capital" and "banking," and aggressively enforces the abstract concept of "private property," for instance).  

            None of these abstract entities, OR the super rich which inevitably flow from those policies, could exist without a government fostering and supporting them.  

            If we want to live in a genuine democracy, we need the state to foster and enforce democracy at least as much as it does the other modern social abstractions.  

            Like private property or capital, Democracy simply does not exist without broad social, and ultimately, government enforcement.  

      •  Gotta agree with you... (7+ / 0-)
        The diary's recommended lines of argument are all excellent. But the critique of the "fairness" argument, I think, fails.
        I also am baffled by the author's perceived need to walk away from the fairness argument.

        It may not be the only argument for Progressive Taxation and is perhaps not even the best one to use on Capitol Hill types, but it is an argument that resonates with certain individuals who don't have the educational background to grasp more sophisticated arguments.

        Different audiences need to hear different arguments.  Often, the policy position that carries the day is the one that is supported by a number of different arguments that are used to persuade a variety of targeted audiences.

        If his ultimate point is that Dems should not restrict themselves to only the fairness argument, then I am in agreement.

        I personally think that the best argument is to use on Capitol Hill is to explain why steeply progressive income taxes do not actually impose any real sacrifice on the Top Two Percent of income earners if they are all facing the same drop in disposable dollars.

        No matter how sad it makes the finance industry, the ultimate truth is that progressive taxation (without loopholes) ensures that rich people will still be able to buy everything they used to buy with larger disposable incomes (due to lower tax rates), because the prices of all those expensive things they consume will be lowered to a level that they will find affordable.

        Remember...after the Great Depression hit in the 1930's, none of the mansions or yachts or beachfront property disappeared after the richest of the rich lost an incredible amount of paper wealth; they were simply obtainable at lower prices that [the now poorer] rich people could afford.

        •  You are right that different audiences need to (0+ / 0-)

          be provided different arguments and, IMHO, the same opinions in several different ways. How's this, you work on the cartoon version of progressive taxes and I'll work on the cartoon version of modern monetary theory? ...because THAT's the society in which we live. If it can't be communicated in a soundbite only a small portion of the electorate will follow it and, of course, none of the legislators.

          "When in doubt, do the brave thing." - Jan Smuts

          by bunnygirl60 on Fri Nov 30, 2012 at 02:23:07 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Not really. You have to distinguish between (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Sychotic1, zett

      think tanks and such, where one clearly should strive for deeper understanding and exact language. However, in the realm of politics it does not help at all to be very precise. It hinders negotiation, and as long as the Republicans have the House, the Dems have to negotiate. And if they manage to get the House, the progressive Dems still have to negotiate with the conservadems.

      He who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.

      by Sophie Amrain on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 04:03:04 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  NO!! Precision and deep understanding among (0+ / 0-)

        ourselves is essential and not at all the same as how we shape the narrative. In order to best project a narrative onto which large amounts of people can easily grab and access, we have to truly, deeply, absolutely master the concepts ourselves. The word "fairness" is too malleable and over-used. We could use more pointed words. Think about what traction the anti-choice movement gained by changing to the term "pro-life." It's a lie, and they know it, but the narrative is great and easy to sell. We need to be developing the same types of terms and narrative on our side. We have always been good at facts and terrible at narrative. If we could figure out great (short, punchy, emotive) narrative for the thinking behind this diary than the narrative would give the Dems firepower and headroom in negotiations. We won't do that in time but we should.

        "When in doubt, do the brave thing." - Jan Smuts

        by bunnygirl60 on Fri Nov 30, 2012 at 02:31:11 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  EVERYBODY's taxes go up on their over $250,000 (22+ / 0-)

    income and EVERYBODY's tax cuts stay in place on their first $250,000.

    It's just like "It's illegal for a rich man to steal a loaf of bread just as it is for a poor man".  This, of course, needs to be amended to "It is not illegal for a poor man to take over a bakery and steal all its assets just as it isn't for a rich man" (cf. Hostess Bakery).

    Thank you and thanks also to bunnygirl60 for her MMT diary.

  •  Exactly, I've Been Commenting to This Effect for (60+ / 0-)


    Well done --and we should make this case heavily based on our history. The conservatives stick with theory because their system never works. Ours not only does, it did. We governed our economy this way for half a century when, together with other countries following similar schemes, we created the only large middle class humanity ever saw. We have the history before those policies of great wealth and income concentration, and we have our present history of restoring that great concentration beginning immediately when we abolished compressive taxation at the beginning of the 80's.

    The point of the high upper marginal rates and taxes on other kinds of income is to prevent extreme compensation ever being sought or offered. So it's not "redistribution" that conservatives propagandize about. It leaves more money in the enterprise, which is encouraged to be shared with suppliers and the work force by business taxes.

    Since the high upper end taxes discourage jackpot compensation, businesses are managed for longer term more stable growth. A rich array of sectors can compete for investment and talent because the few like finance capable of creating huge compensation are discouraged from doing so by the taxes, among other policies.

    That means the masses have money to create demand, and the wealth of the rich can be usefully invested in innovation and production.

    With extreme wealth concentration there's little to do with wealth other than gamble on the behavior of investors, which is how we get panics and depressions, or engage in vulture capitalism buying businesses to dismantle them. Concentrated wealth is sociopathic.

    "Fair share" is a conservative frame because any tax rates that seem fair to the common person based on the scales familiar to them drives wealth concentration at the upper end. But so far, as Malloy and Case acknowledge, on this issue we have two conservative parties.

    Glad to see more people discussing the main purpose of progressive taxation.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 01:09:57 PM PST

    •  demand drives an economy (31+ / 0-)

      An excellent, well-argued diary.

      I'd like to emphasize a point that Gooserock makes - wealth concentration in too few individuals suppresses demand for goods/services. If the lower ends of the economic totem-pole don't have enough cash, they cannot spend to propel an economy forward. This is a significant negative externality, even if one wants to use as limited a measure as Gross Domestic Product to determine the success of an economy.

      I have seen economists make the argument that the lethargic economic recovery is, at least in part, due to the  lack of consumer demand. Companies are not hiring new workers, nor are they expanding manufacturing, etc. (despite sitting on very high levels of corporate cash) because they fear they don't have the consumer demand for their products... and that is in part due to the fact that the consumers are broke, or not far from broke.

      Using the tax system to redistribute the wealth over a broader base would be an excellent economic stimulus.

      •  Broaden the base. (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Nailbanger, elwior, Sychotic1, llywrch

        GOP points out that a broader tax base makes more people against taxes.

        Broader wealth and income base makes more people for growth.


        Barack Hussein Obama- Don't Mock the Constitution.

        by odenthal on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 06:48:02 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  In 2006/2007 residential construction in the U.S. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Sparhawk, Sychotic1, wbr

        was distorted to the point where 40% of new home construction went to 2nd home vacation units.

        40% to useless excess.

        Economically... insane. Both on the demand side, where next to none of that made sense. And on the supply side, where you're wasting the building materials.

        Survey eastern Pennsylvania for example after example. Same for mountain areas in Arizona. and on and on and on. Big houses where there are no local jobs.

      •  About that demand (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Our Tampa Bay Buccaneer home football games have been "blacked out" on TV because they couldn't sell out the stadium. Meanwhile, we have articles in the paper that our area's salary growth is among the lowest in the country. Do we see a connection? People can't friggin afford to go!

        The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government. - Thomas Jefferson

        by deebee on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 08:49:08 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Yes, indeed. The specific mechanism (4+ / 0-)

      by which income/wealth distortions and regressive tax structures damage society is simple:

      Long-term social investments are discouraged.

      The very rich do not need it. Investments in the society, itself, are not on their plate.  

      They do not need good public schools. They do not care much about public health. They only care about military preparedness if they own stock in the contracting companies. Thet don't care much about police and fire -- not big risks for them.

      They care about their own money.

      Having very, very, very rich people and lots of very poor people fxcks up any society.

    •  This only works if.. (0+ / 0-)

      investment income is also taxed as regular income. If people can't get fat compensation through classical business activity, they will get it in finance (or try to) with the ultra low flat taxes on dividends and capital gains. Often high risk activity, since so much of their losses can be socialized through deductions.

      All investment income should be taxed as regular income, whether in dividends or trades. Losses in trades should not be deductible. Losses in held stocks should not be deductible. That is the investor's risk, and should not be socialized.

      Allow only the money paid in the initial investment to be deductible at the time the investment is made. All gains will be taxed as income. All trades (even if made at a loss from the initial purchase price) also taxed, since the initially invested money was untaxed. Theoretically, this structure would encourage the investor class to keep a modest amount of their gains to live on, and put the rest back into investments or use it for other tax-deductible purposes.

  •  I have thought for some time that progressive tax (36+ / 0-)

    -ation was primarily meant all along as a deterrent to the massive aquisition and concentration of wealth. That's it's primary purpose was to keep the economy humming along by constantly refueling it by recirculating the cash. That's what it did best. And we've seen the results when it was dismantled by Reagan and Bush.

    Never studied or read economics, just seemed common sense to me.

    My guess as to why has been rarely, if ever, mentioned was that it just didn't sell. In other words, it was knee-capped by the so-called 'American Dream' of 'anyone can make it big...really big' fantasy and Liberals (wisely) not wanting to get into a complicated argument over what "making it" meant. Or try to explain that making it Really Big was an 'externality' that hurt everyone. Witness the consequent Conservative counter-argument about 'Freedom' and 'Liberty,' not to mention the scare tactics of 'Redistribution' and 'Socialist' that they've played so successfully for the past 40 years.

    In the age of the easily digestible sound byte, I think it might be even harder. But I think this post has some really good ideas and is a start toward perhaps finding a way to find a new direction to sell (once again) what is actually what "made this country great."

    "Pay their fair share" is just not cutting the mustard that's for sure. Way too much blowback set off among the white working class who see their paychecks shrink with deductions every week and listen to the RW noise machine tell them its being taken to give to the 'lazy and shiftless' (you know who they mean) dog whistles. "WTF!? Fair, the taxes I pay aren't Fair!!!!"

    And it kickstarts the whole "it's class warfare" canard against Obama and the Dems.

    So keep working on it! We are the ones who need to improve our sales pitch. Not the Rs.

    no man is completely worthless, he can always be used as a bad example.

    by srfRantz on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 01:14:11 PM PST

  •  Enthusiastically Recced and tipped. (14+ / 0-)

    I hope the Rescue Rangers take note. This is timely, well written, and, well, RIGHT.

    You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. --Bob Dylan-- -7.25, -6.21

    by Tim DeLaney on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 01:25:59 PM PST

  •  Yet another negative externality (34+ / 0-)

    of wealth concentration…

    I just ran across this here:

    had it not been for the upward redistribution of income over the last three decades, which nearly doubled the share of wage income going over the cap on taxable income, the projected 75-year [Social Security] shortfall would be about half of its current level.
    That is, wealth concentration at the top allows a greater share of workers' income to escape payroll taxes because it exceeds the cap, thereby starving Social Security for everybody.

    What is valued is practiced. What is not valued is not practiced. -- Plato

    by RobLewis on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 01:42:28 PM PST

  •  Precisely the same as Israel/Palestine: (7+ / 0-)

    Your fairness is my horrible injustice.

    By grossly over-valuing 'fairness' as opposed to workable answers , and by permitting contending parties to define for themselves what's 'fair', we automatically make any solution utterly impossible.

  •  Thank you so much for summing this up so well (8+ / 0-)

    I've passed this on via Facebook.  I mentioned above what I appreciated about what you've done here: bringing back discussion of externalities and going past the quicksand of "fairness."  Who cares if a system if "fair" if it clearly isn't working?

    I hope to see more essays from you!

    •  One cynical question keeps nagging at me: (6+ / 0-)

      Do the ultra wealthy give a shit whether the system is or isn't working for most people as long as it's working for them? I'm afraid not. Many, if not most, of the ultra wealthy believe they have the money they do because they're smarter and, therefore, more deserving.

      “Social Security has nothing to do with balancing a budget or erasing or lowering the deficit.” -- Ronald Reagan, 1984 debate with Walter Mondale

      by RJDixon74135 on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 07:57:58 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes and the Romney family is a perfect (6+ / 0-)


        Mitt, Anne, and the boys think that because Mitt donated the remainder of his inheritance to charity that he built his career and wealth all by himself.

        Ignoring, of course, that his parents invested in his education and success ALL along the way; the private schooling, the freedom to go to Stanford (and to transfer to BYU), the stock certificate gift for living money when he and Anne were both in college, the family loan for their first house while Mitt was in law and business school at Harvard (which was paid for my Mom and Dad, of course), and not least of which was the time and money they invested in politics, which made it a lot easier for him to compete in that arena.

        But no, Mitt and his prodigy believe they deserve all that because they are smarter and more righteous.

  •  nail on head. thanks. n/t (3+ / 0-)

    "I think it is much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers that might be wrong." Richard Feynman

    by leema on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 04:22:04 PM PST

  •  Excellent diary (4+ / 0-)

    You framed the conversation well, and I am in more or less complete agreement.

    The "extreme wing" of the Democratic Party is the wing that is hell-bent on protecting the banks and credit card companies. ~ Kos

    by ozsea1 on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 04:24:33 PM PST

  •  Sorry to be the fly in the ointment (17+ / 0-)

    While I certainly agree with the poster's points, the trouble I see is the conservative rejoinder: that redistribution of wealth is a socialistic principle. And while there is nothing wrong with this, the facts are that more than 1/2 of all Americans abhor the word "socialist." Throughout most of the "American Century" social engineering was a reasonable activity for the government - since Reagan however, a concerted effort has been played by the GOP to "see" anything to do with social engineering as basically communist in nature. This effort has nearly kept us from providing health care for our population, much less anything else.  But such things do need to be done.  So our population has resorted to semantics to proceed.  For instance, we can not have public assistance for the poor or ill, but nearly every state in the union has some significant part of its economic activity tied to military spending - so much so that equipment, bases, personnel that are not even needed are kept alive by representatives from those states.  From a purely socialist point of view, it would be far more effective to put this money elsewhere. But because this isnt viewed as "socialist" it is the only way to prop up failing economies - particularly in the south.

    I suspect "fairness" is another of these words.  While many can not abide by the word socialist, most do want to seem as though they are fair.  And getting them to see taxation as a fairness issue seems far easier than getting them to act in a collective way for the good of their neighbor.  It is true that the uberwealthy will not buy into this either way.  However, the conservative world isnt one homogenous thing.  Many of the rural southern conservatives - that really should be voting progressive for their own good and the good of their kids - will reel at the "social engineering" aspect of the proposed taxation scheme, but will likely be more willing to be "fair."  

    •  Yep, exactly (3+ / 0-)

      Most Americans simply aren't ready for more sophisticated justifications for more progressive policies, but fairness always works. They'll like the policies when their lives get better and they have more money in the bank.

      Social Security is a hugely popular program but I bet that few Americans would be comfortable calling it socialist, which of course it is.

      "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

      by kovie on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 05:30:54 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  "Redistribution of wealth" is exactly what the (16+ / 0-)

      Conservatives have been doing for the past 30 years. This is another example of "accusing the other guy of doing the thing that you did." (h/t Bill Clinton)
      "Trickle-Down Economics" is really "Gush-UP Economics."
      Wage supression, union busting, and tax policy heavily skewed in favor of the richest people have made it so.

      Everybody got to elevate from the norm....

      by Icicle68 on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 05:43:26 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I've been arguing for the revival of (12+ / 0-)

      the idea, now forgotten, but quite prominent during the American Revolution, and the establishment of the Constitution, that the rich are as much a threat to a republic as a standing army. See, for example, my comment below, with a quote from  "The American Revolutionaries, the Political Economy of Aristocracy, and the American Concept of the Distribution of Wealth, 1765-1900." And here's something I wrote back in July.

      So the real issue is not fairness, but how to limit or even obliterate large concentrations of wealth that threaten the very nature of republican self-government of, by, and for the people.

      A conservative is a scab for the oligarchy.

      by NBBooks on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 06:27:58 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  "Fair" is an easy word to throw out there (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LilithGardener, Yasuragi

      but it's not getting the job done.  It's a pretty easy one for the 1% to counter with the figures showing the percentage of income taxes they do pay, even under the present system (and they're impressive numbers!).  We've been less successful with our rejoinder - that the pay so much of the total income taxes because they have a disproportionately-sized share of the income pie.

      I absolutely agree with the diarist's points and ideas.  The only thing that struck me as I read this was that it needs to be significantly distilled: four bullet-points, four quick lines to chant, etc.  Of course, we have to be able to follow the sound bites with easily understood, though more in-depth, explanations at the drop of a hat, but still, this idea needs to get out there!!!

      The tax code is filled with rules that discourge undesireable behavior and encourage desireable behavior.  What we need now is to get 51% of the voting population to buy into the idea that the unlimited wealth of a few is bad for them!

      I lie to myself because I'm the only one who continues to believe me. - Vermin

      by 84thProblem on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 07:06:16 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  "Fair" is getting the job done (4+ / 0-)

        The vast majority of American are in favor of raising taxes on high-income Americans. I agree that the argument at the end of your first paragraph must be made more strongly.

        •  I appreciate your point, but (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          I think that if simply making the argument that the wealthy are not paying their fair share we'd be talking about a lot larger increase than 4.5% on their top rate.  What the diarist proposes is a campaign to shift the argument away from what is simply fair, and toward what is good for society.  The top rate should be in the 90% range, making it clear that we do not support the idea of a de facto aristocracy in thi country.

          I lie to myself because I'm the only one who continues to believe me. - Vermin

          by 84thProblem on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 03:47:51 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  And a 90% rate is not supported (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Peace Missile

            The reasons are simple. It is seen as unfair, but the real reason is that top rates lower than 90% have resulted in a humming economy. Most of us will see it as raising them enough to be effective in improving the economy.

            •  You never get what you want by asking for it ... (0+ / 0-)

              only by asking for much more, then "settling" for what you really want.  Witness the conservatives - they've been arguing for what is essentially crazy-town for the rest of the country for three decades.  Do we actually live in crazy-town?  No, not really.  But I think that they're actually fine and dandy with the way things are right now!

              I lie to myself because I'm the only one who continues to believe me. - Vermin

              by 84thProblem on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 05:08:25 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

    •  well it appears to be working (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LilithGardener, Sychotic1

      even the American Conservative thinks it is a winning argument, at least for now

      The Real GOP Fiasco: Fairness

      "Politics is like driving. To go backward put it in R. To go forward put it in D."
      Four More Years! How sweet it is!!!

      by TrueBlueMajority on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 07:49:40 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Well, I never actually mentioned "redistribution" (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NoMoreLies, Yasuragi, Sychotic1

      As I noted, this idea is pretty much agnostic about what you do with the taxes you collect.

      Put them in a "Rebuilding America" fund. Of course, actually rebuilding America will require hiring people, so in that sense it is redistributionist, but in a benign way. It's not, for example, giving it to "welfare queens".

      What is valued is practiced. What is not valued is not practiced. -- Plato

      by RobLewis on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 08:08:21 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  So, were we socialist before (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Yasuragi, srfRantz, Sychotic1, wbr

      in the post-WWII era when the middle class was so well developed under Keynesian economics?

      That's part of the key in re-framing this...what is different since 1980? What did work before then until the gop-pushed change in eco systems that doesn't work now?

      The Republicans have made a fundamental change and a major mistake with regard to democracy and economics...that can be fixed to some degree. (We realize that the changes in corporate structure over time and with banking relatively recently are other great changes that led to concentrations of power. And a different job)

      So, you say, we not talking socialism, we're talking economic democracy. And then allege that what we have now is growing, malignant economic dictatorship.

      It seems to me there are plenty of powerful words to be used and more than a few counters to the 'socialist' meme.  

      The truth is we are tortured by the truth.

      by walkshills on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 08:49:39 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  "Fair" is a core liberal concept... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Sychotic1, ConfusedSkyes

      It has been analyzed and made precise by liberal political philosophers, primarily in recent years through the work of John Rawls. We relinquish this concept at our own peril. This diary is well meaning but deeply misguided in philosophical fundamentals. The diarist needs to read some political philosophy and do some research on what has been said about the concept of fairness before unilaterally relinquishing it as "squishy."

      Passive renunciation is not the whole of wisdom.

      by play jurist on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 12:35:15 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Tell that to Otto Van Bismarck (0+ / 0-)

      The conservative, aristocratic Prussian who passed anti-socialist laws and undercut the appeal of socialism by "old age pensions, accident insurance, medical care and unemployment insurance."

      Redistribution of wealth isn't socialist.  If that were true, every single government and business would be a socialist entity, since they necessarily take money from one party and give it to another.  State control of industry is socialist.  Liberals and progressives should stop fighting the figments of Republican imagination, and instead have the courage to argue for what they believe in.  

      Income has been progressively taxed since America started taxing income.  Rural southerners are not against progressive taxation.  They are against what is framed as punitive taxation (and are primed to like tax "relief").  They, like the rest of the country, generally don't understand marginal taxation.  Democrats don't bother trying to explain it, so why should they?  

  •  I like the term "fairness," and I'll tell you why. (15+ / 0-)

    I'm 71 now, and when I was growing up the concept of
    "That's not fair!" was common, all over the place, and widely accepted. It was very American. Partly it goes back to World War II, when everyone accepted shared sacrifice.

    I think lately Obama and others are trying to resurrect the concept because it at bottom is deeply rooted in the American psyche, perhaps more than in any other culture.  There is also the corollary of sharing, which I also heard growing up, and which is largely disappeared from the scene. It would start in kindergarten, where children were encouraged to give part of their goods or at least temporarily let others use them.

    I think "fairness," and "sharing," have largely disappeared
    partly because the right has associated them with socialism or communism. The modern GOP has actually encouraged greed
    and "rugged individualism," a la Ayn Rand.  All this was designed to mount an assault on "entitlements," which of course they've tried to make a dirty word.

    I say "fairness" harkens back to at least the New Deal with its idea of community and yes, even brotherhood, of all things,  and should by no means rejected as a concept.

    "There's a lot to be said for making people laugh. Did you know that that's all some people have? It isn't much, but it's better than nothing in this cockeyed caravan." --Joel McCrea as "Sully," in "Sullivan's Travels."

    by Wildthumb on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 04:58:43 PM PST

    •  I agree, see my comment below (4+ / 0-)

      If we try to sell progressive tax reform (and other progressive policies) as being better for the economy and country, we're going to lose a lot of people who don't relate to policy as such. Most Americans don't view policy the way that most people here do. But they do relate to what's fair and not fair.

      And it's simply not fair that the rich get to pay so little in taxes while everyone else does, relative to their income. Everyone can relate to that. If there's some very sophisticated economic reasons to raise taxes on the rich, then great, but it's not how to sell it to Joe Sixpack, who likes to KISS.

      "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

      by kovie on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 05:28:02 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Bubba is too KISSable (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RobLewis, Yasuragi

        Common GOP counter: Flat Tax.

        Simple, so it has to be better.  
        Fair, everybody pays the same rate.

        They confuse tax rate with tax code.   The code is shelves of volumes upon volumes because determining income and deductions is complex.   Somehow a dancing hourse is tax deductible.  

        The rate only takes up a few pages. A lookup table.

        I don't think fair gets you far enough.  

        Try cancer.  Concentrations of power are like tumors crowding out healthy working tissue.  


        Barack Hussein Obama- Don't Mock the Constitution.

        by odenthal on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 08:25:18 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I was going to use the cancer analogy (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          WheninRome, Yasuragi, Sychotic1, wbr

          If your doctor finds you have a tumor, she doesn't say "This growth is taking more than its fair share of your body's nutrients." She says "This thing is growing out of control and unless we do something to shrink it, it will kill you!"

          Just like the uber-rich are killing our democracy.

          What is valued is practiced. What is not valued is not practiced. -- Plato

          by RobLewis on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 08:37:23 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Which rich people are far more able to afford (0+ / 0-)

          than non-rich people, making it inherently unfair, when explained to them. Plus, it doesn't generate enough revenue and retards economic activity.

          "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

          by kovie on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 08:46:32 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Brother can you spare a dime. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      The Greatest Generation's common experience was the Depression and WWII.   A solidarity of suffering engendered fairness and shared sacrifice.

      Different times now.  BJclinton begat SimpletonW, who answered 911 with "shop", torture, a war of blind vengence.  The trauma and cost were limited to the immediate victims and the 1% who serve in the military.

      We dodged the Wall Street collapse by re-capitalizing the capitalists.  The 99% bailed out the 1%.

      The meme litter: 47%, job-creators, class-warfare,...  

      The US does not feel very united.

      Barack Hussein Obama- Don't Mock the Constitution.

      by odenthal on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 08:00:09 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I think "brotherhood" and "fairness" can always (0+ / 0-)

        have their seasons.

        There has to be a big push for it though, and we could have a breakthrough. One reason we're not united is the GOP spent the last 40 years demonizing everything that brought us together. We can spend at least one quarter of that time to get some good stuff back. With instant communication now we can start a movement. Si, se puede.

        "There's a lot to be said for making people laugh. Did you know that that's all some people have? It isn't much, but it's better than nothing in this cockeyed caravan." --Joel McCrea as "Sully," in "Sullivan's Travels."

        by Wildthumb on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 08:32:15 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Thank you. Great comment. eom (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Passive renunciation is not the whole of wisdom.

      by play jurist on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 12:36:45 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Strong arguments here. (4+ / 0-)

    Inequality is a serious problem and taxation is one key way to deal with it. The tax policies since 1980 have changed our economy in a way that exacerbated inequality, which is not a "natural" outcome. Time to reverse those changes.

    •  Natural is not inherently best. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I submit that is quite natural for the strong to accumulate wealth and power.  

      We can intervene to channel those natural forces to our benefit.

      We can't rewrite the law of the jungle.  But evidently people can optimize group strength via cooperation, protecting the weak, and harnessing the strong.    

      It's not GOP simple; it requires centuries of trial and effort and continual adaptation to change.

      Barack Hussein Obama- Don't Mock the Constitution.

      by odenthal on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 07:19:37 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  When the way the policy is "sold" becomes more (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    goodpractice, tardis10, srfRantz

    important than the policy itself, we are in dire trouble. I wholeheartedly agree with the points on policy mad by the diarist. The salesmanship of "fairness" is an inane and tepid  talking point , obviously focus grouped and polled for "acceptability" and "like-ability" in selling a minor tax adjustment that we should be able to make as just a matter of course if it weren't for the massive "red baiting" and unbridled cynicism of the "Right" over the past forty years in service to corporate hegemony and preservation of the wealth advantage of the Republican Party.

    It is pathetic that the message of the public social good is drowned out by the oligopolists and that the Democratic Party has failed for decades to counter the messaging of the "Right" on taxation. Concentration of wealth is concentration of power and the only institution that can combat private oligopolistic wealth is public government.

    We need to raise the consciousness of the people about the concentration of wealth and its detrimental effects on their lives and government and continue to pound that message, as OWS has.


    "Intelligence is quickness in seeing things as they are..." George Santayana

    by KJG52 on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 05:09:52 PM PST

    •  Please read John Rawls: (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Sychotic1, ConfusedSkyes

      Then get back to me with your rightwinger claim that the core liberal concept of fairness is "inane."

      Passive renunciation is not the whole of wisdom.

      by play jurist on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 12:38:57 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Reading comprehension is obviously not your (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        strong point. I am talking, as the diarist was, about using the arguments of justice, equity and the needs of the body politic for the disbursement of economic power, and therby political power, not the concept of fairness in general social policy. Try not leveling accusations of "right winger" to someone who has been fighting for social justice from the left for over forty years.

        "Intelligence is quickness in seeing things as they are..." George Santayana

        by KJG52 on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 01:02:52 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  My reply was dickish in tone. (0+ / 0-)

          Sorry for that. I was going for flabbergasted, but fell short. But I stand by my general point about fairness being core to, at least one very important, philosophical articulation of the liberal conception of justice. For Rawls, this deals exactly with, if I understand your meaning, ideas like the disbursement of economic power. It's something he discusses extensively. I apologize for the "rightwinger" thing; it's just that the claim that "fair" is an imprecise concept is exactly what a rightwinger recently said to me on fb. Anyway, Rawls is important and, I think, so is fairness, and I hope my poor approach to pointing that out doesn't discourage you from looking into his ideas.

          Passive renunciation is not the whole of wisdom.

          by play jurist on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 03:23:02 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  this nails it! (0+ / 0-)

      well we are in dire trouble and not because our policy didn't work and theirs was better (obviously it hasn't been) but because they sold theirs better.

      and what they sold was that progressive taxation is NOT "fair." that it was "punishing the successful to give handouts to the lazy" Big emotional hot button there and they've smacked down "the rich need to pay their fair share" pretty well with it for the past 30 years.

      so I totally agree with your on our salesmanship of "fairness" being inane and tepid.

      Fairness may be a core principal behind Liberal ideas and policies but it just hasn't worked for us messaging-wise. Fairness is in the eye of the beholder, and the Rs have been good at pointing a lot of eyes down below instead of up above where all the money has flowed.

      But this just rocks! These last 2 sentences hold the key:

      Concentration of wealth is concentration of power and the only institution that can combat private oligopolistic wealth is public government.

      We need to raise the consciousness of the people about the concentration of wealth and its detrimental effects on their lives and government and continue to pound that message.

      They've got Luntz, we've got Lakoff. If you know his work you understand that all politics is moral. Which really means that political messaging needs to trigger emotions. Emotion trumps reason every time. This is probably why our side goes with the "fair share" argument rather than trying to explain the whole economic model of progressive taxation and how it prevents inequality and concentrated power. I can just see the target audience's eyes just glazing over.

      And obviously if we say anything that remotely suggests that taxation is meant as a counter-incentive to the accumulation of massive wealth, then we'll simply be hit with: "They want to keep you from getting rich! = They want to keep you poor." which is basically what their bluster about Liberty and Freedom and all that is playing on.

      So it has to not be about the Money. Its not about "preventing" getting Rich. We want everyone to be able to get working hard...etc. This is usually contained well in our messaging, but somehow they keep beating us with their approach. And that's because they are able time and again to re-frame "Taxes" as theft, as a roadblock to you from becoming rich and from "job creators" from giving you the opportunity to work. Its bullshit, we know, but it "feels" true. And we don't want to go anywhere near to trying to explain how "Too Rich" is bad. Who's going to decide how rich is Too Rich?

      But Power. That's the key. Focus on Power. The concentration of Power. Draw the parallels to oligarchy, monarchy, plutocracy, dictatorship, all those negatives that concentration of power in a few hands bring to mind. They've actually been doing this a lot with the "Socialism/Communism" and Hitler charges, but they have nothing to back it up other than the engrained mental association most Americans have between those 2 "tags" and dystopian totaliarian nightmare we all know from history.

      Its pretty clear to me that Republicans could really care less about ideology in the final analysis. What they seek, and lust for mightily, is Power. Total Power. We need to keep the focus on that. We need to find ways to simply trigger those emotions in the general public, conservative, or liberal, religious or not, that automatically abhor the aquisition of massive power by a select few. And connect that to what is happening, how it is happening and most importantly Who is making it happen.

      (and as you also pointed out OWS has been brilliant with this with the 1% vs. the 99% without even going into any more detail)

      thanks again for your insightfull response KJG52

      no man is completely worthless, he can always be used as a bad example.

      by srfRantz on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 02:48:54 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  We need to call labor theft (6+ / 0-)

    what it is: labor theft.

    We should avoid using fuzzy phrases like: Workers are deprived of sharing in the fruits of their labor.

    The simple fact is, but for a few exceptions here and there, nobody builds a company by themselves.  It would be impossible for the Walmarts and Walmart's executives to operate those stores by themselves, just like it is impossible for the owners and executives of Hostess to operate the business by themselves.

    Somewhere along the line, executives and shareholders [and/or companies like Bain] have decided that they should get all the wealth while stripping the workers of the value they [the workers] create.

    This devaluation of workers has to stop.

    The banks have a stranglehold on the political process. Mike Whitney

    by dfarrah on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 05:14:23 PM PST

  •  Simpler: "the rich are taxed more because (12+ / 0-)

    they cost more."

    Most of government spending is aimed at protecting their business model, protecting their resources and protecting their wealth.

    Why do we not just put it that plainly?

  •  Taxing the rich just because they're rich (11+ / 0-)

    is fully in line with the ideas and ideals of the American Revolution and the creation of our self-governing republic.  In the Founding era of the United States, the Founders had developed a "political economy of aristocracy, as Professor James L. Huston explains in "The American Revolutionaries, the Political Economy of Aristocracy, and the American Concept of the Distribution of Wealth, 1765-19000" (The American Historical Review, Vol. 98, No. 4 (Oct., 1993), pp. 1079-1105):

    The revolutionaries’ concern over the distribution of wealth was prompted by a tenet in the broad and vague political philosophy of republicanism. In contrast to nations in which monarchs and aristocrats dominate the state, republics embodied the ideal of equality among citizens in political affairs, the equality taking the form of citizen participation in the election of officials who formulated the laws. Drawing largely on the work of seventeenth-century republican theorist James Harrington, Americans believed that if property were concentrated in the hands of a few in a republic, those few would use their wealth to control other citizens, seize political power, and warp the republic into an oligarchy. Thus to avoid descent into despotism or oligarchy, republics had to possess an equitable distribution of wealth....

    The answer to how the social system of aristocracy generated wealth inequality was easily found. American political leaders applied the labor theory of property or value; an unjust distribution resulted when a few were able to transfer the fruits of other persons’ labor to themselves. Aristocrats (non-workers and therefore non-producers) stole the fruits of labor from the masses of toilers (laborers and therefore producers). Aristocrats effected the transference by political means. It was control of politics that enabled aristocrats to steal the fruits of labor, to enrich themselves and pauperize the multitudes. By the time of the writing of the Constitution, literate Americans had clearly voiced the idea that a misdistribution of wealth was almost entirely a political act.

    A conservative is a scab for the oligarchy.

    by NBBooks on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 05:16:03 PM PST

  •  Asabiya (12+ / 0-)

    A historian whose name I cannot recall once wrote a book about why some societies seem full of energy where others are pathetic losers. He assigns the difference to what he calls "asabiya", an Arabic word that might be translated as an amalgam of "solidarity", "civic responsibility", and "brotherhood". It's a sense within a society that it is doing great things, and that each person should contribute to the grand march of triumph.

    Part of asabiya is the sense that "we're all in this together" or "all for one, one for all". Economists sometimes use the term "social capital", but I think that notion falls short of asabiya. Social capital is more like mutual trust and confidence; asabiya has a more optimistic tone.

    Let's combine this concept with another one that has been nailed down by psychologists. There's a classic experiment, whose name I again forget, that runs like so: the experimenter recruits two people and tells them that he will give them $10 to divide among themselves. One of the subjects gets to decide how the money will be divided and the other can veto the whole deal if he considers the division unfair. This experiment has been carried out hundreds of times with thousands of subjects in many different cultures, with surprising results. Strictly speaking, the second subject should approve any deal that gives him any amount of money, but in fact, people veto deals that don't split the money "fairly". The definition of fairness varies from culture to culture, but the basic principle seems clear: people expect a fair shake, and will punish others for violating their standards of fairness. In many of the experiments, any offer less than $4 would be vetoed.

    Combining this with the concept of asabiya, we see that people expect an egalitarian distribution of wealth. If that expectation is violated, they veto the social contract. They do so in a variety of ways. In the extreme, they resort to violent crime to even things up. Few do this, but a great many people who think that they're getting a raw deal resort to petty acts of defiance or noncooperation. Littering and vandalism are likely symptoms of this behavior.

    The moral of this story is that a more egalitarian distribution of wealth is not a matter of being nice; it's a prudent policy that lubricates the wheels of society and keeps things running smoothly. It's in my self-interest to insure that the Gini Index for my society never rises too high.

    •  America has never been a "one for all" sort (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      VClib, Sparhawk, nextstep

      of place, yet we've had one of the most dynamic cultures and economies for a few centuries now.  Or: we falsify the theory advanced.

      •  Actually, it has (4+ / 0-)

        Asabiya is sometimes seen as a variant of patriotism, and you'll surely agree that America has always had a surfeit of patriotism. However, the word "patriotism" doesn't quite catch the meaning of asabiya; "solidarity" remains the closest match in English. And America had oodles of that. In the colonial period, it was inculcated by the strong sense of isolation and the insecurity against Indian attacks. In the Revolutionary period, it was very high, and indeed it was only the fervor of asabiya that kept the republic together in its earliest, rockiest days.

        The Civil War triggered a bifurcation of asabiya; both sides fought with considerable élan. Afterwards, the settling of the West again fostered a sense of "one for all, all for one" among the pioneers, although that quickly evaporated once things settled down.

        American asabiya went through a low time from, oh, maybe 1880 to 1930; although there was enthusiasm for World War I, it wasn't until the Depression and World War II that Americans once again found their sense of togetherness. This held on through the post-war period until the 60s, when American solidarity collapsed over Vietnam. It has never recovered; there was a brief spike after 9/11, but it was too ephemeral to stick to the ribs. That's why we have so much polarization now; American asabiya is at a fatally low level. As a society, we're rotting.

        •  For another colonial example (0+ / 0-)

          I like the example of colonial schools.  In almost every place people gathered in early America, you could be sure they would build two things - a church and a school.  The teacher was paid by goods produced by the community.  

          I think you may be correct about the low time from 1880 to 1930, but the Populist Party certainly provided a counter-example during that time - for many agrarian communities, it was a high mark of cooperation.  

      •  or else your opinion is an "outlier" / nm (0+ / 0-)

        The "extreme wing" of the Democratic Party is the wing that is hell-bent on protecting the banks and credit card companies. ~ Kos

        by ozsea1 on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 09:40:26 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  I was IN an experiment like that once! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Yasuragi, Sychotic1

      "Politics is like driving. To go backward put it in R. To go forward put it in D."
      Four More Years! How sweet it is!!!

      by TrueBlueMajority on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 07:52:20 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  And what did you do? n/t (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        "Throwing a knuckleball for a strike is like throwing a butterfly with hiccups across the street into your neighbor's mailbox." -- Willie Stargell

        by Yasuragi on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 06:11:34 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  the main question was (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          would I agree to an unfair split if they gave me information about the other person doing something good for someone else.

          so the initial split was less than 50% for me, and I said no, and then they said well what if we told you that the other person spent all morning helping a friend move?  And I said that doesn't matter--I'm a good person too and deserve an equal split of found money that neither one of us earned.

          So the money was split down the middle.

          This experiment was being done in a public area in Harvard Square some years ago.

          "Politics is like driving. To go backward put it in R. To go forward put it in D."
          Four More Years! How sweet it is!!!

          by TrueBlueMajority on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 07:08:54 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  I don't think most Americans are ready (7+ / 0-)

    for these sorts of arguments, as they smack of social engineering of a sort that Americans have historically been uncomfortable with. Never mind that US history is marked by social engineering via policy (expanding suffrage, freeing the slaves, public education, etc.). Americans tend to approve of it only when it's presented to them as the fair thing to do. An innate sense of fairness, whether or not we might agree with specific ideas about it, is a core American value. So to the extent that we try to implement social engineering (which raising taxes on the rich and infrastucture spending is), it has to be sold as the fair thing to do.

    I know it sounds weird, but most people I know, if asked if it's fair that someone be worth $50B, will answer that they do, provided that it was fairly earned, and that if we're going to raise their taxes, it's got to be the fair thing to do, and done in a fair manner, and not to "punish" them for being so rich. We don't share the kind of schadenfruede that many Europeans have, where they're resentful of other peoples' money and success and enjoy seeing them taken down a peg. We like it when others succeed and get rich, and applaud them, so long as they didn't screw anyone over to get there (part of why Romney lost). So we're not about to tax them unless we think it's the fair thing to do.

    "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

    by kovie on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 05:23:50 PM PST

    •  Kovie, I think you and several others (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RobLewis, Yasuragi, Sychotic1

      are missing the point of this diary.

      If I understand him, the diarist is saying that we ought not to think of our tax system in terms of fairness. We ought to think of it in terms of what is best for the nation. That's what we should use as the basis for policy.

      He has NOT said that we shouldn't try to sell it as fair. I agree with you that if the average voter sees a system as unfair, s/he will not accept it. I have no problem with selling high taxes on the rich as "fair".

      If this sounds cynical, then so be it.

      You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. --Bob Dylan-- -7.25, -6.21

      by Tim DeLaney on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 06:26:31 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thank you from the OP (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I would add that fairness is sort of an abstract notion: there is no inherent, direct relationship between what's unfair and what's harmful to the broader interests of society.

        I'm saying that there is an inherent, direct relationship between excessive wealth concentration and what's harmful to the broader interests of society.

        There are a lot of potential messages that could be used to sell higher taxes on the rich in terms of fairness. One that comes to mind is Drew Westen's: "In times like these, the rich should be giving to charity, not getting it."

        But the end goal isn't some kind of abstract "fairness." It's the concrete, quantifiable matter of wealth distribution.

        What is valued is practiced. What is not valued is not practiced. -- Plato

        by RobLewis on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 08:26:28 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  The whole point of the diary (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Clues, Yasuragi

        is that we need to change how we're selling the tax code..he's saying that the fairness argument isn't working and we need something else.

        "Thus my sense that the Left needs to come up with a better argument for anything more than token tax increases. When all is said and done, the fairness argument is a loser."

    •  Totally agree (0+ / 0-)

      And that what's struck me about the right's class warfare on the 47%. Their rhetoric (and policies) is incredibly stupid. Americans of all stripes are some of the most pro-capitalist people you can find on the planet, and yet the right seems to want to do everything in their power to turn people against it.

  •  Yes (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I have no idea what people mean when they say, "fairness", and have heard it referenced to mean opposite things. Fairness is a concept usable only within a shared set of values and the cultural diversity of in the US precludes such commonality. Within what range? Within what foundation? In fact even attempting to use "fairness" exposes a certain failure to mentally accommodate diversity that it's argumentally self defeating.  There may be a standard for the narrow courts of US law, perhaps for a specific union or corporate environment, but it's not sensible nationally.

    Let all Bush tax cuts expire and , bring on the Sequestration cuts to defense.

    by kck on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 05:44:28 PM PST

    •  Please read Rawls: (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Passive renunciation is not the whole of wisdom.

      by play jurist on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 12:41:06 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I read it many years ago. (0+ / 0-)

        A good book, thanks for the link. And even in this clip at your link:

        As Rawls writes in the preface, the restatement presents "in one place an account of justice as fairness as I now see it, drawing on all [my previous] works."

        Let all Bush tax cuts expire and , bring on the Sequestration cuts to defense.

        by kck on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 07:18:30 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  I haven't studied Rawls (0+ / 0-)

        though he's been on my bucket list for years. But I have read a fair amount about his writings.

        As I understand it, his core idea is that a just society is one that we would choose to be born into, not knowing in advance whether we'd be one of the lucky, healthy, wealthy ones or one of the disadvantaged.

        In other words, it should be redistributive enough to provide an adequate safety net for the less fortunate, while not excessively burdening the lucky ones.

        This is undoubtedly a beautiful thought. What I don't know is whether Rawls tells us how you get there. I envision his society as like a Petri dish, into which you drop a single newborn baby—as a sort of "justice probe"—and watch what happens. Does he address the question of how all these people influence each other, and thereby the evolution of the society as a whole (for example, by a tendency to concentrate wealth).

        I welcome any explanations.

        What is valued is practiced. What is not valued is not practiced. -- Plato

        by RobLewis on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 10:29:19 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'm most familiar with the general (0+ / 0-)

          normative framework. How you get there is another question involving the nitty gritty of politics. But, I think that we don't get there by abandoning the terms in which the normative ideal is framed. Maybe Rawls' position is ultimately untenable. There are critics within the liberal philosophical tradition. However, I found the diary very hasty in dismissing a concept that is at the center of the most influential American political philosopher of the 20th century's articulation of liberal ideals. I wanted to get that across. I wish I had time to write up a diary on Rawls or do a regular series on political philosophy/philosophers. Alas, academia is cut throat and every moment not spent on research and publications feels like a moment wasted.

          Passive renunciation is not the whole of wisdom.

          by play jurist on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 03:28:07 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent diary..and I too have misgivings (0+ / 0-)

    about the term 'fair share.'

    But what needs to happen is to turn the above essay into the equivalent of the Conservative misguided mantra: "Lower taxes spurs economic development"

    Take the above diary and condense it into an easily relayed philosophical point.

    "Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities" Voltaire.

    by JWK on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 05:48:32 PM PST

    •  How About "Fair Taxation Of The Rich Spurs Shared (0+ / 0-)

      prosperity."  It brings into play the concept of "fairness" which the majority of low information voters understand, and it shows how taxing the rich fairly helps the country as a whole (i.e. shared prosperity). I really don't think progressives should shy away from the talking point of "having the rich pay their fair share."  I know, "fairness" is a subjective term, but so are a lot of other terms, like "low taxes" etc.  Progressives ran away from the word "liberal" when the right wing started using it as a dirty word - let's not make the same mistake with the word "fairness." Progressives just need to explain the concept of tax fairness better, NOT shy away from using it.

  •  I like to say that "fairness in irrelevant." (0+ / 0-)

    In the adult world, there's no such thing as fairness. Furthermore, when someone uses that term, they are inherently implying their desire to redistribute benefits along an arbitrarily defined criteria to benefit themselves.

    "A cynical, mercenary, demagogic press will produce in time a people as base as itself." - Joseph Pulitzer

    by CFAmick on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 05:57:04 PM PST

  •  I agree, fairness is debatable... (0+ / 0-)

    You make some excellent arguments, please send your post to the White House. This is probably the most important argument that the President needs to hear.

  •  Adam Smith agrees too (4+ / 0-)
    "The subjects of every state ought to contribute towards the support of the government, as nearly as possible, in proportion to their respective abilities, that is, in proportion to the revenue which they respectively enjoy under the protection of the state." ~ Adam Smith

    “The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.” ~ John Kenneth Galbraith

    by Lefty Coaster on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 06:27:34 PM PST

  •  it would also put the brakes on "rent-seeking" (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NoMoreLies, Yasuragi, MPociask

    that is, activities that create no new wealth but are meant to concentrate wealth, such as massive lobbying outlays, huge PAC donations, etc.

    Good stuff. I was never a big fan of the whole "fairness" frame either. What would be a good succint frame to kind of capture all of these ideas?

  •  I hope you've mailed a copy of this (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Yasuragi the White House and every Democratic Senator and Representative.

    "Doing My Part to Piss Off the Religious Right" - A sign held by a 10-year old boy on 9-24-05

    by Timbuk3 on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 06:36:16 PM PST

  •  Excellent! (0+ / 0-)

    I find the whole nonsense about the rich needing to pay their "fair share" really problematic for the very reasons you have pointed out more articulately than I could have. It reeks to me of the vapid sloganeering that we hear so often from conservatives. We really need to dump this meme and move to a more sophisticated promotion of the ideas of our smartest economic thinkers. The problem is, does the "fairness" argument actually work - meaning does it move the needle at the polls? I suspect that it actually does, which means our political class will not dump it until/unless it proves to be ineffective.

    •  Why dump messaging that works? (n/m) (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      play jurist
    •  I just threw up a little: (0+ / 0-)

      Has Dkos turned into Redstate? Now the core liberal concept of fairness is "vapid sloganeering"? Everyone needs to take a time out and read some political philosophy:

      Seriously, this is like a nightmare. I realize that not everyone is into philosophy, but it is really terrifying to see that the work of the most renowned American liberal political philosopher, which is summed up by the slogan "justice is fairness", has had so little impact that a diary trashing the concept of fairness is rec listed.

      Passive renunciation is not the whole of wisdom.

      by play jurist on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 12:44:54 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent diary, Dr Marx! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    winsock, play jurist, Sparhawk

    Arguing for a tax on wealth inequality would play perfectly into the hands of those on the right who say liberals have a socialist/communist agenda.  That is to say, we want equality of outcome rather than equality of opportunity.

    Please join the Communist party.  The arguments you put forth would be the death of the Democratic Party.

    I know I will get flamed for this post, so let me state upfront that I agree that massive wealth inequality is bad for society.  And higher taxes on the rich, asset taxes and other forms of wealth redistribution are desirable.  I am simply saying that framing the argument for them as this diarist does is a loser in American politics.

    •  You deserve to get flamed for this man of straw: (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tardis10, NoMoreLies, Yasuragi, Sychotic1
      Arguing for a tax on wealth inequality would play perfectly into the hands of those on the right who say liberals have a socialist/communist agenda.  That is to say, we want equality of outcome rather than equality of opportunity.
      The diarist didn't argue for equality of outcome. Instead, he argued that we should reduce the gulf between rich and poor. Big difference.

      You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. --Bob Dylan-- -7.25, -6.21

      by Tim DeLaney on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 07:00:00 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Nonetheless (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        noble experiment, play jurist

        I must agree with the tenor of noble experiment's comment.  The approach could backfire not only against opponents, but against many who are already sympathetic to the fairness argument.

        I don't fundamentally disagree with the diarist, but I'm not one who needs convincing.

        Things work out best for those who make the best of the way things work out.

        by winsock on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 08:05:47 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  I didn't argue with the diarist's policy (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        winsock, misslegalbeagle

        I took issue with his framing.  Republicans will brand it Communism and anyone using the diarist's arguments will be boxed into a rhetorical corner.

        My pijnt wasn't that the Diarist was arguing for Communism, my point was that the repositioning of the debate would fly close enough to it that it is a political loser.

      •  Just to be clear (0+ / 0-)

        The quote of mine you use above says that opponents will argue that we want equality of outcome.  It does not say that I think it is true, it is just that if we frame the argument the way the diarist suggests, we will have a difficult time defending that claim by our opponents.

        •  We are in agreement, but ... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          The diarist was talking about the right argument, not the best way to sell that argument to Joe Lunchbox..

          Two different things.

          We Kossacks have a much more sophisticated view of politics than Joe Lunchbox. To sell that view, we have to use terms that Joe understands. I know that sounds cynical, but it's political reality.

          You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. --Bob Dylan-- -7.25, -6.21

          by Tim DeLaney on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 08:54:46 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I don't understand. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            brooklynbadboy, Sparhawk

            First you say the diarist was talking about the right argument, rather than the way to frame it in order to sell it.

            Then you say to sell it , we have to use the terms that Joe Lunchbox understands.

            I interpreted this diary as saying "fairness" is a bad way to sell it and "less inequality" is a good way to sell it.  And then the diarist goes on to give a long (but good) argument as to why reduced inequality is good.

            My point is that while a Democrat is spending 1000 words to explain that, his Republican opponent will just say "Communist" and the debate will be lost.  For, in reality, any argument in this country that is framed around changing results rather than opportunities is always attacked that way.  And the attacker always wins, because things that can be labeled Communism or Socialism or anything that even smells a whiff like it are DOA in America.

            Democrats get government programs done by labeling them as something other than Socialism, not by wrapping policies in Socialist arguments.

    •  Perhaps you prefer to use this argument (6+ / 0-)

      Inequality is Killing Capitalism as set forth by Robert Skidelsky?

      My take is that 'fairness' arguments works on some portion of our fellow citizens and that deeper arguments concerning the radically destructive nature of wealth inequality works better with others.

      "George RR Martin is not your bitch" ~~ Neil Gaiman

      by tardis10 on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 07:05:45 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  "From each according to his ability... (0+ / 0-)

      to each according to his need."

      Finest summary of how an economy should work that has ever been written.

      It beats the hell out of the current system that can be summarized as:

      From each according to his level of desperation,
      to each according to his power and ruthlessness.

      Capitalism sucks.

      Say it plainly and clearly.  You'll find many more Americans agree with that proposition than you imagine.

      •  Yeah, because Marxism has been a winner (not) (0+ / 0-)

        The greatest economic system yet developed is regulated capitalism.  It provides the greatest opportunity, the highest standards of living, and the greatest efficiency.   I'm not sure this hasn't been settled.

        I think you are wrong on how many Americans want a Marxist economic system.  It is very few.  How many members does the American Communist Party have?

        The problem is we need better government regulation that fairly assigns negative social impacts of economic activities.  Not a reconfiguring of our economic system.

        •  You're wrong. (0+ / 0-)

          Check out what's happening among the young:

          Young people -- the collegiate and post-college crowd, who have served as the most visible face of the Occupy Wall Street movement -- might be getting more comfortable with socialism. That's the surprising result from a Pew Research Center poll that aims to measure American sentiments toward different political labels.

          The poll, published Wednesday, found that while Americans overall tend to oppose socialism by a strong margin -- 60 percent say they have a negative view of it, versus just 31 percent who say they have a positive view -- socialism has more fans than opponents among the 18-29 crowd. Forty-nine percent of people in that age bracket say they have a positive view of socialism; only 43 percent say they have a negative view.

          I'm no fan of State Socialism, but the future lies in economic democracy, not Capitalism.  Change is a necessity for the sake of justice and environmental sanity.
        •  Regulating Capitalism is like... (0+ / 0-)

          putting a serial killer under house arrest.

          It never works for long because Capitalism, by its nature, accumulates power in the hands of fewer and fewer people.  These oligarchs inevitably undo any attempt at regulation.

          Witness the history of the U. S. as an example.  The same thing is happening in Europe.

          •  Please reread my comment (0+ / 0-)

            I said capitalism has provided the highest standards of living, opportunity and efficiency the world has ever seen.   I really think this is settled.  Can you point to a communist country that even remotely competes with the US or Europe on these fronts?

            Centralized planning is a failure.

            Properly regulated capitalism allows for Socialist policy where necessary (healthcare, pollution, government food inspection, SEC regulation, etc.).  The problem with capitalism isn't the concept, it's the political system that distorts the concept.

  •  You're only looking at our side of the convo. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    play jurist

    They say, "NO RAISING TAXES."

    We say, "Well, you have to pay your fair share."

    "Well what's my 'fair share'?"

    And the conversation is about RAISING TAXES.

    This fairness talk is to break the stalemate.

    And then, yes, this whole diary is the next step.

    "Jersey_Boy" was taken.

    by New Jersey Boy on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 07:14:06 PM PST

  •  Fair Share means more than just higher rates.... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tim DeLaney, NoMoreLies, play jurist

    Paying their fair share means not just paying higher rates now, but repaying all the money that they under paid for the last 10 years.

    I like David Stockman's call for a one time SURTAX of $5 Trillion on the top 1% to make up for the money they underpaid with the Bush tax cuts and other tax tweaks.

    You make changes in how insane the financial industry's portion of the economy has gotten by disincentivizing the activities. Fractional fees on stock transactions like the EU has... 0.005% per share, but up the banks into 500 smaller banks, place hard asset ceilings in place to keep them smaller. Reinstate the concept of the S+L and limit it to 1,2,4 family home loans ... aka the Bailey Building and Loan.

    The most critical reform is to end the Corporate income tax. It is a joke on its face, as any business would just pass the tax burden on to its customers. Instead, no income tax, but....

    You tax dividend and long term capital gains at the same rate as earned income.... with the same gradated rate structure, so small investors get taxed lightly, and heavy wealthy investors get taxed more.


    Force Corporations to issue 3/4 of profits as quarterly dividends. Allow strict rules on using profits to reinvest in the business.

    This forces Corporate profit into a box to be taxed where it cannot escape.

    I'd also add regulations on whether any Corporation should be allowed to buy its stock with profits. I'm not an economist but the world changed when company's were free to use shareholder money to buy stock back off the market. The claim (scam) is that it increases overall stock value, but to me the real motivation is that it concentrates power in the hands of the corporate management.... who are "supposed" to be EMPLOYEES, not kings.

    Additional Shareholder Rights need to be implemented, so that the real owners can exercise responsibility over their company.

  •  Thrity-six days to prevent a grand bargain (0+ / 0-)

    now, that doesn't seem fair to me.

    "Lets show the rascals what Citizens United really means."

    by smiley7 on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 07:46:28 PM PST

  •  The reason we have to tax the rich is (4+ / 0-)

    they're the only ones with any money to spend right now.  Them and the government.  But being poor is patriotic.  Your misery is an acceptable price to pay for keeping the rich rich.  Because capitalism and democracy are the exact same things.  At least poor people get to vote too.

    In a completely unrelated note, poor people found it much harder to vote in this election.  In swing states run by republicans.  That isn't democracy.  It's a hostile takeover.

  •  It's about getting things moving (0+ / 0-)

    and not about fairness.  It's really simple.  We just can't get the economy moving with so many people struggling.  One of the main reasons they are struggling is income inequality.  Without leveling the playing field a bit through higher taxes on the upper brackets, too many people will be trapped at the bottom.  Therefore, the economy will remain stagnant.

    "The real wealth of a nation consists of the contributions of its people and nature." -- Rianne Eisler

    by noofsh on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 08:14:58 PM PST

  •  Sorry, stopped reading at (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    play jurist, Jeffersonian

    "no fairness because Hitler"

  •  Please read John Rawls. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    brooklynbadboy, Guy Fawkes

    You are attacking one of the pillar concepts of American liberalism. Rawls worked very hard to make the notion of "justice as fairness" philosophically precise. Absent philosophical analysis, every concept is "squishy." The answer is not to abandon concepts but rather to analyze their core features and make them more precise. It was Rawls' life's work to do that for the concept of "fairness", and he is perhaps the most important American political philosopher of the 20th century:

    There's nothing conservatives would like more than to have the core liberal idea of justice as fairness dismissed as squishy nonsense. Quite unintentionally, I assume, there's a diary on the dkos rec list attacking core liberal philosophical principles. Yikes.

    Passive renunciation is not the whole of wisdom.

    by play jurist on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 12:30:36 AM PST

  •  Actually, some conservatives *do* claim fairness (0+ / 0-)

    Just google the "FairTax"...and prepare to be transported to right-wing flat-tax La La Land.  Rodeo boots optional.

    My dad is a birther. I am not.

    by mrfo on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 01:18:22 AM PST

  •  Example of the difference: (0+ / 0-)

    Lets suppose the guy who owns an S Corp decides to buy a Monet at auction for $85,000.

    If the tax rate for the rich guy is set at 15%, he needs to withdraw $100,000 from his company's bank account to pay for the painting. $85K goes to the auction house and $15K goes to the feds in taxes.

    If the tax rate is 50%, rich guy needs to withdraw $170,000 from the company bank account to buy the painting. Half would go to the auction house and the other half would go to the feds.

    It is much easier to make businesses weaker by paying the boss more when the tax rate is lower.

    BTW, when businesses have extra cash laying around, the last thing they do is hire more employees.

    i just baptized andrew breitbart into the church of islam, planned parenthood, the girl scouts and three teachers unions. - @blainecapatch

    by bobinson on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 01:29:22 AM PST

    •  Should we tax them into hiring people? (0+ / 0-)


    •  Maybe I am being dense (0+ / 0-)

      but I don't understand your argument.  The rich guy in the first scenario is going to take all the money he can from the business.  The second guy is probably not going to because pulling the money out gets half taken away by the tax man.  It is probably a better bet that in the second scenario, the money is used for capital improvements etc. so that the company keeps making money in the future, dependable money.

      Having cash in a corporation doesn't get people hired, it tends to add to capital improvements...which creates jobs in the companies providing those capital improvements.

      "I watch Fox News for my comedy, and Comedy Central for my news." - Facebook Group

      by Sychotic1 on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 07:43:04 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Or acquisitions (0+ / 0-)

        I don't think Apple is going to use all it's accumulated billionsjust to build it's new office building.

        High tech companies above a certain size only grow by acquisition.

        •  There wouldn't be billions if things weren't (0+ / 0-)

          already set up where they get to keep so much of the profit.

          Capital improvements include a certain amount of acquisition, like a new product line as well as a certain amount of R&D.  Looking back at the 50s and the 60s, what was the money spent on?

          "I watch Fox News for my comedy, and Comedy Central for my news." - Facebook Group

          by Sychotic1 on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 01:29:36 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  call it "Homeland Protection Contribution" (0+ / 0-)

    Use the terms they so love.

    Everybody should do what they can to protect our homeland.

    And everybody should contribute what they are asked.

    It doesn't matter what they are asked to pay - "You want to pay your fair share to protect our Rodina Homeland, don't you. Citizen?"

    Anybody who objects shall be labeled a "resource hoarder"

    It's all in the wording.

    Disclaimer: Weapons of Mass Destruction and terrorists may vary according to region, definition, and purpose. Belief systems pandered separately.

    by BlackBandFedora on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 02:19:29 AM PST

  •  American politics is always a fight for values, (0+ / 0-)

    not outcomes.

    The reason fairness is at the center of Democratic Party values is because it is at the center of American values. There is also the value of liberty which is at the center of Republican Party values because it is at the center of American values. The only time one party gets to dominate the other is when one of the two parties forgets completely about the values of the other.

    The tug of war between individual liberty and collective fairness has defined our political culture since the founders.

    The things you discuss here, while noble, would me more appropriate in a traditionaly socially stratified European state. Which, if we have become that, then we probably do need the framing you outline. But if we have, I think the country needs convincing first. I don't think we have quite yet and neither would most Americans I belive.

  •  Well, the real problem is that money, a tool (0+ / 0-)

    for measuring and facilitating trade and exchange is being used as a lever to manipulate the economy by accumulating and hoarding it. Our tax code facilitates this by taxing only money that moves and moving money around in hedge funds and other storage facilities doesn't even count. So, the tax rate is really academic, since hoarders don't pay taxes.
    Some members of Congress, which is tasked with managing our currency, argue that if hoarders are taxed at a lower rate, they will hoard less. There is no evidence to support that argument. Hoarders hoard because they are obsessive and hoarding responds to some unspecified psychic deficit they, apparently, can never make up. That's true whether the hoarders are accumulating tin cans or balls of string and hoarding almost always turns into a nuisance. But, when the thing hoarded is generally useful, the hoarding becomes disruptive to those who need to use it.
    Of course, money being a figment of the imagination, something humans have invented and which can actually be generated (electronically now) in infinite quantities, the supply of money in circulation need not be affected by the hoarding behavior of a few. That it is is a consequence of the Congress, the stewards of our currency, refusing to make up for the constant drain to the hoarders' stash by simply authorizing the release of more from the Treasury. Indeed, the Congress has even arranged to impede the distribution of more currency surreptitiously by arranging the pretense whereby the Federal Reserve Bank acts as a distributing middle man to another layer of middlemen, the investment banks, from whom the Treasury is then supposed to borrow the money back to fund the purchase of goods and services by various levels of government whenever the taxes collected aren't enough. And then, to rub salt in the wound, the Congress constrains tax collections to prompt and encourage the borrowing with bonds. That's how the Congress rewards it's cronies in the investment class, who spring for the propaganda to keep them in office, and punish the electorate that proves reluctant to reelect them.
    We can see the consequences of this scam in the so-called "red states" whose loyal support for the extortionists is rewarded with significantly larger distributions from the public purse. The Socialist States of the South are evidence of the fact that when public services are generous, individual incomes (and the taxes paid) can be less. The State of Georgia, for example, can scoff at the health clinics proposal in the ACA because it is already staffing clinics for preventive care in all it's 159 counties and well-baby clinics are integrated into the WIC program.
    Usually, this scam is run on behalf of Congressional incumbents who slander the productive, tax revenue generating states with the "Socialist" label to avoid calling attention the the real state of affairs. What was peculiar in the 2012 election was that the Republican presidential campaign followed the same strategy and, in a sense, exposed it for all who have eyes to see and ears to hear to perceive. It was disingenuous for Willard Romney to identify the forty seven percent as non-supporters when, in fact, it's the people, at both ends of the spectrum, who are on the dole and not being taxed. The question is was he sincerely confused or was it a sucker play? It was, after all, Barack Obama who was tricked into sponsoring the cat food commission (Simpson-Bowles) and only the luck of the Irish that kept the report from being issued and hung around his neck. But, I'm betting Willard, having seen how the scam is run from the Wall Street side, was naive enough to think he could finess Congress and con them into releasing more money. After all, Willard did say he was going to Washington because that's where the money is. What he perhaps didn't get is that the Capitol Hill Gang is into power and more power flows from withholding than from doling. That's why the threats (to defund education and health and welfare) are direct, while the munificence to the financial class can be circumspect via the Federal Reserve, except when there is a specific job to be paid off, like the crash of 2008. That "the banks call the shots" has as much truth in as that the President makes law. Wielding power is best done from smoke filled rooms or from behind thrones because power, to be felt, has to hurt. So, it is best not to identify the source, lest the injured rise up to retaliate.
    To injure without responsibility is to insure that the injured is not able to respond in kind. That's where triangulation, as employed by the terrorist and the Mafia boss, works best. The kidnapper's variant targets an innocent whom surprise and immaturity prevent from fighting back.
    I'm only bringing up triangulation because the use of that word to describe Bill Clinton's willingness to compromise by "cutting the baby in half" was a clever distraction from how it is actually practiced in Congress, with the President being routinely tagged as the fall-guy.

    We organize governments to provide benefits and prevent abuse.

    by hannah on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 03:09:20 AM PST

  •  great diary--one quibble (0+ / 0-)

    Took too long to get to the meat of the post.  You may be losing readers with the long eulogy to fairness.

    We kidnap. We torture. It's our policy. Embrace it or end it!

    by Mosquito Pilot on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 03:52:30 AM PST

  •  A very erudite diary, which, however, misses (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Alice Olson

    the main point of the phrase:

    The rich need to pay their fair share.
    The main point, of course, is, how Obama managed to firmly implant the idea of a tax increase specifically for rich people  in the public mind. IMHO his success in doing so is very much due to hitting on this phrase.

    You should sometimes stop and consider how it was that the Dems play offense now on areas, where they traditionally got clobbered with. One of these areas is taxes. The Republicans up to now have always been able to hide rich people tax breaks in poor people tax breaks. Now that shield has broken. As I said, no small part of that was making the phrase

    The rich need to pay their fair share.
    ubiquitous in the public discourse.

    He who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.

    by Sophie Amrain on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 03:59:29 AM PST

  •  I've use a 5th argument: self defense. (0+ / 0-)

    It worked well.  I started with a ridiculous lead-in:

    Do you agree with the statement "I don't care what Cuba does with the nukes it pays for, I want to know what the federal government is doing with the nukes my taxes pay for".

    Of course, no one agrees.  And then I point out that they don't agree because they do not assume Cuba is using its nukes in a way that makes our lives better.  Then I ask:  "Why are you assuming the uber-wealthy are using their wealth for your betterment?"

    If I'm feeling mean, I through in a "I just don't share your naivete that the uber-wealthy are looking out for me and share my interests."

    (Note:  whether Cuba has nukes or not doesn't matter, we are talking to wingers in this case).

    and their contempt for the Latin schools was applauded by Theodoric himself, who gratified their prejudices, or his own, by declaring that the child who had trembled at a rod would never dare to look upon a sword.

    by ban48 on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 05:01:17 AM PST

  •  economy needs customers (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Wizard

    The economy as a whole is harmed when there are no customers with enough income to buy things. The 1%ers forget that employees are also customers. With jobs farmed offshore, and pay lowered to poverty levels, there is less and less money available for customers. When inequality reaches a certain point, the economy as we know it will collapse. If the 1% don't share profits they will put themselves out of business.

    Of course they will then be Lords and the rest of us peons in a neo-feudal system so perhaps that doesn't look like a bad outcome to them. And it will take a while to happen, as off-shoring jobs creates customers for a while in other countries.

    Anyhow, putting money in the hands of customers is the externality I argue. It isn't socialism to share, just common sense.

    •  Free market economies fail with maldistribution (0+ / 0-)

      It's not just desirable outcomes, it is that the economy is not stable without income directed to the broad consumer base. If you produce $100 worth of goods or services then that has to be consumed. Ideally you would receive $100 in income, thus receiving the benefit of your labor and keeping the economy going by being able to purchase the output of the economy as an aggregate. We have kept the post 1970 economy going by the cycle of wealth and debt.

      In fact, there is no good reason to have wealth above the median. Capital can be formed from broad based savings. The wealthy have simply stolen the labor of the workers and in the process destroy the economy.

      The irony here is that the real tax on the 99% is not from the government but from the top 1%. If Republicans really want the average American to do better and get the heavy yoke of economic oppression off of the people they would insist on an extreme progressive income tax. But that's not what they really care about, is it?

  •  Rec'd for an interesting frame.. (0+ / 0-)

    But I have a problem with the argument that the past forty years in wealth disparity is a cause rather than a symptom of the three of the four crises you outline (that political influence positively tracks with wealth is self-evident).  A larger share of college graduates are moving on to so-called "unproductive" pursuits, but the overall numbe in "productive" categories increases.  There are more clinicians, pharmacists, and engineers than ever before; there's no shortage of talent to blame here.  

  •  paying your way (0+ / 0-)

    It's not fairness, it's paying your way. As a convert, that's how I look at it now, having been on the wrong side most of my life.

    Personal income taxes on a woman who makes $400K a year need to be significantly higer than a woman to makes $40K a year. The high earner requires more of her society.

    I get that.

    What I don't get is how in the hell the woman who makes $400K a year can be paying as high as 37% on her federal personal tax, yet a guy (or gal) who makes millions a year in investment income can get away with %15 (or lower). Those investment income earners and other true "one percenters) require way more from society. It's exponential even!

    The problem is the average Jane and Joe who hope to make $250K and live the dream can be easily pulled in to the fight on the side of the guy rolling in millions of investment income.

  •  A thousand recs! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RobLewis, Amber6541

    I have viewed this issue in exactly this way for a long time: wealth concentration and income inequality are so harmful to the overall economy, and to the average folks whose labor makes our capitalist system possible, that avoiding it must be a top priority.

    Just imagine how a median income of $86K would affect retail sales? Or the ability of parents to send their kids to college? Many of our economic problems are related to people not having enough money to fully participate in the economy.

    The current "debate" over whether the top marginal rate should be 35% or 39% is a joke. It should be around a 60% to 70% effective rate, with cap gains taxed as ordinary income, and a stiff inheritance tax to boot.

    To have any hope of truly reforming the system we must get money out of politics. As long as the rich are allowed to purchase the services of politicians, we will not have politicians willing to raise taxes on the wealthy in any significant way.

    Again, great diary. We must stop using the right's frames of this issue.

    "A lie is not the other side of a story; it's just a lie."

    by happy camper on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 06:50:04 AM PST

  •  The rich get richer, to poor get poorer (0+ / 0-)

        Had the rich and the richer not hogged all of the wealth created rapid gains in productivity over the last 20 years, I would tend to agree about fairness.  But wages and salaries for the middle class have flat-lined all these years of increasing productivity and the rich have pocketed all the gains.  That is a basic unfairness that nobody talks about yet it is fundamental to the argument.  Now, the rich want to pitch the playing field to their continued advantage to preserve their riches while screwing the lower classes.  
         It would have been fair for the rich and richer to share in the productivity gains and they didn't.  The way to correct that is for government to step in to correct that error.  

  •  A couple of points (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Catte Nappe, Amber6541

    First off, I agree with what you are saying, however, I actually do believe that one can clearly define what is fair in the area of taxation.  When it comes to individuals, if statistical data says that the richest 5% control 70 or 80% of the wealth, then they should be contributing 70 or 80% of the income tax.  We know for a fact that they are paying much less into the system than they are taking.   As a result, people with less wealth are forced to contibute a higher share than the actual share of pie they are taking in.  I believe the bottom 50% of the population only has 1% of national wealth but contributes 3% of taxes.

    Clearly to me that is not good and the reason for the increasing wealth inequality and loss of middle class.  The rich are paying less into the system than they are taking.  The lower economic classes are paying MORE into the system than they get in return.  

    Then we have the issue of corporate taxes.  We know for a fact that some of the biggest and richest corporations pay zero taxes and in some cases, actually get tax refunds.  Again, an example of the richest and most powerful "people" leeching from the system as much as they can at the expense of everyone else.  Corporations should be paying a flat tax regardless of how they make their money or where.  You post X profits, you pay X taxes.  No exceptions.  If they want tax breaks, then they should prove that they invested those profits back into the business IN AMERICA. Not china or india or wherever.  You want a break on your american taxes, then you put money back into the american system.  As it stands now we know that companies are hiding billions of dollars over seas and refusing to bring it back into the US because they don't want to pay taxes.

    Having said all that, I still agree with your overall point.  I don't believe it is government's job to be "fair" because trying to be a "fair" government with "fair" policies is impossible.  Someone will always get a bigger or smaller benefit/gain than someone else.  Just like how tax cuts overwhelmingly favour the wealthy while everyone else gets only pennies back in their pockets.   The job of government should be to help those who need it the most.  It should be to ensure everyone has equal opportunity and that, in my opinion, would mean very unfair policies....for the already rich and powerful and successful who already have the means to control and manipulate the system to their benefit at the expense of everyone else.  

    Instead, our current system seems to be the exact opposite.  Small businesses struggle and have to play by the rules while big box stores get all kinds of special treatment.  Individuals are punished for trying to get more money for their labour, but the rich seem to have legal entitlements to make as much money as possible in as short a time as possible at the expense of workers.  The list goes on and on and if you ask me, is back-asswards.

  •  the term "fair share" is important to use (0+ / 0-)

    Of course rich people don't like the term "fair share" as it is vague, but that is exactly why it should continue to be used.  Rich people arguing about what their fair share actually is will lead to them actually paying closer to their fair share.  It is what you argue about that becomes what decisions are made.

    •  the trouble is (0+ / 0-)

      a perfectly rational definition of "fair" is "the same rate".  In other words, the flat tax.   And while this would bring in more money from the tax-dodging plutocrats, it would not bring in as much as really higher rates for them, like we had in the 50's and 60's.   You remember the 50's and 60's, the boom times?

  •  your policy points are excellent (0+ / 0-)

    but mostly fair is fair,   and the rich do need to pay their fair share, it is an old concept.  To whom much is given, from whom much is expected.   The rich benefit more from government, contrary to right wing talking points, always have.   That the system evens up the benefits even a few percentage points makes a huge difference to overall prosperity and happiness in society.  The rich constantly let greed outrun good sense.   Someone has to stop them.  It's only fair.

  •  Jared Bernstein has a good new piece (0+ / 0-)

    on inequality here.

    It has links to a couple of reports.

    More data:

    since the early 1980s, according to Piketty and Saez, we've transferred 15% of national income from the bottom 90% of households to the top 10%.
    Fifteen percent of national income. That ain't chump change, folks!

    What is valued is practiced. What is not valued is not practiced. -- Plato

    by RobLewis on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 10:13:12 AM PST

  •  Tax the rich to prevent oligarcy from (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    cancelling democracy.

    We cannot win a war crime - Dancewater, July 27, 2008

    by unclejohn on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 10:17:47 AM PST

  •  Fairness is one of the most powerful human (0+ / 0-)

    motivators.  Characterizing the issue of taxing the rich as one of "fairness" is absolutely crucial to getting any new taxes passed.  The diarist's motive may be pure, but "Fairness" is the vehicle with which we will carry forward all those other laudable goals he describes.

    Liberals must not, in the name of analytical purity, shy away from framing their issues in ways that evoke powerful emotions.

    You can tell Monopoly is an old game because there's a luxury tax and rich people can go to jail.

    by Simian on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 10:44:52 AM PST

  •  As someone who would identify as a Libertarian (0+ / 0-)

    I'd be all for higher taxation as long as it meant real spending cuts (where a cut is not defined as less increases than were originally planned).  I think that's true for a lot of conservatives... The fear is that we boost taxes (whether that's on just a subset of people or all people) and then figure 'oh boy, we've got all of this extra money sitting around so we may as well increase expenditures by even more'...

    Then we're back in the same position that we started in...

  •  Great diary (0+ / 0-)

    I logged in to tip and rec it.  I hate using the word "fair" for precisely the reason you defined:  It's such a squishy and difficult to define term that it makes it hard to make concrete, logical arguments for better tax policy.  

    Another great way to do it is by using President Clinton's argument:  math.  It's pretty simple actually -- when 1% of the people in this country own 40% of the wealth, and you're trying to pay for the stuff that we all use, it's pretty easy to figure out where to go to get all the money.  Aircraft carriers and bridges don't grow on trees, and there is almost universal support that we need these things.  If you want to pay for them, you have to get the money from somewhere.  And since the wealthiest 1% are currently hoarding a shitload of wealth while the bottom 50% are barely getting by, it's easy to see where the money pretty much HAS to come from.  You can't get blood from a stone.  If you want aircraft carriers, and bridges, and Medicare, and Social Security, and money for schools, etc, etc .... We have to raise taxes on wealth.  It's not about what's fair or about what's just, it's simple math -- we need money to pay for that stuff and they have all the money.  

    I think this is an argument that should appeal to conservatives, because it honors their ideas while challenging their spending cut fetish.  They won't argue for spending cuts for things even most conservatives agree they want, and it challenges them to put up or shut up if they are serious about deficit reduction.  You guys want to keep this stuff that voters like so they'll keep voting for you?  Fine.  PAY FOR IT.  

    A desperate disease requires a dangerous remedy.

    by Guy Fawkes on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 12:21:57 PM PST

  •  This bit is so well put: (0+ / 0-)
    The explanation is that a lot of what the rich do consists of "zero-sum" activities, in which one person's loss is another's gain.  In fact, Malloy and Case note, "some individuals in the top income group pursue quite a number of activities that others might be glad to see them spending less time on."
  •  There's nothing "fair" about capitalism (0+ / 0-)

    in the first place.  That's not to say it should be abolished, but people should start talking about it in more rational terms.

    Raw capitalism:  the big fish on the top gobble up all the food before any of it can get to the small fish on the bottom.  That's why they made all those reforms in the 19th century that Americans know nothing about.

    The "invisible hand" doesn't regulate the market - it wanks it. -- SantaFeMarie

    by Dinclusin on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 01:04:13 PM PST

  •  Warren Buffett is on board…to a degree (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Guy Fawkes

    He had an op-ed in yesterday's New York Times, in which he proposed a "no-loopholes" minimum tax rate of 35% on incomes over $10 million, and 30% between $1 million and $10 million.

    Maybe not enough to dramatically reduce wealth concentration, but it's a start. Mitt Romney would be appalled!

    What is valued is practiced. What is not valued is not practiced. -- Plato

    by RobLewis on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 01:23:11 PM PST

  •  I think this (0+ / 0-) one of the most important diaries I've seen for a long time.

    Thank you for a well-reasoned and well-stated article.

    "The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness." —John Kenneth Galbraith

    by eyeswideopen on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 03:52:16 PM PST

  •  Wealth concentration becomes a form of (0+ / 0-)

    rent seeking behavior after it reaches a certain point because the wealthy don't need to do anything productive in order to increase their wealth.  The US economy is become a large version of the NYC taxi medallion system with average people being the cab drivers and the very wealthy the medallion owners.

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