Did you ever have one of those phrases that isn’t quite a pet peeve, but sticks in your craw nonetheless? A phrase that just doesn’t really make sense or that is so overused and misused that it makes the little hairs on the back of your neck twitch every time you hear it? Sort of like an earworm but shorter?
Yeah. You know what I mean.
Well, I’ve got one that’s been bugging the hell out of me, and there’s a lot of hell in me to bug, and that’s the phrase “their fair share.”
All the politicians, pundits and radio talk show weasels (full disclosure: I wish I were one of those radio talk show weasels.) are using this phrase, but mostly I hear it in the context of the super rich in the United States of America being chastised for not paying “their fair share.” I wouldn’t have a huge problem with the phrase if it weren’t being used to demonize the rich and promote class warfare in this country. (“Class warfare” is almost there as my second most annoying phrase.) But for the moment, let’s break down the phrase “their fair share” from the perspective of our close personal friends at Merriam-Webster.
“Their” is an adjective meaning “… of or relating to them or themselves especially as possessors, agents, or objects of an action.” In short, it indicates ownership.
“Fair.” I like definition 6.a: ”… marked by impartiality and honesty : free from self-interest, prejudice, or favoritism.” Please note the last words in this definition: “free from self-interest, prejudice or favoritism.” (Makes me think that no politician in this day and age falls into this category, therefore, none of them are entitled to use the word “fair” at all. But that’s just me.)
And last, of course, for those of you keeping score at home, we have the word “share.” This is where it gets a little murky and you may pick a definition to suit your liking. I picked 1.a.: “…a portion belonging to, due to, or contributed by an individual or group” because it’s the simplest and it seemed to suit my premise, which I’ll get to in a minute. You could also go with 2.a.: “the part allotted or belonging to one of a number owning together property or interest.” I suppose this is OK as well. In any case, the sticking point in these definitions comes down to how you define the “group” of the first definition, or the “number” of the second. Essentially, those two words define the demographic comprising those who will do the sharing.
I’m no Constitutional scholar, and I’m way too lazy to do a whole lot of digging, but I don’t believe that the founding documents of this Nation made nor did they intend to create any distinction based on net worth. Oh sure, they made distinctions, but the whole gender and race thing were adjusted in the Constitution’s 19th, 15th and 13th Amendments. Not to say that these three amendments completely solved the problems they set out to solve, but it removed more distinctions from the Constitution.
Bottom line from my foxhole is that the Constitution from its first words: “We the People of the United States…” and supported in its following paragraphs and Amendments indicates that it was intended to apply to everyone. Not just the rich. Not just the middle class, the poor, the upside-down-on-their-home owners, Wall Street workers or cartoon characters, but everyone.
Everyone. All-inclusive. What you have when you add everyone else and me. Everyone.
So, “their” implies “everyone.” “Fair” implies impartiality and “free from distinction”, and “share” is a portion.
Therefore “their fair share” means everyone contributes equitably. Everyone. All-inclusive. What you have when you add everyone else and me. Everyone.
I’m not going to quote statistics about who is paying what percentage of income tax under our ridiculously complex and hilariously comical tax code. (Really, the IRS should distribute its 1040 form on the funny pages.) The details really don’t matter to me. To me, “their fair share” means everyone has an interest in and a responsibility to contribute to this Nation’s prosperity through hard work and yes, even paying taxes. Everyone uses the services provided by our government, and everyone should share the burden. The Constitution doesn’t say “We the People making over $250,000.00 annually of the United States…” it says “We the People.” We. Everyone. All-inclusive. What you have when you add everyone else and me. Everyone.
The super rich are not to be leaned on because they have deep pockets. The middle class is not to be leaned on because they and small businesses are the engine of our economy. The poor is not to be leaned on because they can’t afford it, but neither should they be exempt. There’s no class distinction in our Constitution and there should be no class distinction in politics. “We the People.” We. Everyone. All-inclusive. What you have when you add everyone else and me. Everyone.
We’re all in this together and we all share the responsibility for and the burden of our collective successes and failures.
To the members of Congress and the President, to all the politicians and pundits who are segregating this Nation based on wealth, you are behaving in an unconstitutional fashion.
Knock it off, wouldja?
We The People deserve better.
*** Edit: I am quoting with permission a cogent response from a fine gentleman on another site. Never let it be said that I don’t try to be fair! ***
“Well, although it serves your ultimate point better, definition 6a for “fair” in Merriam Webster really does not make any sense when you attempt to fit it into the phrase “their fair share.” Definition 6b is better, especially since Merriam Webster itself suggests that definition in relation to the phrase “a fair share.” Did you miss that entirely?
Here is definition 6b (1) : conforming with the established rules : allowed (2) : consonant with merit or importance : due (a fair share)
So, if the Congress, which WE THE PEOPLE elected, finds it in their wisdom to decide that the very rich can afford to pay more (and why shouldn’t they be able to afford it – they pay the same price for a loaf of bread as the poorest of the poor. The difference is in how much the rich and the poor have left over after buying the bread.) then Congress can pass a law to that effect, and the higher tax will be “conforming with the established rules.”
The poor pay taxes, any way. They are not exempt. They pay sales tax, they pay tax on their unemployment checks if they still get them. If they have jobs they pay payroll taxes. For many of the working poor, their federal income tax burden is offset by the Earned Income Tax Credit. So it is disingenuous (read: false) to claim the poor aren’t paying, as much so as it is to pretend the very rich will be overburdened by some additional taxation, say, the levels they paid back when the USA was thriving.”
And my response:
Your point is granted. The second definition does say what you say is does, and that’s all well and good. However, I don’t believe that the application of unfair rules, even if legally levied, are by their nature fair. So item 6b above is a matter of opinion more than it’s a matter of fact. “Conforming to established rules” does not imply equity.
And you’re right. Everyone pays SOME tax. I probably should have specified income tax. But everyone pays some form of taxes regardless of income earned. The richest of the rich and the middest of the middle all pay social security, medicare, sales, gas and other taxes without regard to net worth. But NOT everyone pays INCOME tax. Some have it withheld and then get it back at the end of the year because of lack of income. Some deal in cash only. There ARE folks who don’t pay income taxes.
I also advocate taxing all income as income. I think interest income, capital gains, wages, you name it all should be taxed at the same rate.
Too damned many loopholes. My ideal tax code would be everyone sharing the burden and everyone sharing the benefit.