What Obama Means When He Talks About 'Fairness'
President Obama announced this month that his administration plans to close many of the "corporate loopholes" that enable companies to refrain from adding taxes to the government coffers.
One of the most significant of these "loopholes" is the ability of U.S. companies to indefinitely defer payment on taxes for revenues earned overseas. One Democratic talking head after another repeatedly used the word fairness in detailing why the government would risk making U.S. companies less competitive in a global marketplace by taxing revenues made outside of the United States. Julie Roginsky, a Democratic strategist, said the following on CNBC:
This isn't a tax issue; this is a fairness issue. ... There are people who are billionaires who are taking their money and putting it in tax free offshore accounts, and do you think that's fair?
Roginsky asked Republican strategist Jack Burkman: "Do you think it's fair to you and me who have to pay these taxes?" Each time a CNBC commentator asked if the White House is at all concerned about companies and wealthy individuals leaving the U.S. for places where their tax burden will remain low, Roginsky came back at them with the unfairness of current tax law.
This concept of fairness is pervasive in the Obama administration. Obama himself made that clear while still on the campaign trail. Charles Krauthammer pointed out in an April column that when "asked by Charlie Gibson during a campaign debate about his support for raising capital gains taxes -- even if they caused a net revenue loss to the government -- Obama stuck to the tax hike 'for purposes of fairness.'"
Fairness is a concept at the heart of Barack Obama's political philosophy. That philosophy, and his adherence to it, is undoubtedly one of the things that make him such a man of the people to his supporters.
The trouble with fairness is that it doesn't exist.
According to Webster's New World College Dictionary, Fourth Edition, the general word fair "implies the treating of both or all sides alike, without reference to one's own feelings or interests." But in politics, all sides can't be treated alike. Giving to one person or group requires either denying something to -- or directly taking from -- another.