Senator Patty Murray: Pay Your 'Fair Share'

US Senator Patty Murray claims that the "rich" must pay "their fair share" to resolve the federal "fiscal cliff". When will she pay? What about the unions? Will her constituents have to pay, too?

On the Veterans Day edition of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos", US Senator Patty Murray discussed with her Republican counterpart Saxby Chambliss of Georgia that both sides must come together in Washington to protect the country's economy and resolve the fiscal cliff crisis. If Democrats and Republicans cannot reach a compromise, all of the Bush tax cuts will expire, and an automatic sequester will cut hundreds of billions from military and defense spending.

Speaking for the Democrats in both chambers of Congress, Murray drew a line in the sand: "The rich must pay their fair share." If the Republicans cannot offer a compromise which does not raise taxes on "the rich", then the country will go over the fiscal cliff. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich later commented that Republicans should refuse any deals pressured out of fear, nor should they agree to any tax increases without itemizing then finalizing the spending cuts and entitlement reforms.

No one has yet bothered to focus or parse Senator Murray's three harmonious and assonant expectations: the "rich" must pay "their fair share."

First of all, how does one define "rich"? Compared to almost four-fifths of the world's population, Americans, even the residually undefined homeless, are quite well off. The vast majority of people living in third-world countries have no access to clean water, nor can they find charities which offer them adequate nutrition in spite of their poverty. Even those who eke out a living selling goods in a local swap meet or who grow their own food barely scrounge enough sustenance to maintain themselves from week to week.

I live in a safe city with food, water, shelter, and easy access to libraries and fast food restaurants. Despite the crippling Great Recession which has not recovered fast enough to replenish this country's massive job losses, my neighbors still have work, they still make money, and they are able to get by. At any time, we can call the police or the fire department in case of danger. We can appeal to our city leaders in weekly council meetings should we have any concerns about the status of our city's stability or integrity. In many ways, we are very rich.

Does Senator Murray want people like me to pay "their fair share"?

Then one should consider the union interests in this country. Despite the backlash from taxpayers and statehouses about the unsustainable pensions and benefits obligations, unions still command enough numbers to intimidate legislators and stall government business in select state capitals. These union leaders rake in significant sums of money from their members, who have to contribute in twenty-six states, although Michigan just recently became the twenty-fourth state to pass "right to work" legislation.

Then there are the federal legislators, Congressmen and Senators, including  Murray. They receive Cadillac healthcare benefits and receive hefty pensions once they leave office. While President Obama is lining up to force Americans to purchase health insurance or pay a fine (tax), it appears that Washington's Congressional delegation will not be giving up their current health insurance to participate in the statewide ObamaCare exchanges.

Besides her pension and her health coverage, Senator Murray loves to spend other people's money, our federal tax dollars, on pet projects, pork, and any other bill that she can pass without alarming too many talking heads in the Beltway or in the Evergreen State. From her Congressional pay to her pork, Murray is "rich", and she better pay her "fair share."

In effect, "fair" as an arbiter for determining anything not only founders in the face of more penetrating inquiry, but this notion of "fair" ends up conjuring up results precisely the opposite of what leaders in Washington claim. Tax hikes on the "rich" end up hurting middle class, working class, and even impoverished citizens in this country. Tax increases induce wealthy and well-connected investors to store their assets in trust funds and tax shelters, where the money accumulates interest for one person. The same funds could start or expand businesses, which would hire more workers, get more people out of unemployment into stable work. More business, more jobs, more spending, more tax revenue, and the state would take in more money than government officials would ever predict from raising tax rates.

Also, the idea that entrepreneurs and industrious investors are obligated to "share" what they have earned is insulting as much as injurious. The state has no moral right to take more from hard-working individuals or profiting corporations simply because they "have more".

"Rich" describes far more people than one realizes. "Fair" is so arbitrary as to be dangerous in its meaninglessness; and "share" is immoral if it is the government forcing someone to part with property or money which they have legitimately accrued. Besides, the focus should be on the "rich" in government, like Senator Patty Murray and the public sector unions who support her. When are they going to pay "their fair share"?

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Jon H December 31, 2012 at 05:32 AM
I think it is pretty clear that Obama's positions are in fact socialist in nature. He stands for more, centralized government. A government that is deeply engaged in the matters of business and the economy (GM, Solindra, et al). This isn't a scare tactic and while some might get all wound up about the term on both sides, I for one don't see an issue with calling a spade a spade. Earlier I stated in a response to Saska this who notion of sending my tax dollars to a central authority who can then best decide how the money is spend is absurd when you really thing about it. Patty Murray is not rocket scientist and I certainly wouldn't hire her for advice on money issues, let alone pretty much anything else. As far the debt ceiling, Obama has yet to display anything approaching leadership. Spouting campaign talking points and focusing on the tax issue and not the real issue of spending is beyond amazing. Thank goodness for him, he has the media in his pocket.
Saskia Davis December 31, 2012 at 05:46 AM
Good points, all, Janet. Call it socialism or public services or whatever you like: as a society we need the services. Do we need them administered federally or locally? Perhaps it is good to have both. What we have found in regard to people with developmental intellectual disabilities (mental retardation complicated by other disabilities) who need services and who are unable to advocate for or defend themselves, all too often there is not enough protection for them from the local level. In fact, until federal programs were initiated for them, they were ignored or very mistreated and abused. Since I care very much about people of such vulnerability, I prefer systems in which there is optimal protection for them. Some in this discussion may object to this as "socialism", and probably don't want their taxes being used for such purposes, but what I care about is the pragmatic results of the care and protection that they receive or do not receive as a result of the level of their program administration. Fortunately for those who object to services to meet our collective interests, I have a limited amount of time for this discussion; and it is about used up. Otherwise, I could fill pages on the subject. Not that it would persuade anyone if I did. Blessings for a Happy New Year, All. I am bowing out.
Mary L. Ballard, MD December 31, 2012 at 03:31 PM
It's spelled "Eisenhower" people.
Arthur Christopher Schaper January 01, 2013 at 12:04 AM
Roads are "public works", not collective enterprises. I do not oppose such outlays. Socialism implies a complete governmental take over of the means of production and capital. Public works is not socialism or collectivism. Do not misconstrue the two. Contributions through taxes for public works are acceptable. The Constitution outlines a Postal Service for example. Yet the Constitution never institued an income tax or even a sales tax. The Federal Government was supposed to operate on the revenue from tariffs and land sales. That would be a nice set-up. Saskia, to quote Mr. Buckley: "You are a pyromaniac in a field of strawmen." But do not feel burned. Even the fire than burns away the chaff of misnomers makes for good discussion.
Arthur Christopher Schaper January 01, 2013 at 01:53 AM
"Pay in proportion to their incomes." What does that mean? The same problem emerges, just like with "their fair share." Who makes these decisions? As has occured time and again in this country, a small tax on the wealthy becomes a tax on everyone. The US Government is going over the cliff, and I am glad. The hyperpartisanship born of a President who won't preside, followed by a Senate which refuses to do anything should be enough of a rebuke to those who chose to send the President and Senate back in to power.


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