Enough Already with 'Pay Your Fair Share'

Congressional Republicans fresh upon the heels of victory after defeating the latest effort to repeal and replace Obamacare are gearing up for their next project: tax reform.  Yes, I am being facetious.  As the majority party, who for the past eight years have been promising their voters to repeal Obamacare, the fact that they haven't can mean only that that they really don't want to repeal it – and thus far have succeeded in their efforts to see that it remains in place.

Taxes are the next frontier.  Republicans are the party of lower taxes and smaller government, aren't they?  That's what I always thought until the past 16 years.  The national debt doubled under a Republican president, then doubled again under a Democrat president – while the GOP controlled Congress during most of those 16 years.

If health care reform is a harbinger of tax reform, it's likely that nothing will happen.  Taxes will remain where they are.  And hopefully, many GOP representatives and senators, after 2018, will not remain where they are, primaried into early retirement.

For the sake of argument, let's pretend the stars are aligned for Republicans.  Control of the White House, Senate, and House, along with an engaged and energized Republican electorate.  Time to get stuff done.  Health care, immigration, the wall, taxes, regulation, and so on.

Wait, the stars are aligned, but unfortunately, congressional Republicans are looking at their feet, rather than the stars, failing to see the once-in-a-generation opportunity they have – not only to enact a conservative agenda, assuming that's what they want, but also to cement their majorities for a generation.

President Trump's tax plan, on the table for only a few days, is already under fire.  Of course, the media and their Democrat Party political arm are against anything and everything Trump.  But once again, it's the president's own party grousing about the tax plan.

The tax plan ends deductions for state and local income taxes.  This will significantly affect those states with high state income taxes, primarily blue, such as California at 13 percent; Oregon and Minnesota at 10 percent; and New York, New Jersey and D.C. at 9 percent.  Boo-hoo.  Aren't high taxes good and noble?  Aren't Democrats always moaning that the rich don't pay their fair share?  Blue states get what they ask for.

The "pay your fair share" canard is dragged out of the Democrat broom closet any time a Republican dares to propose tax cuts in any shape or form, much like a pull-string doll that has only a few phrases to utter each time the string is pulled.  This one can join other phrases such as "Trump is a white supremacist," "Russia hacked the election," and "Republicans are racists."

Expect to October media narrative to focus on "pay your fair share" rather than "Russian collusion," which is fizzling out faster than NFL players kneeling for social justice.  What exactly is a "fair share"?

I once saw liberal pundit Juan Williams interviewed on this topic. The show host asked Juan what tax rate he proposes for the "rich" as a "fair share."  Forty percent?  Fifty percent?  Seventy percent?  Poor Juan got tongue-tied and couldn't come up with a number, proving that "fair share" is nothing more than a left-wing talking point.

Like asking a climate warrior what is "normal" for temperature, sea level, hurricane frequency, or any other aspect of climate that they insist is worsening.  If they don't know what normal is, how can they know it's worsening?  Maybe it's improving.

It's worth reviewing who actually pays income tax before making nonsensical claims about "fair share."  IRS data from calendar year 2014 was compiled by the Tax Foundation.

In 2014, 140 million taxpayers earned $9.7 trillion in income and paid $1.4 trillion in taxes – about a 14-percent overall tax rate.  Seems fair.

What about the "rich," those in the top 1 percent?  They paid 40 percent of income taxes.  Is that fair?  The bottom 90 percent of earners paid only 29 percent of taxes.  Is that fair?

Let's leave the "rich" for a moment and look at the top 50 percent of all taxpayers.  They paid 97 percent of all income taxes, virtually everything.  The bottom 50 percent paid only 3 percent, virtually nothing.  How does "fair share" fit into those statistics?

Who are these top 50 percent fat cats paying almost all the taxes?  They have an income over $38,000 per year.  This translates to an hourly wage of about $19 per hour – only a few dollars more than the $15 minimum wage being implemented around the country.  Hardly rich.

Another way to look at is through average tax rates.  The top 1 percent must give 27 percent of their income to the federal government.  The top ten percent part with only 14 percent of their income.  The top 50 percent pay only 8 percent while the bottom 50 percent pay 4 percent.

So again, what is a "fair share"?  Should the top 1 percent pay half of their income to the government?  Why stop at 50 percent?  Make the top 1 percent pay 80 or 90 percent of their income to Washington, D.C.  Leave everyone with about $40,000 a year to live on.  A living wage.

Why not the top 10 percent, too?  Leaving little money left to purchase goods and services which in turn provide income to many others.  Such as purchasing NFL tickets or merchandise so millionaire ball players can protest how unjust America is.

As predictable as sunrise and sunset, the left is playing the class warfare card.  How about a real debate over what is a fair share?  Or why only half of workers are paying almost all the income tax?

Will Republicans, afraid of their own shadows and what Chuck Todd or Jake Tapper will say about them, cave on tax reform?  Rearranging the deck chairs and calling it a tax cut?  Rather than looking at far fairer alternatives such as a flat tax or a consumption tax?

Why aren't Republicans talking about historic tax cuts and the resulting economic growth?  Kennedy, Reagan, and Bush 43 all cut taxes and unleashed the economy.

Are Republicans as eager as Democrats for Trump to fail?  For another of his initiatives to fizzle out?  The donor class may be happy, but the voters won't be.  Republicans fear the former and loathe the latter.  But voters will win in the end, as they did last November 8.

Will Republicans dither and argue as they did over Obamacare repeal and replace, passing nothing, leaving President Trump with another goose egg rather than letting him fulfill another of his campaign pledges?

Trump may be stymied by his own party, but the voters are not.  Trumpism is alive and well, hitting back against the Republican establishment.  Ask Luther Strange.  Or Bob Corker.

This is another golden opportunity for the GOP Congress – a slow pitch right down the middle.  Rather than swinging for the fences, they will likely watch the plate for a strike.  Again.  Three strikes, and you're out.

Brian C Joondeph, M.D., MPS is a Denver-based physician and writer.  Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter

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