Monday, February 03, 2003

Fair is fair ...

I was driving out to visit my brother yesterday and happened upon an AM-radio talkshow. I don't know which host it was -- does it really matter? It was obvious that the guy was of the right-wing persuasion.

When I tuned in, he was making a point about Title X funding. If you don't know, title X is the federal law that requires equality between men and women's sports programs. His gripe was that some federal commission had looked at this and that all the "liberals" wanted the system revamped to make it more fair. This, of course, will likely result in the defunding or even elimination of men's programs so that women's programs would be on equal footing.

For the radio host, this was just plain stupid. "For too long in this country we've been focusing on equality and fairness as the means to an end. And that just doesn't make sense. What we should do is just do things that make sense. And it doesn't make sense to get rid of men's programs so that women have a program."

You know, conservatives have been pushing their tax cut plans using this concept of "fairness." They say, "Why should the rich pay more taxes than everyone else? That's just not fair."

Maybe not, but doesn't it "make sense" that people who have more money are more able to pay taxes. Sure, 40 percent is a lot of money. But at the end of the day, the rich man still has more money left over than the poor man. Sure, it's not fair that the rich guy has to make more money, but it just makes sense.

I think the real problem is that the pundits are focused too much on the personal income tax part of this argument. That leaves other aspects of tax policy -- which are just important -- untouched. What about corporate income taxes, which have declined precipitously over the past 50 years? What about all the other minutiae? "Too complex. Wouldn't want to confuse the issue." Right.

I've had the good fortune to have (and keep!) a good job for the past few years. With my wife's income, our family is getting into that "upper-middle-class" bracket, so a lot of these proposals are aimed right at me.

The same talk-show radio host I mentioned earlier also fulminated about a plan that would change the contribution limits on Roth 401k plans. "The plan would simply raise the income limits for contributions to $90,000 for a single wage earner and $160,000 for a dual-income household," is what he said (I'm not sure on that second figure.)

At first I thought, "well, what's wrong with that?" Believe it or not, if my good fortune continues, I can see a day where the wife and I are in that second bracket. Maybe not next year -- but five, ten years from now?

Of course, it's not always so simple, as Nathan Newman explains.

Look, here's my deal: as nice as it would be for me to see a little bit more cash in my pocket, I'm worried about what that's going to do when my kids' generation inherits this mess ... does that make sense?

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