Mitt Romney’s statement about the “47%” has gotten Americans debating “fairness.” Many families are struggling to pay the rent or mortgage, and many are unable to send their kids to college or save for retirement. When they read about how income has soared for the top 1% and stayed flat or dropped for them, they wonder who decides fairness.
Until recently, if anyone voiced concerns about fairness, they were accused of “class envy.” Then Warren Buffet, the third richest man in the world, made his now-famous statement about how he got the tax breaks, and it was not fair to his secretary. And when Buffet was challenged to prove she paid twice the tax rate he did, Buffet released his 2010 tax returns and proved the unfairness.
Buffet turned the conversation to exactly the one we need to have in this country – what’s fair. He told ABC News, “If this is a war, my side has the nuclear bomb... We have K Street. … We have Wall Street. Debbie doesn’t have anybody. I want a government that is responsive to the people who got the short straw in life” (http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/business/2012/01/warren-buffett-and-his-secretary-talk-taxes/).
Wealth creation is good. People want to be able to take care of their children. It’s a lot better to live in a nice house or apartment in a safe neighborhood than in a run down neighborhood. It’s a lot nicer when a community has the money it needs to offer quality services to its citizens. There are more civic organizations and opportunities for economic success in a community that is not poor.
The issue is not wealth creation. It is not class envy either. It is about fairness, about people and corporations paying their fair share.
Americans realize that the very wealthy and corporations have been very effective at lobbying, and that tax codes favor the rich. Oklahoma Senator Coburn, a very conservative Republican, has written a report called “Subsidies of the Rich and Famous” to show how unfair it is.
People are unhappy enough when they find out they pay a higher percentage of their income than Warren Buffet. They are even unhappier when they find out that, according to CNN Money, two-thirds of US corporations paid zero income taxes.
They are upset that Mitt Romney paid 13.7% and 14% on the only two years of income taxes that he would show.
But then Romney said that 47% of people think they are victims, "entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.”
That was just too over the top. Apparently, Mitt Romney and Frank Guinta, who refused to refute it, think that the government is not being fair... to the well off!
Some Republican leaders, to their credit, disavowed those remarks. But Congressman Guinta stood by Romney and called the comments just “a distraction.”
Frank Guinta has stood up for fairness for oil companies also. In Conway, when somebody said it wasn’t fair that oil companies get subsidies, Frank Guinta said if we take that away, to be fair, we have to give oil companies rent-free leases. Congressman Guinta's exact words were, "… the simple point on that issue is if you’re going to get rid of that tax benefit to those 5 companies, let’s also eliminate the lease payments and make it fair…" (at 9:13: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kGdctx1na5A) How is taking away taxpayer subsidies from oil companies so unfair that Americans need to give them free leases to take our oil on our public lands? And why does he now deny that there are subsidies to oil companies, after admitting it in Conway? I guess he now worries that the rest of us don't find that very fair.
I think this story is emblematic of the selfish thinking of the right wing today. It used to be “I got mine and will hide it so you have to pay your fair share and mine.” Now it is “I’ve got mine and want yours too.”
This election is about fairness for “the rest of us.” It’s about refusing to allow the right-wing in Washington and Concord to dismantle programs that we all paid into and earned – Medicare and Social Security.
Is it fair to hire lobbyists to write tax code for politicians to insert into bills to benefit the richest, so they can deduct yachts and horses?
Is it fair for those who claim tax deductions for everything to then turn around and insult the 47% who are really struggling?
It’s not fair, but we can make it fair.
Former Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter represented New Hampshire’s First District from 2007-2011, she is seeking a third term in the November, 2012 election. She wrote the proposal for and established a non-profit, social service agency, which continues to serve all ages. She taught politics and history and is a strong supporter of Medicare and Social Security.