Then he proposes something refreshing. He states that conservatives have abdicated the issue of fairness to the liberals. With President Obama leading the way, liberals constantly use the notion of “fairness” to argue for higher taxes on our most productive citizens. Obama knows that he can’t argue the facts, since high-earning individuals already pay a disproportionate share of their income, along with much of the overall tax burden. Brooks, however, maintains that the issue of fairness really belongs to conservatives, pointing out that while only 11% of Americans favor redistribution, 89% defend a meritocracy. He claims that if the left is winning the fairness argument, it’s because the right isn’t in the game.
Seeing that this was such an effective argument, I thought that I would try it out. I recently met with Todd Zink, a Republican candidate for the California State Senate. Zink, who was a Lt. Colonel in the United States Marines, is a political novice, and when I suggested that he should use the fairness argument in his campaign, his eyes lit up. I suggested he should say that it is unfair for Democrats to raise taxes while ordinary Californians are working hard and struggling to make ends meet. It is unfair for public employees to have cushy pensions after 20 or 25 years while the ordinary taxpayer has to work for 40 years for a far more meager retirement. It’s not fair that 47% of Americans pay no federal income taxes at all. And it’s not fair to urban black parents for their children to be stuck in poorly performing schools without the choice of going elsewhere. Ultimately it is how you frame the issue, and Brooks is correct.
Brooks’ book is filled with great ideas to help conservatives frame the debate and win the day. In the competitive world of politics, we all need to improve our delivery, and Dr. Brooks with his book is here to help.