Mona Charen

God bless him. Joe the plumber, that is, for coaxing from Sen. Obama his true motive for raising taxes. It isn't to fund the government, or deal with the deficit, or to establish a rainy day fund. It's to "spread the wealth around," which the Illinois senator insists is "good for everyone."

Sen. Obama calls this a "tax fairness plan," but what is fair?

Everyone knows that some people work harder than others. We've all witnessed it. If John Q chooses to work 60 hours a week to advance his career, and Henry Y prefers to spend time playing video games, who is to say that Henry deserves some of the extra income John has earned? Is that fairness? I call it completely unfair.

What's that? John and Henry didn't start out in life in the same position? Well, that's true. But there is no such thing as a totally equal society. (Nor is it desirable.) Even in places like Sweden, some are born into loving, wealthy two-parent families and others are born to alcoholic single mothers. Some have good looks and talent, others don't. No society south of Heaven can ever be completely equal. But the essential justice of a society is measured, I believe, not by whether you have equality of condition but by whether you have equal opportunity. Not only is this more fair in principle, it is also more successful in practice. People do not work for the general good. They work for their own individual ends, which in turn promotes the general welfare. Societies that ask workers to labor for "the people" get poor results. As the joke from the old Soviet Union had it -- "They pretend to pay us and we pretend to work." By contrast, the capacity of the American economy to reward effort and initiative is legendary and has lured ambitious people to our shores for more than two centuries. It has also made us the wealthiest society in history.

You don't have to look at socialist countries to know that redistribution of income punishes success and rewards sloth. We've seen it here. Our welfare system was intended to help the poor -- but because it was poorly structured, it wound up discouraging work and marriage, thus prolonging poverty rather than alleviating it for many.

Here's another problem for Sen. Obama: He wants to spread the wealth around as if wealth and poverty and "middle-classness" (to use the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's terminology) were fixed categories. They aren't. Economic and social mobility in the United States is the norm, not the exception.


Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
 
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