What’s fair is in the eye of the beholder

“Fair share” is an undefined favorite term of the American political left and an obsession of Sen Sanders. The “wealthy,” another flexible term, are accused of grabbing America’s wealth and avoiding their fair share of the tax burden. More bizarre is that these people are implied to prevent others from success or to take from them as if we operated serfdom in America. 

It just dawned on me that this rhetoric is aimed at me and many other upper middle class Americans who played by the rules and grab opportunities for many years and in doing so accumulated a significant net worth. 

I have been retired for over seven years, living on a pension (one of the lucky Americans) and Social Security. However, during that time my net worth has steadily grown because I was finally able to pay off a mortgage AND because my investments have grown in value through share price increases and interest and dividends. Those assets were accumulated over a fifty-year working career and I still own shares of stock I purchased in tiny amounts when I was in my twenties. I will never be a one percenter, but that’s not the point. 

Americans of the Sanders mentality will still look at me somehow concluding that I benefited from a “rigged system,” that what I have accumulated in net worth is somehow unfair. While I readily admit I am blessed by an absence of significant misfortune, I also had no special advantages; starting at the bottom in an unskilled blue color job. 

Sanders and friends delight in sniping at the final destination some people reach while ignoring the (74 year in my case) journey. 

Instead of focusing only on inequality of wealth, we need to also consider inequality of effort. We are not equal in ability, but maximizing what abilities we have and making prudent life and financial choices are open to all. Why is it societies responsibility to fill in all the gaps for individuals? Our focus should be to maximize the opportunities for every American and that does not require confiscation of wealth from a few. A large part of such a goal is education including much beyond traditional formal education. 

It is societies responsibility to care for the poor, the disabled or anyone faced with insurmountable obstacles preventing a decent life, but that hardly includes every American below a certain income level, the vast majority whom had a lifetime of opportunity. 

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