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Is progressive taxation “fair”? Is progressive taxation “fair”?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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U.S. income tax is a progressive tax. "Fair" has several applicable definitions in context of the question of "fair progressive taxation."

  1. Just to all parties; equitable
  2. Being in accordance with relative merit or significance
  3. Consistent with rules, logic, or ethics
  4. Free from bias, dishonesty, or injustice

All these definitions of usage of "fair" indicate that a per income and per wealth division of taxation is preeminently "fair":

Progressive taxation is just and equitable to refrain from making relatively poor people feel the strain of a limited income even more.

It accords with an individual's or family's relative merit or significance.

It is consistent with rules and logic and ethics, all of which prohibit the administration of targeted, excessive suffering on isolated members or groups of society.

Some may say progressive taxation is biased in favor of less successful people, but others may equally say it is free of any bias as it is honest and just.

This examination seems to indicate that the question isn't whether progressive taxation is "fair," because the definitions of "fair" all indicate that progressive taxation is indeed fair.

This examination seems to indicate that the real question is whether any individual or group likes progressive taxation and wants to put up with it, despite the fact that it is proven to be fair, just, reasonable, ethical and respective of merit. This is a valid question, and individuals or groups may indeed honestly dislike progressive taxation and wish to be rid of it on various other grounds despite its fairness.

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Noelle Thompson eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I'm afraid the nature of this question is going to (and has) split everyone into conservatives and liberals.  I am going to plead the fifth (as the fifth amendment allows me the right NOT to say my actual opinion), but I will say that conservatives generally do not agree with progressive taxation.  And here I will post a good quote by Bill O'Reilly:

The solution to poverty is not sympathy. That makes the sympathizer feel good but does little to help the guy who needs money. No, the solution to poverty in America is to say, 'Hey, go back to school, learn a skill, and work hard when somebody hires you.' And in our society, just about every American has the opportunity to do that. Excuses walk.

In regards to the more liberal/progressive side, they usually DO agree with progressive taxation.  Ironically, they have wonderful points as well!  If one earns enough to be affluent, happily indulging in surplus, ... then should that person contribute to those in society who, by no fault of their own, have less?  People who become filthy rich as a result of questionable lines of work, I suppose, would be good examples.

And, of course, the editors above make a great point when they say that the key to your question (and the part that makes it quite controversial) is the word "fair."

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stolperia eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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So the bigger question may be, what is the fairest means of raising revenue? Does progressive taxation treat everyone fairly by asking every taxpayer to pay in proportion to his/her available finances, recognizing that some people have more income available and should...

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