THE DICTIONARY description of “discrimination” is “the practice of unfairly treating a person or group of people differently from other people or groups of people.” In Massachusetts, we pride ourselves on banning discrimination wherever it rears its ugly head and we brag about how we cherish equality among citizens.
But it turns out we have our limits. When it comes to financial status, we equality-loving Bay Staters choose to look the other way.
Last week, lawmakers advanced a constitutional amendment that would super-size taxes on residents who earn over $1 million as a way of funding education and transportation in Massachusetts. The same Democratic lawmakers who advocate for equality for all residents on issues of public access and equal pay are blatantly pushing to single out a certain class of citizens for worse treatment.
They cutely dub the millionaire tax the “Fair Share” amendment. But there’s nothing fair about it.
Republican Senator Bruce Tarr aptly described the measure as a “success penalty” during the debate on the amendment, saying it “flies in the face of equal treatment for taxpayers.” He’s right. There’s no question we need more money for education and transportation in Massachusetts. But just because it’s an easy and quick fix to hit up wealthy residents doesn’t mean we should.
Democratic lawmakers are getting away with this because they happened to discover a portion of the population no one really cares or worries about — the wealthy. But we’re not talking here about the greedy Wall Street titans that presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren love to hate on. We’re talking about Massachusetts residents who happen to be financially successful.
The argument that “they can afford it” might be true, but it certainly doesn’t make it fair and equal. Would we support a burglar who breaks into the home of someone with more stuff than said burglar has at home because the burglar is merely taking his “fair share?” How is breaking into the bank account of our more well-to-do residents any different? It’s robbery — legislated.
That it takes a constitutional amendment to enact such a tax is evidence of why the proposal is discriminatory. The state constitution doesn’t allow setting different income tax rates for different classes of taxpayers. In other words, legislators are attempting to write a form of discrimination into the constitution.
It’s true that polls taken of Massachusetts residents show people are overwhelmingly in favor of the millionaire tax — about 70 percent of Bay Staters back the measure. It’s no surprise, really. The “Robin Hood” attitude — that it’s OK to rob from the rich to give to the poor — is built in to the Democratic party platform this presidential election season. And let’s face it — you and I probably aren’t shedding any tears for residents who would fall under this new tax category.
But for a state that loves to brag about our approach to equality and antidiscrimination, it turns out we can sleep totally fine at night as long as the class of people we don’t ascribe equal treatment to is one we don’t care about.
If we really want that to be our state’s M.O., fine. But let’s not pretend to call it “fair.”
Meredith Warren is a Republican political analyst and consultant.