Fairness has been in the news lately, as President Barack Obama advocates forcefully for the “Buffett rule,” which would ensure that those making over $1 million a year pay at least 30 percent in taxes. The president also argues for more fairness generally in the economic system. Howls of outrage have predictably emanated from conservative quarters, with the usual accusations of “class warfare” being thrown about.
Probably what bothers conservatives the most is that the Buffett rule is so damn popular. In a March Ipsos-Reuters poll, an overwhelming 64-30 majority said they favored the rule.
Besides attacking the Buffett rule directly, conservatives have spent a lot of energy—joined by some political commentators—arguing that the whole idea of fairness is misguided, vaguely un-American, and against our country’s rugged individualism.
But the public doesn’t see it that way. A just-released ABC/Washington Post poll found that 52 percent of Americans believe unfairness in the economic system that favors the wealthy is the bigger problem in the country compared to 37 percent who believe overregulation of the free market that interferes with growth and prosperity is the bigger problem.
Conservatives better get used to it. Fairness is here to stay in the public debate and, so far, they’re on the wrong side.
Ruy Teixeira is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. To learn more about his public opinion analysis, go to the Media and Progressive Values page and the Progressive Studies program page of our website.