“Fairness” has be come the de rigueur justification each time President Clinton or some member of Congress propose some grossly unfair action. Mr. Clinton says, for example, that it is only “fair” to increase the income tax paid by “the rich” by 16 percent (by raising the rate from 31 to 36 percent) because they “didn’t pay their fair share of taxes” during the 1980’s. It fazes the President not that this statement is flat-out wrong. Paul G. Merski, fiscal affairs director of the Tax Foundation in Washington, D.C., reports that tax-return data show the nation’s top earners paid a steadily higher percentage of the total U.S. tax bill during the 1980’s. “By 1990, the top 5 percent of earners paid 42.9 percent of total income tax revenues. That’s up a sharp 17.9 percent from 1980, when they paid 36.4 percent of the taxes collected,” reports Merski. Furthermore, the data show that even if the tax burden of every person making $200,000 or more a year were doubled, the increased revenues would cover only six weeks of federal spending.

Since it is one of Mr. Clinton’s proudest boasts that 75 percent of his tax increases will “fall on the rich,” it is instructive to see at what level of income the tax punishment starts. In his original pronouncements Clinton said that he would raise the income tax on only the “upper 2 percent” of Americans earning $200,000 or more annually. But a funny thing happened on the way to enforcing “fairness” on these higher earners. Under his plan, any individual with an adjusted gross income of $115,000 a year or more is considered “rich ” and is therefore given an equal opportunity to have his or her income tax rate raised to 36 percent. Coming from Arkansas, President Clinton might actually believe that someone who earns $115,000 a year is “rich.” However, in California—which has 16.5 percent of the taxpayers who make $100,000 or more—$115;000 for a family of four is really only middle class. New arrivals find this out in a hurry when they price new single-family homes. They start in the low six figures.

As it happens, some 52 percent of Americans reporting income over $100,000 a year are small-business owners. They are among the 20 million men and women who create nearly all of the new jobs in this country. During the 1980’s that Mr. Clinton so despises, these small business owners created an astonishing 20 million new jobs while the Fortune 500 companies were net job losers. They achieved this remarkable record by risking their own capital, working 12-hour days and six-day weeks, scrimping to send their kids to college, forgoing vacations, coping with an avalanche of costly legislative mandates, regulations, and taxes spewing forth from national, state, and local governments, and by doing something Congress and the White House have not done for 24 years—balancing their budgets! It is an affront to these hardworking business owners to use the broad-brush appellation “the rich” against anyone who earns $115,000 a year, and it is a gratuitous insult to imply that anyone who has achieved this degree of financial success has done so by virtue of greed and special favors received during the Reagan-Bush years.

In fairness, Mr. Clinton and members of his party should stop giving fairness a bad name. If the President wants to attack people for being “rich,” let him turn his venom on his Cabinet, which is composed mostly of millionaire lawyers.