Fairness is a value judgment. In the fight over taxing the rich, those with good values are losing the judgment. They are losing because they have failed to name, and defend, the moral right which ought to define fairness toward all taxpayers: the right to own and to keep the wealth you create.
President Obama proudly articulates the moral case for the other side. The president makes no apology for targeting the wealthy simply on grounds of their wealth. He campaigned, and is now governing, on the moral premise that the wealthy owe more than they are paying and that raising tax rates on them is not primarily about budgets and balance sheets but about economic fairness. The Republicans, in focusing their efforts on raising tax revenues by shrinking deductions and loopholes rather than raising rates, have ceded the moral high ground and reduced the debate to a mere question of means and not values.
Recent polls suggest that most Americans agree with Obama that the rich should be taxed more than they are. No wonder. When an impassioned moral argument on one side — even the wrong side — is met with tepid utilitarian wish-wash on the other, it should not amaze us when the wrong side wins.