Fairness may be an easy term to define, but it’s much more nebulous when we make an effort to point it out in reality or determine how to bring it about (or even if we want it, but that’s another story).
The reason I got to thinking about fairness is because on NPR this last week (I listen to NPR on my way to work) they've been discussing the “sequester” and the impact it will have on the defense department. NPR has been talking about how the deep cuts in defense spending will impact the civilian jobs paid for by the defense department (employees will be forced to take 22 unpaid furlough days per year), and how the cuts will affect our “military readiness”. Now, obviously Defense is posturing, because the last thing they want is for their bloated budget to get cut, and for them to actually have to tighten their belt and buy equipment that gets used and pay for personnel that actually serves the interest of the armed forces; but that’s an issue for another day. Let’s suffice it to say that the Defense Department will say and do whatever they have to do to continue to receive the portion of the budget they receive. But what struck me most about this article was not the fact that the Defense Department was whining about furlough days and military readiness, but the complete failure of NPR – the supposed mouthpiece of the left – in discussing how the other part of the sequester, the cuts in non-defense spending, will affect literally hundreds of thousands of people.
But I guess I shouldn't be surprised by this fact. Fairness doesn't matter in this country. Fairness is a buzz word used by politicians to get people to hate and deride other people, while at the same time doing things that are unfair to others. Is it fair that minor drugs offenses send people to jail and give them felony convictions which affect the rest of their lives, while investment bankers gamble with your and the government’s money and lose literally trillions of dollars, but receive nothing lighter than a golden parachute (and a government bailout)? Is it fair that the working poor can hardly make ends meet, but are not only scorned by the wealthy for (supposedly) draining government coffers, but also pay higher tax rates than those at the very top who don’t even work for a living (and actually are the one’s draining government coffers through subsidies and special tax breaks)? Is it fair that immigrants (illegal or not) come to this country every day, labor hard doing shitty work while constantly fearing discrimination and deportation, while working hard to make a living for their family, only to have politicians in this country turn around and describe them all as criminals, who are doing nothing to serve this country but instead draining our resources (which is patently false according to statistics – something conservatives are generally afraid of) and/or taking the jobs from “hard-working (but unwilling to do the jobs) Americans”.
The fact is, things are not fair. I wish they were. I wish everyone had basic health care. I wish everyone had access to a good education. I wish everyone could get a job. I wish everyone cared to get a job. I wish people didn't manipulate the system. I wish there wasn't fraud. I wish the media was open and honest. I wish politicians were open and honest. I wish people who committed financial crimes would be held responsible. I wish. I wish. I wish. The list goes on and on. But the reality is reality. But one wish that I think actually can and should come true is that people who support the system of inequality and unfairness, shouldn't be allowed to whine about it once they’re facing the sharp end. To quote John Kennedy from his inaugural address, “those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside”.