You may have heard this one before. I’ve heard different versions of it but I like this one from Steve at the Harvard Conservatives blog.

College Reunion

Five guys graduate college and agree to meet at the University Pub a year after graduation. The date comes and they eat and drink and enjoy a few laughs. The bill arrives and comes to $200. The first two guys, who graduated summa cum laude in Ethnic Studies, admit that they are currently unemployed and can’t pay their share. The third guy, the English major, admits he does work at Starbucks and can contribute $10. The fourth guy, a Business major working at a bank, says he can cover his $40 portion, but did not bring any more. The fifth guy, an Engineer who is gainfully employed, is taken aback, but agrees to cover the $150 tab. The evening ends on a bit of a down note when the first guy asks for $5 so he can catch a bus home, but they all agree to meet next year.

Unfortunately, the next year plays out much like the first. The first two friends are still unemployed (this is the Obama-conomy after all), the third is still working at Starbucks and throws in his $5. The Business major can’t contribute more than this portion, leaving the Engineer to cover his buddies’ tab.

Is this fair?

If you look at the friends as income quintiles from the lowest 20% earners to the Top 20% earners and the overall tab as the tax burden, the distribution of the tab roughly equates to the share of the tax burden each earnings bracket contributes to income taxes, right down to the $5 given to the first guy to cover bus fare.

So, is this fair?

If you answered, “no,” each should pay for the benefit they received (which I left ambiguous), then welcome to the Republican Party.

If you answered, “yes,” because the Engineer probably makes more than the others (which I also left a bit ambiguous), then you are a Progressive and will be very welcome in the modern Democratic Party. (Bonus: if you thought to each according to their need and from each according to their ability, you win the Karl Marx Award for Economic Destruction.)

Final question…what happens next year when the Engineer does not show up?