Now is the time for policymakers to set out what fairness is, said Lisa Harker, co-director of Ippr , at the launch of Fabian/JRF research on attitudes to economic inequality.
The public's limit for higher taxes has been reached, argued Andrew Haldenby, director of Reform.
If we raise taxes that will have big impact on poor people as well as rich people, he added.
Traditional benefits are not well linked to work incentives, said Haldenby.
But Kate Green, chief executive of Child Poverty Action Group, said: "We have to seize and capitalise on these opportunities", supported by a policy programme that delivers fairness and greater equality to ordinary families.
Demonstrating that through policy is one of the ways we have to combat fatalism. There is an oppportunity to do more at the top, said Green.
There wasn't massive hostility to raising the rate of tax at the top, she added.
Aggressive pro-poor policy could be popular such as minimum wage, she argued. The public spending squeeze nonwithstanding, it is a not spending properly that has left us with a big gap between rich and poor.
Now is a moment to talk up the value we place on the role of caring. But it is a very interesting area now in which the public is concerned, she added.
The stigmatising delivery of services has over the last ten years is an important signal of our attitudes to equality, fairness and desert, said Green.
Katwala is twittering on @NextLeft.