Obama's miscalculation on capital gains

Obama's Capital Loss


In 1986, the tax rate jumped to 28% from 20%, a 40% increase. Tax revenues spiked briefly in anticipation of the hike (as investors moved to cash in at the lower rate), then dropped precipitously. Four years later, in 1990, the federal government was still taking in 13% less revenue at the 28% rate than it did in 1985 at the 20% rate.

As for Mr. Obama's implication that capital gains remain the privilege of the wealthy well, that's yesterday. In recent decades, the U.S. has become a shareholder society, and average Americans increasingly rely on investment income to save for retirement or even to pay bills.

With the economy weak, this is an especially poor time to be talking up tax hikes. A higher rate, and its devaluing of U.S. assets, would hammer U.S. competitiveness, making it harder to attract global capital. America is increasingly isolated in taxing capital gains. Many industrialized competitors publicize a lower rate, and many (Germany, Switzerland, Austria, New Zealand) have no levy at all.

If Mr. Obama really wants to lift the economy – and those middle-class American shareholders – he'd advocate cutting the rate, or indexing it to inflation so investors aren't taxed on phantom gains. That would violate the Democratic left's faith that tax rates don't matter to growth and that raising taxes on capital and "the rich" is good politics. We doubt members of America's politically astute investor class agree.

Comment: Cf Hoover's heirs?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Any anonymous comments with links will be rejected. Please do not comment off-topic