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Letter to Senators and Congressman

As you discuss tax reform, at the top of your list should be eliminating the capital gains tax. In general, capital gains should be taxed as ordinary income. It is the main reason that many wealthy people pay a lower tax rate than ordinary people. Warren Buffet often cites the example that his secretary pays a higher tax rate than he does. Basically the capital gains tax is welfare for billionaires.

Yesterday, former Reagan budget chief David Stockman called for reform of the capital gains tax on Fareed Zakaria’s GPS program on CNN. He said that it made some sense when inflation was high, so that capital gains merely reflected inflation and not an increase in the real value of an asset. But today, there is virtually no inflation. The other justification is that it encourages new business. There is some basis for that. Perhaps, people who start their own businesses and true venture capitalists should get some kind of tax break to encourage them, although most venture capitalists are multi-millionaires. But someone who buys Apple stock at $200 and sells it a year later for $300 hasn’t really encouraged entrepreneurship. A favorable view is that he made a good investment; a less favorable view is that he was just gambling and made a winning bet. Why should this country encourage gambling over doing a hard day’s work as an engineer or waitress?

Earlier, I wrote you suggesting the gradual elimination of the home mortgage tax deduction, because it unreasonably favors homeowners over renters, especially if the homeowners paid no money down and have no equity in their homes. They are essentially renters, but get a homeowner’s tax break. It might be fair to continue the deduction for people with substantial equity in their houses. Building up equity is the saving which the deduction was originally intended to encourage. But the subprime housing crisis illustrated the economic dislocation that the tax deduction helped create.

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