By Robert Reich
Hard to believe, but the Trump administration is proposing yet another massive tax windfall for the rich.
It would be to reduce their capital gains taxes. Those are taxes on the increased value of their stocks and bonds, businesses, and other valuables, when they sell them. Trump would do this by eliminating whatever portion of that increased value was due to inflation.
Here are three reasons why reducing capital gains taxes would be another tax scam for the rich.
1. The people who’d get most of the benefits are already richer than ever and pay a lower effective tax rate than they have in decades. An estimated 63 percent of the benefits of this proposal would go to the wealthiest one-tenth of 1 percent of Americans, while the bottom 80 percent of us would get only 1 percent of its benefits, according to a University of Pennsylvania Wharton School analysis.
If anything, Congress should raise capital gains taxes, not lower them. The capital gains tax rate is already lower than the rate on ordinary income. Yet the wealthy now own most of the nation’s assets and enjoy most of the capital gains. In 2016 (the most recent date for which data are available), the richest 10 percent owned 84 percent of the entire stock market.
2. The cost of this change would be a whopping $10 billion a year, for the next 10 years. That’s just about the yearly cost of funding free lunches for 20 million poor kids. Yet the federal debt is already ballooning. Over ten years, this proposal would increase it by an estimated $100 to $300 billion.
3. Trump and his administration say they have the power to make this change by themselves without even being authorized to do so by Congress. Rubbish. Congress has already decided that capital gains taxes should not be indexed for inflation. That’s why, when the same idea came up during the George H.W. Bush administration, the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel stopped it cold.
It’s another big handout to the wealthy, another huge increase in the federal deficit, and it’s illegal. Don’t let Trump and his enablers get away with this tax scam for the rich.