The Capital Gains tax is a Success tax, and is only levied on economic actors who have risked their capital and succeeded. There is no federal tax on the loss of capital. The folks from whom these taxes are extracted are the people who have built or enabled others to build successful enterprises by providing the necessary capital. I like to call them the Job Enablers. They enable entrepreneurs to create wealth by creating jobs, a commodity that is in rather short supply lately.
Politicians like to pretend that the damage done by the Success Tax is limited only to the small number of people who actually pay the tax, but it is not. There are three other groups who pay an even greater price as the result of an increase in the Capital Gains tax and they are the very groups Congress pretends to champion. The first are the unemployed who will remain so. Their numbers are rising monthly and are easy to see. The second group are the Entrepreneurs who run small businesses and would provide the additional jobs needed except for the lack of available capital.They are not as noticeable, but are critical in relieving the problems of the first group. At his upcoming "Jobs Summit" the President would do well to understand this fact. It would give him another one of those teachable moments he's so fond of. Perhaps with his formidable skills behind the teleprompter he could persuade his democratic colleagues who are itching to raise this and other tax rates not to deploy this job killer of a tax.
Raising the tax on capital reduces it's supply, increasing the cost and availability of capital at the margin. It really is as simple as that. If there are five red balls on the table representing the total capital available to fund businesses and the jobs that go hand in hand with economic expansion and if the government confiscates two of them through increased taxation, it is clear to everyone that there are fewer red balls left to fund economic growth. Which brave politician wants to step up to the mike and make the argument that another dog park, or retrofitting a government building with green technology is more important than the real economic growth provided by this country's entrepreneurial class? When capital is made scarce through increased taxation it is the small and newer businesses, the country's job creation machines, who are left without capital as the government crowds them out of the market, not the politically well connected GE's and GM's of the country.
In their attempt to support a return to higher tax rates of the past, the Democrats frequently point to the boom years of the Clinton Administration as proof that higher tax rates promote economic growth. That they can make this argument with a straight face indicates how truly ignorant of economics and human behavior they are. It also reveals them to have an advanced degree of selective memory syndrome.
The Clinton Tax hikes came in 1993, and the boom years which they credit to those increased taxes didn't begin until 1997. Why was there a four year lag? If increased taxes are such a potent economic stimulus why didn't the boom years start in '93 or '94 or '95? Why was there only tepid economic growth? Their claim doesn't pass the smell test, especially when you consider the economy was coming out of a recession when growth typically is more pronounced. And Why did the more robust growth of the 90's come at what would normally have been the tail end of an economic expansion, which is usually when growth is more subdued? Finally, if as they claim tax increases are so good for economic growth, why wasn't that their first agenda item? Why wait to let the Bush era tax cuts expire in 2010?
What the few Democrats who understand economics, and apparently there aren't many of them, conveniently forget to mention in their "taxes are good for the economic growth" argument is that it was the significant reduction in the Capital Gains tax rate, from 28% to 20%, that was passed in 1996 and became law in 1997 that was responsible for the boom, not as they like to claim their 1993 tax hike. The last two times the Capital Gains tax was increased it was followed by sub par economic growth. The first increase was in 1969, which along with an inflationary dollar helped usher in the stagflation of the 70's, which is where we seem to be heading now. The second time the rate was increased was as a part of the 1986 Tax Act , which subjected Capital gains to the same tax rates as ordinary income.
Why limit the ability of successful investors to grow the economy by confiscating the capital needed to do so? There are some folks who defend the capital gain tax as a measure of fairness. What's fair about eliminating jobs? These are the people who fund expansions, and you want to slow them down? We can never know how many Microsoft- type enterprises, along with the jobs they produce, died in the lobbies of Venture Capitalist in the 1970's and late 80's, never making it to the board room and the decision makers as a result of dramatic increases in the capital gains tax.
Who is the third group that get's mauled when Capital and the jobs it creates are scarce? Just have a look in the mirror Mr. Congressman. Come next November when a sub par recovery has not produced the needed jobs, it might well be your turn to stand in the unemployment line. Good Luck with that, we'll see you next Fall!