Are we interested in treating the symptoms of poverty and economic stagnation through income redistribution and class warfare, or do we want to go at the root causes of poverty and economic stagnation by promoting pro-growth policies that promote prosperity? ~ Paul Ryan
… Promoting Prosperity
– By: Larry Walker, Jr. –
But then the Dot Com Recession began, lasting from March through November 2001, wiping out capital and reducing gross private domestic investment to a low of 15.6% of GDP. Then Republicans passed the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003. The 2003 Act slashed capital gains rates to 5% and 15%, which boosted gross private domestic investment back to 17.2% of GDP in 2005 and 2006. But then the housing bubble burst and the Great Recession began, lasting from December 2007 through June 2009, eviscerating trillions of dollars in capital. Recessions typically destroy capital, and the Great Recession was no exception. Afraid of losing again, investors have been reluctant to place new capital at risk. Government spending has since spiraled out of control, absorbing capital from the private sector with the lure of low return guaranteed government securities.
Boosting gross private domestic investment back to 2000, 2005 and 2006 levels, or to between 17.2% and 17.5%, would add as much as 3.4% to GDP growth. But Barack Obama, through a series of temporary measures, coupled with threats of higher taxes, has done little to allay investors fears. So the question today is what can the U.S. government do to encourage more private investment in the domestic economy? Following are three simple policies which can and should be implemented right away.
Pro-Growth Tax Policies
Long-term capital gains are currently taxed at a top rate of 15%, while short-term gains are taxed as ordinary income (at rates ranging from 10% to 35%). At the same time, capital losses are limited to the lesser of $3,000 per year, or up to the amount of concurrent capital gains. Interest income and ordinary dividends are currently taxed as ordinary income, while qualified dividends (paid on stocks held for 60 days or longer) are treated as long-term capital gains and taxed at a maximum rate of 15%.
But this is all subject to change next year – with the rate on long-term capital gains increasing to a maximum of 20%, and the tax on interest, ordinary dividends and qualified dividends all increasing to ordinary rates of between 15% and 39.6%. Until Congress either changes or extends the current rates, uncertainty and flagging private domestic investment will prevail. But a more exigent question is whether taxing any form of return on capital investment is fair. What’s a fair tax for the return on investment?
1. Indexing Capital Gains
As discussed in Part I, in
However, in the
For example, if you had invested $100,000 in 1981, your investment would have the same purchasing power as $261,497 today. That’s because annual inflation has averaged 3.15% in the
Why not simply index capital gains to inflation, tax real capital gains at ordinary tax rates, and allow an unlimited amount of real capital losses to be claimed within the year recognized? That way it’s not necessary to play the class warfare game. Making capital gains taxes fairer for everyone is a way to increase private domestic investment and GDP, while at the same time attracting capital back to the U.S. and away from what are currently more just investment havens.
2. No Tax on Interest Income
Focusing on taxable interest, when the interest rate earned is less than the inflation rate, why is it considered taxable? If an investor isn’t earning at least the inflation rate, there are no real earnings, since the investor suffers a loss in purchasing power. For example, according to FDIC.gov, the national average interest rate paid on bank savings accounts is currently 0.09%, and the average rate on 60-month certificates of deposit, whether over or under $100,000, is 1.06%. Meanwhile, inflation has averaged 1.81% over the last five years (lower than normal due to the recession). So at today’s interest rates, an investor with $100,000 in a savings account is losing something on the order of 1.71% in purchasing power each year. This adds up over time. At current averages it would amount to loss in capital of 8.55% over five years. And that doesn’t include service charges some banks impose for the privilege of having an account.
Interest rates banks pay today aren’t a reward, but rather a punishment. But as if interest rates aren’t pathetic enough, after losing purchasing power while trying to save a dollar or two, the federal government then levies a tax on the decline in value, ensuring that no American will ever get ahead. The return on U.S. Treasury securities isn't any better. On July 16th, the U.S. Treasury was somehow able to sell 3-year Treasury Notes offering an interest rate of 0.25%, and a yield of 0.366%. That’s laughable especially considering that the interest earned is taxable as ordinary income. Meanwhile, the inflation rate for urban consumers was 2.93% last year, and is expected to reach 3.00% in 2013. Are we paying our fair share yet?
The federal government currently taxes interest income at rates ranging between 10% and 35%, yet those rates are scheduled to increase to between 15% and 39.6% in 2013. Barack Obama’s solution is to do nothing for anyone making less than $250,000, and to raise rates to 36% and 39.6% on those making more. Mitt Romney’s solution is to eliminate the tax on interest for taxpayers with incomes below $200,000, while lowering ordinary income tax rates to between 8% and 28%. But Romney shouldn’t even have to play the class warfare game.
Either taxing interest is fair, or it’s not. And if it’s not fair, then it’s not fair for any American. If the
3. No Tax on Dividends
In 2003, President George W. Bush proposed to eliminate the
Naturally, Barack Obama’s solution is to raise taxes on dividends. Obama plans to keep Bush’s lower 10% tax bracket in place, but to raise top tax rates to 36% and 39.6% on those most likely to invest in dividend paying ventures, those making more than $250,000. Mitt Romney, on the other hand, would eliminate the tax on dividends for taxpayers with incomes below $200.000, while lowering ordinary income tax rates to between 8% and 28%. I believe that Romney is on the right track; however, if double taxation is unfair, then it’s just not fair – no matter how much income is involved.
Dividends should either be taxable to the corporation or the individual, but not both. And lest we forget, a tax on dividends may also be punitive, in the sense that when an investor’s returns are lower than the rate of inflation, purchasing power is being lost, not gained. If the government insists on taxing both entities, then the tax should only apply to individuals on the amount of return in excess of the rate of inflation.
No American should have to pay a tax on capital gains or interest income, unless the return on investment exceeds the rate of inflation. No American should have to pay a tax on dividends when the tax has already been paid by a corporation. Whether it’s easier to just do away with investment taxes altogether is subjective, but I do believe that it’s in best interests of the
Barack Obama has proposed to do nothing for 98% of taxpayers, and to raise taxes on the investment income of those making more than $250,000. He’s so stuck on the class warfare tack that he has totally forgotten to put anything on the table which would encourage greater levels of savings and investment within the
Mitt Romney has proposed policies which will encourage greater savings and investment. Although his plan isn’t perfect, it’s far better than the alternative. Romney would eliminate the tax on capital gains, interest and dividends for taxpayers making less than $200,000. He would also lower the bottom tax rate to 8% from 10%, and top rates to 28% from 35%. Romney’s policies are more likely to retain capital within the