Bill Gross is a very rich man. He manages Pimco, the world’s largest bond fund.
As is true of most American multi-billionaires, he is a Keynesian. He believes in the economically creative power of the state. He has understood how the state affects the markets through raw power, and he has profited enormously.
In November, he wrote a long paragraph in favor of higher taxes on the rich. Because I am going to take apart his arguments one at a time, I have decided to reprint his paragraph as a whole. The reader deserves to understand the whole argument before I dissect it.
Having benefited enormously via the leveraging of capital since the beginning of my career and having shared a decreasing percentage of my income thanks to Presidents Reagan and Bush 43 via lower government taxes, I now find my intellectual leanings shifting to the plight of labor. I often tell my wife Sue it’s probably a Kennedy-esque type of phenomenon. Having gotten rich at the expense of labor, the guilt sets in and I begin to feel sorry for the less well-off, writing very public Investment Outlooks that “dis” the success that provided me the soapbox in the first place. If your immediate reaction is to nod up and down, then give yourself some points in this intellectual tête-à-tête. Still, I would ask the Scrooge McDucks of the world who so vehemently criticize what they consider to be counterproductive, even crippling taxation of the wealthy in the midst of historically high corporate profits and personal income, to consider this: Instead of approaching the tax reform argument from the standpoint of what an enormous percentage of the overall income taxes the top 1% pay, consider how much of the national income you’ve been privileged to make. In the United States, the share of total pre-tax income accruing to the top 1% has more than doubled from 10% in the 1970s to 20% today. Admit that you, and I and others in the magnificent “1%” grew up in a gilded age of credit, where those who borrowed money or charged fees on expanding financial assets had a much better chance of making it to the big tent than those who used their hands for a living. Yes I know many of you money people worked hard as did I, and you survived and prospered where others did not. A fair economic system should always allow for an opportunity to succeed. Congratulations. Smoke that cigar, enjoy that Chateau Lafite 1989. But (mostly you guys) acknowledge your good fortune at having been born in the ’40s, ’50s or ’60s, entering the male-dominated workforce 25 years later, and having had the privilege of riding a credit wave and a credit boom for the past three decades. You did not, as President Obama averred, “build that,” you did not create that wave. You rode it. And now it’s time to kick out and share some of your good fortune by paying higher taxes or reforming them to favor economic growth and labor, as opposed to corporate profits and individual gazillions. You’ll still be able to attend those charity galas and demonstrate your benevolence and philanthropic character to your admiring public. You’ll just have to write a little bit smaller check. Scrooge McDuck would complain but then he’s swimming in it, and can afford to duck paddle to a shallower end for a while. If you’re in the privileged 1%, you should be paddling right alongside and willing to support higher taxes on carried interest, and certainly capital gains readjusted to existing marginal income tax rates. Stanley Druckenmiller and Warren Buffett have recently advocated similar proposals. The era of taxing “capital” at lower rates than “labor” should now end.
Does this argument make economic sense? Only to Keynesians. Does it make moral sense? Only to people who have rewritten the commandment: “Thou shalt not steal, except by majority vote.”
1. KENNEDY RECOMMENDED A TAX CUT
He begins with a personal confession.
Having benefited enormously via the leveraging of capital since the beginning of my career and having shared a decreasing percentage of my income thanks to Presidents Reagan and Bush 43 via lower government taxes, I now find my intellectual leanings shifting to the plight of labor. I often tell my wife Sue it’s probably a Kennedy-esque type of phenomenon. Having gotten rich at the expense of labor, the guilt sets in and I begin to feel sorry for the less well-off, writing very public Investment Outlooks that “dis” the success that provided me the soapbox in the first place.
Let us discuss the crucial Kennedy-esque phenomenon. In 1963, Kennedy, in his State of the Union address, announced his commitment to the most dramatic reduction in top bracket income taxation since the Republicans came into office four decades earlier. He wanted the top rate cut from 91% to 65%. Lyndon Johnson signed the law, which cut the top rate to 70%.
The top rate had been 73% in 1921. It was reduced in a series of steps to 25% in 1925. It was pushed up to 63% by Herbert Hoover in 1932 as an anti-depression measure. It failed. The economy tanked to its low in 1933. In 1936, FDR pushed it to 79%. It peaked at 94% in 1944. It was cut to 91% in 1946, where it remained until 1964. (Http://bit.ly/TaxRatesHistory)
(For the rest of the article, click the link.)