We retired Tax Justice Blog in April 2017. For new content on issues related to tax justice, go to www.justtaxesblog.org
If your family makes around $60,000 a year and you work for a living, there’s a good chance you pay a larger percentage of your income in federal taxes than Mitt Romney and the other partners at Bain Capital.
We have explained before that a good portion of millionaires who live off investments pay a lower effective tax rate than people who work for their $60,000 a year. Worse, the “carried interest” loophole allows people like Romney to enjoy the special low tax rate for investment income even though their income is really from work. CTJ’s Bob McIntyre was the first to predict that Mitt Romney’s effective federal rate was under 15 percent as a result.
Now comes Newark’s Democratic mayor, Cory Booker, defending Bain Capital and other “private equity” firms (really, buyout firms), calling attacks on Romney’s old firm “nauseating.”
Let’s put aside for a moment that fact that private equity firms buy up companies and fire people, and the fact that Mitt Romney doesn’t seem to see the difference between his former job of maximizing profits for investors and the job he seeks, which should be to maximize opportunities for all Americans.
Even if you accept all of that, do you believe that what Mitt Romney did at Bain Capital is so good for America that we should subsidize him through the tax code? Do you believe that discussing the role played by these buyout funds in our economy and in our public policies is off-limits?
Members of Congress, including Democrats and Republicans, have made claims in support of the carried interest loophole that defy common sense. They argue that millionaire fund managers like Mitt Romney should continue to enjoy this tax loophole because, for example, it encourages development in poor communities, helps minorities rise in the financial world, and helps cancer patients receive life-saving treatments.
These arguments are nonsensical for reasons we’ve explained before. The carried interest loophole does not encourage investment in poor communities or new technology or anything at all because it doesn’t affect the people who actually put up money to invest. The loophole subsidizes the people who manage the money, the fund managers who enjoy the special low tax rate on the compensation they receive so long as they maximize profits.
The arguments made in defense of the buyout firms’ privileges are so absurd that they beg the question of what really motivates their proponents in both parties. We cannot say why Mayor Booker does not express any outrage that the Bain partners can pay a lower effective tax rate than many working people in his city. But we are not blind to the many, many articles about campaign contributions from these fund managers and how they have attempted to use this money to protect their privileges. Now that’s nauseating.