It was only in 1987 that the top income tax rate dropped below 50 percent in the United States. So the 15 percent rate that some tycoons pay because of the carried interest loophole is a recent, er, entitlement.
It’s also troubling that a considerable share of wealth today comes from the plutocratic version of welfare.
Mitt Romney, for example, became rich in private equity, as did many barons of finance. They’re smart, entrepreneurial and hard-working business executives. But private equity exists largely because of tax advantages for corporate debt that amount to a huge subsidy.
Likewise, the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington estimates that four major tax breaks that encourage excessive corporate pay cost taxpayers $14.4 billion last year. And 26 chief executives received more in pay last year than their companies paid in total federal corporate income taxes.
Often the best route to wealth isn’t competing in the marketplace but lobbying Congress for a tax break.