One-time capital gains surcharge

Looks like we are finally getting the upper hand on this nasty bug that has killed more than half a million of our fellow Americans. Case rates are plummeting and the immunized proportion of the population is climbing rapidly. Soberingly, if the observed death rate of 2.5% continues, we will still lose another quarter of a million lives before it is all over. The final death toll will probably exceed the number of Americans who died in World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam combined.

We will emerge from the shadow of the pandemic a very different country than before. The pandemic has slammed working people hard. Millions have lost jobs, life savings, and small businesses. Many are unable to make ends meet. Millions have been spared from homelessness temporarily, because of the moratorium on evictions. However, when that moratorium is over, the rent bill will be staggering, and without help, homelessness is likely to spike. All of this happened through no fault of the people suffering these setbacks.

Meanwhile, those of us with significant amounts of money invested in the stock market have been blessed with a massive windfall in soaring financial assets – also through no particular virtue of our own.

I have one foot in each camp. I am semi-retired from a 45-year career as a working man. I still work as I am able in my late 60s, and do my best to steward my retirement nest egg. That nest egg was built up from savings over those 45 years of work, and augmented by inheritance when my parents died. My income from work has dropped dramatically over the past 12 months, as many of the former opportunities have vanished, but my income from investing has thrived.

If ever there was a time for investors to help working people get back on their feet, surely it is right now.

For the last 40 years, the United States has been ruled by an economic philosophy called “Supply Side” or “Trickle Down.” While it has whipped inflation, and fostered a new type of prosperity, it has had two nasty side effects.

One of those side effects has been a radical widening of the gap between rich, poor and middle classes. Simply put, the rich have benefited astronomically, while the middle class have stagnated, and the increasing numbers of poor have been ground underfoot.

Another nasty side effect of the Supply Side economy has been the way its toxic philosophical underpinnings have taken hold in our culture, and come to be accepted even by Christians – who should know better. That philosophy says, in part, that rich people are rich because they are superior people, i.e., they work harder, they are smarter, and they are more upright morally. It further teaches that poor people are poor because they are inferior, lazy, and immoral. It goes on to say that the best way to help the poor is to give money to the rich, who will invest it, thus creating jobs. It further teaches that poor people don’t deserve to be helped, and rich people should not be asked, much less required, to help them. Simply put, it is a philosophy invented by rich people, for the benefit of rich people, and runs counter to Biblical teachings. And it is working beautifully for the investment class. Not so well for the rest of us.

The reality is that there are many different reasons why people are rich, and there are just as many different reasons why people are poor, and lots of those reasons have nothing to do with the relative virtue of the individuals in question. The situation we are in today illustrates that with crystal clarity. The burdens of working people have been made much heavier by the pandemic, through no fault of their own.

Jesus said, “Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Will we be like Jesus, and give rest to those that labor and are heavy laden? Or will we continue to tell them that they deserve their fate, and reject all relief proposals as “socialism”? Will we choose to be one nation, under God, indivisible, as the pledge of allegiance says? Or will the investment class simply kick the working class to the curb, one more time?
Investors got a huge tax cut three or four years ago. It’s time we give back.

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