The Nation

By Sarah Anderson, Marc Bayard, John Cavanagh, Chuck Collins, Josh Hoxie and Sam Pizzigati


Millions of Americans sweat and strain at work every day. They lift. They pound. They come home exhausted. Other Americans make their living wheeling and dealing on Wall Street. The most strenuous part of their day? Trying to stand up after lunch at a five-star restaurant.

Which Americans deserve preferential treatment at tax time? Under our current tax law, the preference goes to those who make the bulk of their income from buying and selling assets. Wealthy Americans pay just $23.80 in federal income tax on every $100 of this “capital gains” income. Ordinary income, by contrast, faces a federal tax rate that can go as high as 39.6 percent. In other words, for every $1 million of wheeling-and-dealing income that billionaires claim, the capital-gains tax preference shears about $160,000 off their tax bill.

You can do a lot with $160,000. For example …

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