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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

President Biden has been clear that he wants to raise taxes on capital gains for high earners. But, until a Wall Street Journal scoop published Thursday night, it wasn't known that he wants those taxes raised retroactively.

Why it matters: It's unscrupulous.

  • This isn't a judgment on the merits or demerits of raising top capital gains rates, either to Biden's preferred 39.6% (plus an ACA surcharge) or closer to the 30% rate than many Democrats prefer. It's a judgment on changing the rules after the game has been played.

Per WSJ: "Biden's expected $6 trillion budget assumes that his proposed capital-gains tax rate increase took effect in late April, meaning that it would already be too late for high-income investors to realize gains at the lower tax rates if Congress agrees, according to two people familiar with the proposal."

The White House argument is likely to be that retroactivity will prevent investors from taking advantage of the period between Biden's original announcement and ultimate bill passage.

  • But this ignores that Biden's announcement was just a starting point for negotiations, and was more press release than bill.
  • And, again, the White House chose not to say at the time that the taxes would be retroactive, leading reasonable investors to make decisions under the assumption that any hikes would take effect either once legislation is signed, or perhaps at the beginning of 2022.

The bottom line: It's laudable that the administration wants its math to work, as part of the most ambitious infrastructure and social spending plan of our lifetimes. But it shouldn't use unfair means to ensure the rich pay their fair share.

Go deeper

July sees remarkable return of incomes after massive hiring spree

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Incomes got a sizable boost in July. Nominal personal income grew 1.1% to $20.67 trillion during the month, accelerating from June's 0.2% monthly rise, according to Friday’s government figures.

Why it matters: July’s hiring spree and expanded child tax credits drove that growth.

House passes $768 billion defense spending bill

Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The House approved a $768 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for the 2022 fiscal year in a bipartisan 316-113 vote on Thursday.

Why it matters: The annual bill, which authorizes Pentagon spending levels and guides policy for the department, would require women to register for the military draft, among other provisions.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Republicans’ secret lobbying

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The five Senate Republicans who helped negotiate and draft the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill have been privately courting their Republican colleagues to pass the measure in the House.

Why it matters: House GOP leaders are actively urging their members to oppose the bill. The senators are working to undercut that effort as Monday shapes up as a do-or-die moment for the bipartisan bill.