The concept of an American President (Obama) going after people making a lot of money and paying a relatively low tax rate on it was particularly naïve; it displayed an absolute lack of familiarity with how people get wealthy. As a CPA, I can attest to the fact that the most common way people accumulate massive wealth is either by a huge amount of hard work (creating a successful business) or selling an asset (an invention, real estate, etc).
Many people who file tax returns with large amounts of income, such as selling a business for $10 million, will have a multi-million capital gains amount. It’s not that the higher income earners have some sort of capital gains loophole, but it’s really that the wealthy have done something well to attain the American Dream. And when they do strike it rich through their effort, part of their wealth is treated as a capital gain and it gives those earners a chance to keep a part of it. Knowing that there is a low capital gains rate is an extra incentive to work hard and be successful.
Many of my clients are wealthy, and I have experienced time and again that they will come to me and ask the question: if they are successful, can they keep the majority of their money?” This is because they know that government wants to take more from the highest income earners who have proven their success, while at the same time, the government is quite happy to let them lose on their own on their particular endeavor.
Most in the top echelon get there from a one-time income-producing significant event. To punish such success by having a high capital gains tax only served to drive a deeper wedge between the have- and have-nots in an attempt to level the economic playing field. Trump would do well to lower the capital gains rate and and restore a sense of trust with those who work hard, contribute to the economy, and attain the American Dream.