I got a message the other day from my son’s public school, begging parents to go out and buy a few reams of paper, because the school is almost out and can’t afford any more. Seriously: A public middle school in San Francisco doesn’t have enough paper for the school year and has to ask parents to go to Costco and pick some up.
Then there’s the protest over renting out Coit Tower for private parties. It’s a public facility, part of the city’s park system, and the Recreation and Parks Department wants to use it to raise revenue — because there’s not enough city money to pay the staff to maintain the parks.
So I’m really glad to hear that Facebook is going public, and a lot of people — including, based on Facebook’s public filing information, a total of eight in San Francisco — will be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The shares of those eight range in value from $5.16 billion (Dustin Moskovitz) to $425 million (Mark Pincus), and they average out to $1.117 billion a person.
When these folks sell some of their shares and start to cash in on that wealth, the most they’ll pay in taxes is 35 percent (state and federal combined), since that’s what you pay for capital gains.
The nation’s debt is approaching World War II-era levels; back then, President Franklin Roosevelt addressed the issue by taxing the highest levels of income — including capital gains — at 90 percent. As my friend Bruce Anderson writes in the Anderson Valley Advertiser, that was not the end of gilded wealth; the very rich continued to be very rich, but the public debt came down and the nation was better off for it.
I know, yes, shut up — I talk too much about taxes. Every week. I’m getting sick of it. But San Francisco is about to get another addition to the roles of the 1 percent (or even the top half of the 1 percent) and while I’m happy for them all, I think they would probably do just fine with a little less of their new wealth.
Supposed we taxed stock gains of, say, more than $20 million at the rate FDR did? Moscovitz would wind up with about $51 million. How can you possibly spend that much money? Isn’t $50 million enough? When the schools can’t buy paper?
Have we no decency?