Ken Griffin certainly appears to be rather virulently opposed to higher taxes. In fact, his position is a good deal more nuanced: He’s simply opposed to higher taxes on himself. This explains why he’s fighting so bitterly against Illinois Gov. Jay Pritzker’s effort to drag that state’s income tax system into the 19th century, as Illinois currently has a constitutionally-mandated flat income tax: Ken Griffin, the richest man in Illinois, whose wealth increased by $2.3 billion last year, pays exactly the same proportion of his income as a plumber in Moline or a farmer outside Mattoon. It explains why he’s laying the groundwork to make like Carl Icahn and move to state income tax-less Florida. And it explains why he’s so strongly opposed to having the money his money makes be taxed at anything like the rate money that is made by actual work is taxed.
Citadel’s founder made clear that he is not a hardliner, and indeed supportive of certain tax hikes to counteract the federal government’s current radical deficit levels.
“I would have the capital gains rate be lower, and corporates pay taxes at the corporate level,” Griffin told Tudor Jones at the private event. Investors would still be paying indirectly, as part owners in the corporations shouldered with a fiscal burden, he pointed out.
Of course, this isn’t pure selfishness on the part of a man who’s purchased more than a billion dollars’ worth of houses and apartments in the last few years. It’s patriotism.
Doing away with the low rate for long-term capital gains, which many professional investors pay rather than regular income tax, would injure America itself, Griffin said…. “We’re going to see liquidity be lower, multiples be lower, the cost of capital be higher, less job formation,” if investor gains simply counted as income, Griffin predicted. “A multiyear headwind? Absolutely. When taxes are at 39 percent, you’re not going to sell your winners. You’re going to stay in those positions longer than you otherwise would have. That means there’s less capital flowing from those companies to the next new idea. That’s heartbreaking. Part of the reason that the U.S. economy works so damn well is that we move our capital as a nation to the next new idea continuously... It’s the mobility of the capital in our system that makes that happen.”
And how, exactly, would that manifest itself? Well, uh, not really at all, but, still, please don’t do it.
Should a new U.S. administration make that tax code change, “stock prices will be lower, but not as much lower as you would think, because so much of the equity market is owned by players that aren’t paying taxes — pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, and other institutions.”
And certainly don’t raise his taxes even indirectly the help those who are actually suffering from the effects of a global pandemic except in a way that would directly benefit him.
But Tudor Jones’ suggestion of further economic stimulus, perhaps another round of unemployment top-ups, made Griffin balk. He would happily pay to get Americans back to work — but not to keep them out of it…. “We can’t let the American worker’s skills fade away. We want to pull people back into the workforce as fast as we possibly can to protect their future income stream. You and I would both in a heartbeat be in favor of stimulus to do so, I believe.”
Nice try, Paul: You may be doing your best to keep both yourself and your friends from that march to the wall, but Ken Griffin would prefer not to live in a world in which capital paid more taxes than people actually working, however few of those there might be.