Washington State’s capital gains tax proves we can have nice things

We just need to tax the rich.

Cory Doctorow
6 min readJun 3

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The Washington State flag; the circular device featuring George Washington has been altered so that it is now the head of a naked man clothed in a barrel with two wide leather shoulder straps.

Today (June 3) at 1:30PM, I’m in Edinburgh for the Cymera Festival on a panel with Nina Allen and Ian McDonald.

Monday (June 5) at 7:15PM, I’m in London at the British Library with my novel Red Team Blues, hosted by Baroness Martha Lane Fox.

Washington State enacted a 7% capital gains tax levied on annual profits in excess of $250,000, and made a fortune, $600m more than projected in the first year, despite a 25% drop in the stock market and blistering interest rate hikes:

https://www.theurbanist.org/2023/06/01/lessons-from-washington-states-new-capital-gains-tax/

Capital gains taxes are levied on “passive income” — money you get for owning stuff. The capital gains rate is much lower than the income tax rate — the rate you pay for doing stuff. This is naked class warfare: it punishes the people who make things and do things, and rewards the people who own the means of production.

The thing is, a factory or a store can still operate if the owner goes missing — but without workers, it shuts down immediately. Everything you depend on — the clothes on your back, the food in your fridge, the car you drive and the coffee you drink — exists because someone did something to produce it. Those producers are punished by our tax system, while the people who derive a “passive income” from their labor are given preferential treatment.

The Washington State tax is levied exclusively on annual gains in excess of a quarter million dollars — meaning this tax affects an infinitesimal minority of Washingtonians, who are vastly better off than the people whose work they profit from. Most working Americans own little or no stock, and the vast majority of those who do own that stock in a retirement fund that is sheltered from these taxes.

(Sidebar here to say that market-based pensions are a scam, a way to force workers to gamble in a rigged casino for the chance to enjoy a dignified retirement; the defined benefits pension, combined with adequate Social Security, is the only way to ensure secure retirement for all of us)

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Cory Doctorow

Writer, blogger, activist. Blog: https://pluralistic.net; Mailing list: https://pluralistic.net/plura-list; Mastodon: @pluralistic@mamot.fr