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Biden's tax plan goes back to the future with retroactive capital gains hikes

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.

Why the startup world needs to ditch "unicorns" for "dragons"

When Aileen Lee originally coined the term "unicorn" in late 2013, she was describing the 39 "U.S.-based software companies started since 2003 and valued at over $1 billion by public or private market investors."

Flashback: It got redefined in early 2015 by yours truly and Erin Griffith, in a cover story for Fortune, as any privately-held startup valued at $1 billion or more. At the time, we counted 80 of them.

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Scoop: Facebook's new moves to lower News Feed's political volume

Facebook plans to announce that it will de-emphasize political posts and current events content in the News Feed based on negative user feedback, Axios has learned. It also plans to expand tests to limit the amount of political content that people see in their News Feeds to more countries outside of the U.S.

Why it matters: The changes could reduce traffic to some news publishers, particularly companies that post a lot of political content.

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Scoop: Amazon quietly getting into live audio business

Amazon is investing heavily in a new live audio feature that's similar to other live audio offerings like Clubhouse, Twitter Spaces and Spotify's new live audio platform, sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: As with Amazon's efforts in podcasting and music subscriptions, the company sees live audio as a way to bolster the types of content it can offer through its voice assistant, Alexa, and its smart speaker products.

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Hurricane Ida exposes America's precarious energy infrastructure

The powerful hurricane that plunged New Orleans into darkness for what could be weeks is the latest sign that U.S. power systems are not ready for a warmer, more volatile world.

The big picture: “Our current infrastructure is not adequate when it comes to these kinds of weather extremes,” Joshua Rhodes, a University of Texas energy expert, tells Axios.

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"We must go further": 70% of adults in European Union are fully vaccinated

About 70% of adults in the European Union are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said Tuesday.

Why it matters: The milestone makes the E.U. one of the world's leaders in inoculations, after an initially lagging vaccine campaign, the New York Times notes.

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What Elizabeth Holmes jurors will be asked ahead of fraud trial

Jury selection begins today in USA v. Elizabeth Holmes, with the actual jury trial to get underway on Sept. 8.

Why it matters: Theranos was the biggest fraud in Silicon Valley history, putting both hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of patients' health at risk.

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