Image for Father and Son Sharply Disagree on Taxing the Very Rich

Oregon politics and The New York Times have become a thing. Former Times columnist Nicholas Kristof is running for governor. Now the Times has published a front-page story describing how Adam Wyden, who owns a hedge fund, objects to his senator father’s tax-the-rich proposals.

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden dismissed the rift with his son. “He doesn’t talk to me about his business and I don’t talk to him about mine.” The 28-paragraph Times story published December 10 indicates Adam Wyden, 37, is doing most of the talking. Both Wydens have avoided turning the political disagreement into a personal fight.

Senator Wyden, a Democrat, chairs the Senate Finance Committee that oversees tax legislation. He has worked closely with President Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to find tax revenue to pay for most of the $2.2 billion Build Back Better proposal that has passed the House. Wyden’s tax ideas have hewed to Biden’s promise of not increasing federal taxes for Americans making $400,000 or less annually. His ideas instead are aimed at taxing rich people and big corporations.

In an appearance on CNBC, Adam Wyden stood up for billionaires such as Elon Musk. In a tweet, the younger Wyden said, “Why does he hate us/the American dream so much?!?!?!?! Reality is: most legislators have never built anything…so I guess it’s easier to mindlessly and haphazardly try and tear stuff down.”

The Wydens are at odds over a tax on annual wealth gains by America’s 700 or so billionaires, which is projected to generate $557 billion in federal revenue over 10 years. Senator Wyden also is pushing changes to make it harder for business partnerships to avoid taxation and evade IRS audits and to close the carried-interest loophole, which allows hedge funds to declare their fees as capital gains rather than ordinary income.

The Times story quotes a tax attorney suggesting the taxation rate for Adam Wyden’s hedge fund fees would go from 20 percent to 37 percent under his father’s proposal. Another source quoted by the Times estimated Adam Wyden’s annual income at around $12 million, which wouldn’t subject him to his dad’s proposed billionaire wealth tax.

Forbes featured a similar story earlier this year, with this headline: “In the last 10 years, hedge fund investor Adam Wyden made investors 12 times richer by uncovering hidden stock gems. His biggest worry: That his Democratic Senator father will tax his gains to death.”

Adam Wyden is quoted as saying about tax-the-rich proposals, “It’s anti-American. I’m very disappointed with American governance right now. Do you think any of these guys actually know what they are doing?” He also admitted, “I don’t think I have any sway over my father.”

The Wydens are at odds over a tax on annual wealth gains by America’s 700 or so billionaires, which is projected to generate $557 billion in federal revenue over 10 years.

The Forbes story pointed out the younger Wyden moved ADW Capital Partners from New York to income tax-free Florida. The article said Wyden started his company in 2011 with a personal investment and has turned it into a highly successful $350 million hedge fund propelling his personal net worth to $100 million. “This is the golden age of active investment,” Wyden says. “Companies worth $1 billion to $10 billion are under-researched and under-appreciated.”

The Senate version of Build Back Better legislation remains in limbo, with Schumer promising to pass it by the Christmas break if can round up the needed votes. There is a slew of tax provisions in the House-passed version, including a one-year extension of the enhanced child tax credit and a higher federal deduction for state and local taxes, which would benefit many Oregon taxpayers.

The controversial provisions relate to the tax rate for Americans earning more than $10 and $25 million per year and to subjecting corporations to a harder-to-evade version of a minimum tax. Senator Wyden says the minimum tax would apply to roughly 200 US corporations “that report record profits to shareholders and pay little or no taxes.”