In August 2011 the 170m obelisk honouring George Washington at the heart of the city named after him was damaged in a rare east coast earthquake. It needed $15m in repairs. Congress put up half the money but for the balance appealed to private donors. David Rubenstein answered the call. For the co-founder of the Carlyle Group, a hugely successful private equity firm, $7m or $8m was chump change.At the time he was said to be worth about $2.6bn. He was into what he called “patriotic philanthropy”. Part of why he had such a pile to give away was a quirk of the tax code, which allowed him to treat profits he made investing other people’s money not as income, which in his case would have been taxed at 35%, but as capital gains, then taxed at 15%. Politicians on both sides of the partisan divide, Donald Trump included, have pledged, piously and often, to close the so-called carried interest tax loophole, but somehow it never seems to get done. The reason is simple enough. The billionaire ...

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