A Voice in the Crowd

I was at Fenway Park on Friday night, to boo Barry Bonds watch the Red Sox play the Giants. One of my companions was a recent Harvard Biz School grad, who takes a certain level of academic interest in what I do. He asked how the work week had been, and I replied that it had been fairly slow, until the whole Blackstone Bill brouhaha had erupted late Thursday afternoon.

I explained that the bill’s authors want to tax publicly-traded limited partnerships as if they were corporations – but that I believe their endgame to be far more expansive (i.e., beyond a petty swipe at Blackstone). I think it’s a test case for changing tax treatment of privately-held limited partnerships. In other words, the whole matter of taxing carried interest as ordinary income instead of as capital gains.

At that point, a middle-aged man in front of us muttered something to no one in particular, but clearly intended for me: “It’s ordinary income.” My companion heard it too, and tapped him on the shoulder to make sure he was speaking to us. The man then turned around fully – or as fully as possible in Fenway’s right-field grandstands – and repeated: “It’s ordinary income,” adding “How could anyone not think so?”

He was obviously just one guy at a ballgame, but his conviction made me also think he was something else: A precursor to how the average American voter is going to feel about this issue. Tighten your seatbelts, because it’s going to be a bumpy ride…