Bloomberg News reports:
U.S. taxpayers claimed 60.4 percent more in capital gains in 2012 than 2011, locking in lower tax rates before the 2013 tax increase took effect, according to Internal Revenue Service data released today...During 2012, long-term capital gains and qualified dividends were subject to a top rate of 15 percent. Starting in 2013, the top rate was 23.8 percent, because of the expiration of some of President George W. Bush's tax cuts and an investment tax in President Barack Obama's 2010 health care law....The $498.7 billion in capital gains in 2012 were concentrated among the highest-earning households. U.S. taxpayers with more than $250,000 in adjusted gross income received 83 percent of the net capital gains.
So you have hundreds of billions of dollars in asset sales driven not by a calculation of what's the best investment, but by a calculation of what's most tax-efficient. Because taxpayers are able to control the timing of their capital gains, the government will probably collect less in capital gains taxes in 2013 under the higher rates than it did in 2012 under the lower rates (See Charles Gibson's Finest Hour). But tax policy under President Obama seems less about the goal of raising the revenues necessary for the government's operations and more about making liberals feel good about themselves for raising tax rates on the "rich," even if those higher rates don't result in higher government revenues.