Last week, Auburn students and faculty marched around campus chanting, “No grad tax,” a protest against the tax bill being put forth by the GOP.
As the protest entered the Student Center, the typical disdain toward protests bubbled up in onlookers.
People openly ridiculed the protest, asking why such a display was necessary.
To those who haven’t figured out why there is need for such protests, we offer an answer: this tax bill is an attack on the noble institutions of education in this country, it is fiscally irresponsible and it was executed in a manner that undermines our democracy.
The House has its own version of the bill and the Senate has a separate but similar version. Right now, the bills are in conference committee, where the two will be reconciled and made into a final bill.
Recently, a poll from Pew Research Center found 72 percent of Democrats view colleges positively while 58 percent of Republicans view colleges negatively.
Unsurprisingly, Republican legislators have become increasingly tempted to undermine higher education.
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This tax bill is illustrative of these shifting views. It would tax private university endowments, which Harvard President Drew Faust said, “would disadvantage universities in the charitable sector, and — in targeting universities — weaken the nation’s strongest contributors to medical cures, economic innovation, job creation, scholarship, and access to higher education for students of all economic backgrounds who will shape our future.”
By taking away some of the money universities use for scholarships, it would push more lower and middle class people away from attending college, which hinders our country’s competitiveness in international markets.
On top of that, the House bill would remove a tax deduction of up to $2,500 on student loan interest, thereby exacerbating one of the greatest economic challenges young adults face. The Senate bill, thankfully, leaves the deduction intact.
However, the final version of the bill may end up following the House’s plan, depending on negotiations during conference committee.
Additionally, the House’s version of the bill would remove a $250 tax deduction for teachers who buy their own school supplies.
The Senate bill, however, would increase the deduction to $500, a provision we support.
Again, the issue is that the House’s provision could be in the final bill, which would be a slap in the face of the hard working teachers all across our country.
The Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), a nonpolitical congressional committee filled with Ph.D economists, attorneys and accountants, estimated that the tax plan would add $1 trillion to federal deficits over a decade.
And that’s accounting for projected growth resulting from the plan, which is estimated to be only about 0.8 percent over the next decade — an average of less than an additional 0.1 percent each year.
Along with plunging our country further into debt, the bill would remove a key provision in the Affordable Care Act: the individual mandate.
Doing so would raise premiums on insurance holders, which would force many people to lose their insurance.
Substance aside, the bill was crafted under shady circumstances — the usual smoke that accompanies special interests being prioritized over the general welfare of citizens.
Written by Republican leaders behind closed doors, the nearly 500 page bill was put forth at the last minute with no time for legislators to consider every part of it.
Handwritten additions covered the final draft, a testament of its shoddy preparation.
If this level of preparation is unacceptable for a student turning in the final draft of a paper, why do we allow some of the most consequential business in our country to operate this way?
This practice is gross incompetence at best and a malicious attack on our democratic process at worst. It invites bad governance to take root in our country, and quietly acquiescing to it is a sign of crippled leadership.
Far too many of our leaders vote on bills they don’t know or understand the contents of — all because of political expediency and negligence.
As long as legislators get their desired piece of the pie, often in the form of benefits designed to appease their constituents for future elections, they’re fine with whatever else is in the bill — even if, on balance, it is harmful for our country as a whole.
This tax bill is a mistake both in substance and execution; only political desperation could beget such a disgrace.
Instead of vying for a last minute political victory, our leaders need to reclaim their duty to promote an economy that works for the general welfare of our nation — a task that seems largely kicked aside as leaders become more and more focused on election optics than public service.
We ask that our University openly stands with our students and for the pursuit of education writ large by openly condemning this blatant attack on educators, students and everyday Americans.
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