New tax on "the rich" pleases conservatives, infuriates liberals



If you're like me, you worry about income inequality morning, day, and night. Since we all have exactly the same level of ability, and we all have exactly the same drive to work, we all should be making exactly the same income, and the fact that we don't indicates the inherent bias of capitalism. That's why I was tremendously pleased when the Republican tax plan imposed a new tax on a select group of "the rich" which had eluded taxation for years: elite colleges and universities with endowments in the billions of dollars.

The Republican tax bill directly targets the nation’s elite private universities — including Harvard, Yale and Princeton — with a new levy aimed at multibillion-dollar endowments that have never before been taxed.

Under the bill headed to President Donald Trump’s desk the most well-to-do private universities would have to pay a 1.4 percent tax on earnings from their endowments... The list of colleges probably subject to the tax is like a roll call of the nation’s most elite private schools — Stanford, Amherst, MIT, Rice, Dartmouth, Notre Dame. Stanford’s endowment, for example, totaled $24.8 billion as of Aug. 31, according to the university. Harvard’s tops $37 billion.

Here's how the tax would work: Any private university with endowments worth $500,000 per student or more would have to pay a tax of 1.4 percent on the endowment's earnings. Depending on how the numbers are run, higher education groups estimate that about 30 colleges would be subject to the tax. The Joint Committee on Taxation has said it expects the tax to raise a hefty $1.8 billion over the next decade.

The only thing that bothers me about the new tax is that it is way too low. Billion dollar universities will only pay 1.4% of their income while ordinary working families will pay 12% or more of their income to the federal government. That's not right. We need more fairness in our tax system, because up to now rich universities have been getting richer on the backs of the poor. I think well-to-do universities should pay the same top rate as individuals--now 37%.

When I attended Yale and then Harvard I heard incessantly about how we were a class-based society and how the truly needy and poor were being underserved. But I labored under a tremendous guilt knowing the universities had billions of dollars they were just sitting on.

But my guilt would be much assuaged if I knew that these billions of dollars of other people's money was being redistributed in a way that soothed my conscience over the inherent inequality of reality.

What do you think? Shouldn't "the rich" universities be made to pay their fair share? Aren't they greedy for trying to keep their billions from families, disabled, and women and children who could really use it, especially impoverished women of color, trans kids, and newly arrived migrants?

[originally in AT]



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