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Real target of Republican tax bills: Feds, eds and meds bloat

Michael Barone on

Are the current Republican tax bills, passed by the House and Senate and being reconciled in conference committee, an attack on "feds, eds and meds"? That's a reference to the government, health care and education jobs that local Democrats in Dayton, Ohio, told Sen. Sherrod Brown have been fueling the area's comeback.

The Dayton area's reliance on government is in tension with its history as an incubator of private-sector inventiveness, which more than a century ago produced the first cash register, the first airplane and the first automotive electronic ignition.

That's a melancholy reflection. But the implied complaints about the tax bills have more basis than the apocalyptic rhetoric coming from journalists (Kurt Eichenwald: "America died tonight") and Democratic politicians (Nancy Pelosi: "the end of the world").

The Republican tax bills would indeed reduce revenues to the "feds," with surprisingly small rate cuts for high earners and by cutting the corporate rate from 35 to 20 percent. The current rate, the highest in the world, has to be lowered sooner or later, as most liberal economists (and Barack Obama) have long admitted.

And it is hard to take seriously those moaning about increased budget deficits from those unwilling to reform entitlements, which includes all Democrats and many Republicans, notably Donald Trump.

The critics have more of an argument when it comes to "eds" and "meds." But there's a counterargument there, as well -- that the tax bills push against the counterproductive government policies that have been pushing up education and health care costs, to the detriment of the consumers thereof.

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The tax bills would impose a new 1.4 percent tax on the investment income of endowments of very wealthy colleges and universities. They would eliminate deductions for student loans and tax tuition waivers for graduate students.

These institutions have been coasting on their reputation for excellence and as havens of free thought, even as they impose speech codes, conduct kangaroo courts on sexual assault charges and allow humanities and social science departments to be dominated by postmodern agitprop and gibberish.

Student loans impoverish many students, especially dropouts, while the money they pump into universities produces administrative bloat, to the point that there are more administrators than teachers in higher education today. Government subsidies produce an oversupply of people with doctorates, causing their theses to go unread and their job prospects to be dismal.

Polls show that many voters have become aware of the intolerance and unaccountability of these institutions and that the economic rewards of a degree are diminishing. The tax bills send a signal to the people running higher education that they'd better change their ways.

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Copyright 2017 U.S. News and World Report. Distibuted by Creators Syndicate Inc.
 

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