My daughter shared a Facebook post that should bring tears to one’s eyes. We know we want an educated population to build the future. The Republican tax plan is doing everything to further enrich the rich at the expense of education, the country. The story of students like Zach’s should enrage everyone irrespective of ideology or political affiliation.
Zach Linge started with a simple Facebook post.
$100 / month.
If this bill passes the Senate,
I will be living off $100. Per. Month.
My stipend already puts me in poverty. I’m grateful for it. But I hardly get by on it: after health insurance is deducted, I’m surviving on just over $1,000 a month. Then books. Rent. Utilities. Food. Conferences. Oil changes. Titles. Car insurance. Phone bill. And, when I’m lucky, a life.
If the Senate passes this bill, I’ll be taxed as if I were making $23,000. According to the Federal Tax Calculator, that means I’ll owe about $4,300. That means I’ll be living off $7,700 / year.
After rent? $100 / month.
THAT’s what this bill means to me. Living off $100 / month.
If you care about me, call your senator. RAISE. HELL.
The New York Times in the article titled “The House Just Voted to Bankrupt Graduate Students”
Republicans in the House of Representatives have just passed a tax bill that would devastate graduate research in the United States. Hidden in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is a repeal of Section 117(d)(5) of the current tax code, a provision that is vital to all students who pursue master’s degrees or doctorates and are not independently wealthy.
I’m a graduate student at M.I.T., where I study the neurological basis of mental health disorders. My peers and I work between 40 and 80 hours a week as classroom teachers and laboratory researchers, and in return, our universities provide us with a tuition waiver for school. For M.I.T. students, this waiver keeps us from having to pay a tuition bill of about $50,000 every year — a staggering amount, but one that is similar to the fees at many other colleges and universities. No money from the tuition waivers actually ends up in our pockets, so under Section 117(d)(5), it isn’t counted as taxable income.
But under the House’s tax bill, our waivers will be taxed. This means that M.I.T. graduate students would be responsible for paying taxes on an $80,000 annual salary, when we actually earn $33,000 a year. That’s an increase of our tax burden by at least $10,000 annually.
It would make meeting living expenses nearly impossible, barring all but the wealthiest students from pursuing a Ph.D. The students who will be hit hardest — many of whom will almost certainly have to leave academia entirely — are those from communities that are already underrepresented in higher education. …
In a horrible twist, the repeal of Section 117 (d)(5) isn’t the only part of the tax bill that would hurt college students. The House bill would also end the student loan interest deduction, which allows individuals who make up to $80,000 and are repaying student loans to decrease their debt. It also eliminates the Lifetime Learning Credit, which is instrumental for many nontraditional students.
And still, House Republicans voted this bill into law. Now it is up to our representatives in both the House and Senate to reject it.
.Zach sent the following to his Senator.
Dear Senator Nelson,
Thank you for your careful consideration of the issues under scrutiny in the current bills proposed both in the Senate and House regarding tax reform. I won’t pretend to understand the issues in as great of detail as you or your colleagues.
I am, however, deeply concerned about how my colleagues and I at The Florida State University will be impacted. You see, I’m a first-year Graduate Teaching Assistant with a $15,000 stipend in addition to a tuition waiver. I’m very grateful for the waiver, the tuition, and the incredible opportunity to pursue my PhD at such a fine university. By my understanding, however, these liberties are being all but forcibly forbidden me by the bill that passed the House this evening.
If you would be so patient, please allow me to enumerate how this bill will impact me. Should my tuition waiver count as a taxable income, I will pay roughly $4,400 in taxes. Of the $15,000 stipend, 1/3 will go to taxes. Of what remains, I pay for health insurance, which is an additional $4,200. The university assesses $1,900 in additional annual fees.
After rent, which is thankfully very affordable in Tallahassee, I am left with $3,600 / year for living expenses.
My phone bill is also, fortunately, very low: my parents are kind enough to let me reimburse them for my part in a family bill. And my insurance, through USAA (my father is an Air Force Veteran), is also extremely affordable. After these two monthly costs are reduced, I am blessed with $100 to live off every month.
Fortunately, I don’t eat a lot. But I do have a medical condition that would qualify me as disabled, should I file. I choose not to. I’ve chosen, instead, to work without accommodation. Thanks to insurance, I only have to pay $50 a month for the medication that keeps me alive.
I might not eat a lot, or often, but then there’s books, the occasional oil change, gas for the vehicle that transports me from my inexpensive apartment to the university where I teach fifty freshmen each semester.
I’m sure you understand why I’m concerned. $50 / month is not poverty. It is criminal.
I need more from you than a vote, frankly, Senator Nelson–or a canned response. I need an honest and rigorous advocate for the public.
I fear for the structure of any government that serves only a select few, any democracy that places the interests of the narrowest privileged population over the benefit of the wider public. I trust you share my concerns and my desire to see this, and other issues, righted. Please do more than vote, Senator Nelson. Please tell me how I can do more than contact you, how we might work together to impact real change.
For now, please do NOT let this reprehensible bill pass the Senate.
We must all engage now. In order to pay off their wealthy benefactors, Republicans are willing to pilfer us all, Republicans, Democrats, and others alike. Contact your specific representatives here.
Also published on Medium.