I guess by now everyone has heard about Obama’s plan to eliminate college savings plans.
The left-leaning New York Times reported on it:
President Obama is proposing a radical change to the 529 college savings plans held by millions of families, which would require those who use them to rethink their approach to college savings.
As part of his plan to simplify the tax code and help the middle class, one of the 529 plan’s most attractive benefits would be eliminated: Money could no longer be withdrawn tax-free. (The new rules would apply only to new contributions.)
The accounts, many of which are run by the states, allow people to make contributions that grow tax-free. The money can be withdrawn without the paying of capital gains taxes as long as the proceeds are used for education expenses. Many states provide state income tax deductions for contributions as well.
The proposal has now been withdrawn after a huge uproar. The real question is, why would he propose such a stupid thing?
First, it’s important to understand that government raises the cost of higher education with subsidies, which the Democrats favor:
A new study by Dennis Epple, Richard Romano, Sinan Sarpca and Holger Sieg for the National Bureau of Economic Research suggests that the impact of these aid programs is clearly different from what federal policy makers intended. “We show that private colleges game the federal financial aid system,” they conclude. Every dollar in new financial aid to students leads to about 40 cents less spent by the colleges on institutional financial aid — so students benefit far less than federal policy makers intended.
In 1987, Secretary of Education William Bennett argued that more federal aid leads to higher tuitions, enabling schools to increase spending. This seems broadly consistent with the latest research results. The net attendance impact of these federal programs, according to the study for NBER, is “modest.” In short, these programs haven’t substantially spurred student access to colleges, all the while burdening taxpayers and student borrowers.
The ballooning federal aid increases schools’ spending. The researchers don’t analyze changes in university spending, but an examination of other evidence suggests that money isn’t going primarily into improving instruction. Colleges have gone on a building spree (financed in part by amassing large debt — more than $220 billion at schools whose bonds are rated by Moody’s alone), and pay and perquisites for top university administrators has risen sharply.
The Democrats already want higher education to be out of reach – that’s why they keep increasing subsidies. So, eliminating college savings plans is in line with this goal of putting higher education out of reach. It’s another way to cause people to have fewer children, something that Democrats are very passionate about. After all, if you can’t pay for higher education for four kids, you’ll only have two. Democrats have this terrible fear of over-population, and it drives a lot of their policies, including abortion.
But that’s not all – there’s another reason to stop people from saving for college.
Megan McArdle suggests, quite reasonably, that this is a desperate move by those who need to finance ever bigger government and are simply going where the money is: the vast American middle class. You can understand why the champions of big government would be slavering over the very thing that defines the middle class, its savings. As she points out, 529s are not the first target. There have already been trial balloons about raiding 401(k)s and IRAs. The truly committed leftist looks upon our private savings as a vast reserve of capital unfairly withheld from its proper function of servicing the needs of the state.
I think that’s the real explanation. This is not so much a rational calculation about how to finance the behemoth state. This is an admission by a man who has no more election campaigns to run, and therefore no pragmatic constraints, about his real outlook and real preferences. A president who just a few weeks ago hailed the triumph of a supposed “middle-class economics” is revealing his hatred and contempt for the middle class.
Republicans would like to see people saving more and more money so that they are less and less dependent on the government. This is because the more independent you are, the more fre you are – and Republicans are for personal liberty.
This is GOP Congressman Lynn Jenkins:
Here is her Republican response to Obama’s proposal to eliminate 529s:
Good morning. I’m Lynn Jenkins, Congresswoman from the Second District of Kansas and Vice-Chair of the House Republican Conference.
This is the time of year when high school seniors are putting the final touches on their college applications. That means it’s also the time when families are preparing to start paying for that education — whether it’s a 4-year college, community college, or a technical school. (Scroll down for video of these remarks.)
As a parent with two children in college, I know this can be one of the most rewarding, and at the same time challenging, aspects of being a parent — particularly at a time when costs are going up while wages stay about the same. All told, Americans now owe more than $1 trillion in student loan debt.
And so in the new Congress, Republicans are working to lower costs for middle-class families and empower folks with bottom-up solutions that help prepare you for the future.
That’s why, this week, I introduced a bipartisan plan to expand popular 529 college savings accounts.
As you know, these 529 plans were created to help middle-class families save and plan for college. Many parents open them not long after their children are born. And ever since Congress allowed folks to withdraw from these accounts tax-free for college expenses, 1 million account holders have turned into 12 million.
Unfortunately, instead of expanding 529s, the president recently proposed raising taxes on college savings. If implemented his scheme would have turned back the clock on middle-class families, and taken money from your savings to pay for more government. This would have discouraged families from using 529s, meaning less savings, more debt, and more government dependence.
This proposal increases middle-class independence from the government, and makes people more free to work, earn, save and chart their own course. It’s different from the Democrat proposals which increase dependence on government and reduces liberty.