The Corner

Education

Is Warren’s Student-Debt Proposal ‘Broadly Progressive’?

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

I had to chuckle at this from Jared Bernstein:

The Warren plan expends resources on student debtors from upper-income families, but it is still broadly progressive. Analysis from experts at Brandeis University, the University of Tennessee, and Arizona State University shows that among low and moderate-income families — those in the bottom 40 percent of the income distribution — close to 90 percent of borrowing households would have their student debt wiped out compared to just under 30 percent of those in the top 10 percent. Similarly, the proposal provides total cancellation for about 90 percent of those with an associate degree or less but provides total cancellation for about only 25 percent of those with a professional degree or doctorate. (Because student debt rises with household income, the plan could be made more progressive and less expensive by lowering the $50K cancellation amount).

It’s funny because this calculates the progressivity of student-loan relief the way conservatives calculate the progressivity of tax cuts.

As I spelled out in this post, there are a lot of different ways to do the math on “progressivity,” and they led to very different conclusions about the 2017 GOP tax law. If you just look at raw dollar amounts, the rich got a lot more (simply because they pay the most in taxes to begin with) — making the policy look ridiculously regressive. If you look at percentage changes to after-tax income, things look quite a bit better. If you look at percentage changes to federal taxes paid, things look better still. And if you ignore payroll taxes and just look at changes to income taxes paid, the policy is actually ridiculously progressive, with some people at the bottom getting a 100 percent tax cut (though they paid very little in income taxes to begin with and saw no change to their much higher payroll-tax burden).

By the same token, wealthy people have far more student debt than poor people do. Calculating the percentage reduction in debt simply removes this from the equation.

To be fair, two features of Warren’s plan make it less regressive than it might otherwise be: She phases out relief starting at $100,000 in household income — with those making above $250,000 getting no relief at all — and caps total relief at $50,000. She also claims she’s going to fund this by soaking the super-rich. But I find it somewhat curious that the economic analysis she released didn’t even mention the average dollar amount that households in various income brackets would receive.

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

The Worst Cover-Up of All Time

President Donald Trump may be guilty of many things, but a cover-up in the Mueller probe isn’t one of them. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, attempting to appease forces in the Democratic party eager for impeachment, is accusing him of one, with all the familiar Watergate connotations. The charge is strange, ... Read More
World

Theresa May: A Political Obituary

On Friday, Theresa May, perhaps the worst Conservative prime minister in recent history, announced her resignation outside of number 10 Downing Street. She will step down effective June 7. “I have done my best,” she insisted. “I have done everything I can. . . . I believe it was right to persevere even ... Read More
PC Culture

TV Before PC

Affixing one’s glance to the rear-view mirror is usually as ill-advised as staring at one’s own reflection. Still, what a delight it was on Wednesday to see a fresh rendition of “Those Were the Days,” from All in the Family, a show I haven’t watched for nearly 40 years. This time it was Woody Harrelson ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Democrats’ Other Class War

There is a class war going on inside the Democratic party. Consider these two cris de couer: Writing in the New York Times under the headline “America’s Cities Are Unlivable — Blame Wealthy Liberals,” Farhad Manjoo argues that rich progressives have, through their political domination of cities such as ... Read More
Culture

The Deepfake of Nancy Pelosi

You’ve almost made it to a three-day weekend! Making the click-through worthwhile: A quick note about how National Review needs your help, concerns about “deepfakes” of Nancy Pelosi, one of the most cringe-inducing radio interviews of all time, some news about where to find me and the book in the near ... Read More
White House

For Democrats, the Party’s Over

If the Democrats are really tempted by impeachment, bring it on. Since the day after the 2016 election they have been threatening this, placing their chips on the Russian-collusion fantasy and then on the phantasmagoric charade of obstruction of justice. The attorney general accurately gave the ingredients of the ... Read More