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I will preface this again by arguing that universities, when they are not functioning like kindergartens, are still a shining example of US excellence, sources of research and learning and hopefully positive spillovers, and we probably want to not destroy that. That said, redistributing priorities within many universities is probably in order and this tax bill is probably not going to encourage that.

Obviously, our university is alarmed at the prospect of having the “benefits” it pays certain students taxed, and for potentially having a share of its endowment income taxed. It is moderately entertaining to see our university now, forcefully, argue that the law of demand actually exists and that corporations are, in fact, people (the U of R is a corporation, no less than Exxon is). It is also moderately entertaining to hear our university discuss cost, access and affordability all the while sponsoring football teams, entire departments that suck resources and value away from the valuable enterprises on campus, spend hundreds of thousands (probably millions, but we are not told) on “sustainability” efforts, and much much more. Furthermore, despite what universities say about how important their mission is, in terms of access to opportunity, it may already be the case that “too many” people go to college, and it is also undeniably the case that college is a place for the world’s rich and soon-to-be rich are housed. If ever there was a regressive idea, tax support for higher education is. We are all supposed to be progressive advocates for redistribution, correct? It would seem to me that arguing for tax relief for universities is akin to the much maligned (and of course unicorny) “trickle down” economics that is the hobgoblin of many critics of the last 40 years.

On the other hand, and kudos to SSC for pointing this out, for the mostly stupid stuff in the current tax bill (and don’t believe the budget shenanigans, it will increase deficits over the long run) providing a giant pile of money to universities across the board, or making a large number of universities “free” for students would probably have been smarter and more fiscally responsible than the turb-bomb we are going to have dropped on us.

But the chickens are returning like the prodigal chicks they are – for years I have been having it rammed down my throats that we could all pay more in taxes, that minimum wages do not distort the choices of firms, that the “rich” could pay more, and so on. And now we see what happens when the scope is turned onto you. It’s the same thing for the absolute ecstasy and enthusiasm with which executive power and administrative fiat was celebrated just one short Administration ago, never paying attention to our warnings that some day someone you don’t trust or like is going to be at the steering wheel.

My prediction – none of those lessons will be learned. And your government will get bigger and more expansive the next time the Administration turns over.  And your universities will _____ …

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