Sunday, February 02, 2014

Our Two Most Onerous Taxes: College Tuition and Healthcare Insurance

It is not coincidence that these two unofficial taxes--healthcare and college tuition--are soaring in cost, outpacing all other household expenses.

I have long argued that to make an apples-to-apples comparison of real tax rates in the U.S. and other equivalently developed advanced democracies, we have to include two enormous expenses that are funded by the central state in countries such as Denmark and France: healthcare and college tuition/fees.

In The Real-World Middle Class Tax Rate: 75% (July 5, 2012), I estimated that healthcare insurance (if paid out of gross income, as we self-employed workers do) in the U.S. is roughly equivalent to a 15% tax.

Now that the Orwellian-named Affordable Care Act (ACA) is raising costs and deductibles, the true cost of healthcare (a.k.a. sickcare, because being chronically sick is so darned profitable for the cartels) is more like 20% in America.

Correspondent Tim L. (whose daughter is attending a prestigious STEM--science, technology, engineering, math--university) recently called $40-$50,000 per year college tuition what it really is: a tax:

College tuition is just another tax. If you can afford to pay it, you have to. If you cannot, you do not. Anytime you have to pay more for something because you can, you are paying a tax. Between traditional taxes, the college tuition tax, and the health insurance tax (also paid only by those who can afford to), I figure this year and the next three I'm in a 100+% tax bracket.
Middle-class Scandinavians famously pay around 65% to 75% of their gross incomes in taxes, but these taxes fund national healthcare for all and nearly free college tuition and fees. Add $200,000 (four years of tuition/fees at $50,000/year) in tax to the already-high U.S. real tax rate, and the real tax rate for middle-class households exceeds 100% of gross income.

Since only those with significant savings can possibly afford to pay a $200,000 tuition tax, the average-income household is left with one choice: the debt-serfdom of student loans. This is the acme of a morally bankrupt system of higher education: you need a college degree to have any hope of succeeding in America, but the only way to get that degree is to enter debt servitude, with no guarantees of future income needed to pay off the debt.

It is not coincidence that these two unofficial taxes--healthcare and college tuition--are soaring in cost, outpacing all other household expenses. The only other household item that is skyrocketing is debt:



The two unofficial taxes--paid by debt, either student loans, or Federal deficits-- have no restraints: if you can't pay, then the upper-middle class taxpayers who are paying most of the Federal tax will, one way or another:



Meanwhile, guess what's been flat to down for the past 40 years--yup, the earned income of the bottom 90%:



With an unofficial tax rate for healthcare and college tuition that makes Scandinavian countries look like low-tax havens, no wonder the middle class in America is vanishing like mist in Death Valley. The political class is now bleating about the erosion of the middle class and rising wealth inequality. There are two primary sources of rising inequality in America: the Federal Reserve and the higher-education and healthcare cartels that so generously fund the campaigns of the bleating politicos.

Want to Reduce Income/Wealth Inequality? Abolish the Engine of Inequality, the Federal Reserve (January 28, 2014)

Healthcare "Reform": the State and Plutocracy Stripmine the Middle Class (Again)(November 9, 2009)

Higher education needn't be a bloated, ineffective, obsolete, morally bankrupt cartel: we could have a Nearly Free University system that is available to all.



The Nearly Free University and The Emerging Economy:
The Revolution in Higher Education

Reconnecting higher education, livelihoods and the economyWith the soaring cost of higher education, has the value a college degree been turned upside down? College tuition and fees are up 1000% since 1980. Half of all recent college graduates are jobless or underemployed, revealing a deep disconnect between higher education and the job market.

It is no surprise everyone is asking: Where is the return on investment? Is the assumption that higher education returns greater prosperity no longer true? And if this is the case, how does this impact you, your children and grandchildren?

go to Kindle edition
We must thoroughly understand the twin revolutions now fundamentally changing our world: The true cost of higher education and an economy that seems to re-shape itself minute to minute.

The Nearly Free University and the Emerging Economy clearly describes the underlying dynamics at work - and, more importantly, lays out a new low-cost model for higher education: how digital technology is enabling a revolution in higher education that dramatically lowers costs while expanding the opportunities for students of all ages.

The Nearly Free University and the Emerging Economy provides clarity and optimism in a period of the greatest change our educational systems and society have seen, and offers everyone the tools needed to prosper in the Emerging Economy.

Read Chapter 1/Table of Contents

print ($20)       Kindle ($9.95) 



Things are falling apart--that is obvious. But why are they falling apart? The reasons are complex and global. Our economy and society have structural problems that cannot be solved by adding debt to debt. We are becoming poorer, not just from financial over-reach, but from fundamental forces that are not easy to identify. We will cover the five core reasons why things are falling apart:

go to print edition1. Debt and financialization
2. Crony capitalism
3. Diminishing returns
4. Centralization
5. Technological, financial and demographic changes in our economy

Complex systems weakened by diminishing returns collapse under their own weight and are replaced by systems that are simpler, faster and affordable. If we cling to the old ways, our system will disintegrate. If we want sustainable prosperity rather than collapse, we must embrace a new model that is Decentralized, Adaptive, Transparent and Accountable (DATA).

We are not powerless. Once we accept responsibility, we become powerful.

Read the Introduction/Table of Contents

Kindle: $9.95       print: $24 


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