It is hard to tell what Americans will dread more this Thanksgiving weekend: avoiding talking to relatives with opposing political views, or the feeling of dread that comes with knowing that we may be one day closer to seeing this frightening proposed tax bill become a reality.
There are valid reasons to be afraid of this tax plan that the Senate is set to debate after the holiday.
If it passes the Senate in its current form, I will be forced to drop out of my Ph.D. program at the University of Arizona.
This is in no way an exaggeration. I — along with most of my fellow graduate students who are not among the wealthiest Americans — will not be able to afford to finish their postgraduate degree because the tax plan proposes to tax graduate student tuition waivers as though they are income.
These are the facts: as part of my program to complete my degree, I teach classes to undergraduate students for which I receive a small stipend of around $15,000. I pay federal taxes on that income. In addition to my modest stipend, I receive a tuition waiver for the classes that I must complete in order to earn my Ph.D. degree.
These tuition waivers are considered fellowships awarded by the university to students like myself who are competitive burgeoning scholars in our fields.
This is not an issue that just affects me and my University of Arizona colleagues. According to the most recent data from the American Council on Education, 145,000 graduate students received tuition waivers in the 2011-2012 academic year.
Under the proposed tax plan, graduate students (who are already living at or under the national poverty line) would be taxed on essentially twice as much money as they actually get paid as a stipend.
This would have devastating effects on me, my colleagues at the University of Arizona, and the thousands of other graduate students currently in graduate programs across the nation.
It would severely damage (and probably destroy) graduate programs in public universities. It would make high level degrees not affordable to low- and middle-income students.
Only wealthy students would be able to complete Ph.D. programs without taking on oppressive debt.
This is unconscionable, indefensible and anti-public education.
We can all surely agree that an increased tax burden on already impoverished and over-worked graduate students in the service of a windfall for the wealthiest Americans is unjustifiable.
Since when is it the “American way” for the federal government to punish academic talent and innovation with the undue burden of crippling taxation?
Sens. Jeff Flake and John McCain must take a responsible and honest look at this bill — not just this horrifying provision that will bankrupt graduate students — but at the entire text and its various dark and sordid corners.
The result of such an investigation could only lead them to vote “no.”