Tax Bill’s Not so Hidden Agenda: Sinking Science in America

December 11, 2017

In Trump’s America, pesky scientists cannot be allowed to spread their dangerous “facts”.

An objective, testable, reality, separate from the pronouncements and tweets of the Beloved Leader, is a threat to autocracy.
Hence, key provisions in the Republican  tax plan.

A feature, not a bug.  Smart alecky edjumacated elitists don’t vote for people who think the earth is 5000 years old and there’s no such thing as climate change.
For GOP vision of America, see Alabama.

Julia Belluz in Vox:

If you thought the Republican tax plan was just about huge tax cuts for the wealthy, think again. It’s also a major attack on science.

To understand why, let’s step back a bit. The scientific enterprise in America heavily relies on grad students. They do mostly invisible work in thousands of labs and research institutions across the US, on everything from basic research about human cells to clinical research on how to cure cancer. Their contributions are essential to running studies.

In exchange for that labor during their training, the federal government gives them a break on their taxes.

Very simply, grad students get their tuition and other school fees waived while they’re teaching or researching. When tax season rolls around, they’re exempted from having to pay taxes on that money (which never hits their pockets).

But under the House version of the tax bill, these waivers would become taxable income. “This means that MIT graduate students would be responsible for paying taxes on an $80,000 annual salary, when we actually earn $33,000 a year,” explained one MIT grad student, Erin Rousseau, in an op-ed in the New York Times. “That’s an increase of our tax burden by at least $10,000 annually.”

This waiver repeal appears in the House bill, not the Senate bill, and Congress is currently reconciling these two versions as part of its effort to form the tax code. But if this change becomes law, make no mistake: It’ll seriously damage the model that keeps America’s scientific labs running, wrote Jeremy Berg, the editor-in-chief of the Science journal, in another new op-ed.

The House bill would also drop the student loan interest deduction, which helps people who are paying their student loans manage their debt. And provisions in both the House and Senate bills would add an excise tax on income from university endowments.


“Disturbingly, these provisions emerged from a remarkably opaque process with little or no discussion of their policy objectives or analysis of data that would inform these important decisions,” Berg wrote. And they would hamper universities’ abilities to attract and retain the talent needed to run the labs that have made America a global scientific powerhouse.

That’s why groups as diverse as the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Society for Neuroscience are speaking out against the provisions and urging researchers to contact Congress to complain, and why students have been staging walkouts across the country.

“By making advanced education less affordable, it is likely to drive some students away from seeking higher education,” wrote AAAS and 67 scientific and engineering societies in a December 7 letter to members of the tax bill conference committee. Repealing provisions that help graduate students study “means that we will be shutting the door on new opportunities for discovery, exploration and innovation.”

Why are Republicans in Congress targeting grad students?

GOP lawmakers appear to have come up with the various tax cuts that impact grad students as a way to generate revenue to recoup losses from all the corporate tax cuts their plans contain. But if these provisions become law, critics expect they’ll make it harder for US universities to attract American students, and more difficult for all but the wealthiest among us to pursue advanced degrees.

Washington Post:

What initially looked like an impish dig at President Trump by French President Emmanuel Macron over climate policy has turned into a concrete plan.

First, when the Trump administration proposed slashing federal science budgets and then, on June 1, when Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris climate accord, Macron took to social media to offer (in perfect English) to greet with open arms — and research dollars — American scientists worried about the political climate as well as global warming.

Macron urged worried climate scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs to see France as a “second homeland” and to come work there because “we all share the same responsibility: make our planet great again.”

Two years after the Paris climate accord was adopted, the French government is unveiling a list of 18 “laureates” — 13 of them working in the United States — who have won a “Make Our Planet Great Again” competition for research grants awarded for as long as five years. They include professors and researchers at Cornell University, Columbia University, Stanford University and other institutions.

“For me, the chance to work on some very exciting science questions with my French colleagues and not be so dependent on the crazy stuff that goes on in Congress and with the current administration is honestly very attractive,” Louis A. Derry, a professor of Earth and atmospheric sciences at Cornell, said in an interview. “But it can be embarrassing to try and explain what is going on at home right now.”

Derry lamented a “devaluing of science by this administration.” And he said the tax plan Congress is considering would have a “catastrophic” effect on graduate students. “I don’t think the country is well served by this,” he said.

The French government’s offer attracted 1,822 applications, nearly two-thirds of them from the United States. France’s research ministry pruned that to 450 “high-quality” candidates for long-term projects. A second round of grants will be awarded in the partnership with Germany.

Corinne Le Quéré, a professor of climate change science and policy at Britain’s University of East Anglia and director of the Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research, helped the French government choose this round of grant winners.

About half of the applicants had been working for more than 12 years after earning their PhDs, Le Quéré said. The average age was 45, she said, and “most are in the middle of productive careers.”




5 Responses to “Tax Bill’s Not so Hidden Agenda: Sinking Science in America”

  1. Gingerbaker Says:

    I would just like to remind the commentariat that the United States was founded by a revolution that considered unfair taxes and deference to a police state as “tyranny”, and issued a call to arms which was answered by armed citizens.

    Not all answered, but the ones who did are known as “patriots”.

    This precedent was a very low bar indeed, folks.

    • Actually that revolution was not about taxes at it’s core, though that was a contributing factor. The Libertarians and Tea Party would have you believe so to cover up the ugly truth
      It was about slavery
      They were the the American colonies of England and as such under English law.
      In 1770 The British Parliament banned slavery, freeing all slaves.
      Being British Colonies this also applied to the America’s and those colonies economies were based on slavery, even the founding fathers were slave owners.
      The colonists rejected that law and the only way to do so was revolution, this pulled in the anti tax sector as well. The anti Tax movement was relatively minor in comparison and would not by itself have been enough to initiate a revolution, slavery a different matter for colonies with relatively low populations.
      There is much about history that is covered up

      • Gingerbaker Says:

        The point I was trying to make was that the level of tyranny our Forefathers would not tolerate is well below the degradations we face. Our challenge is existential.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        You trivialize the meaning of the word “tyranny”, GB. Watch Frank S’s clip for a real definition and an excellent history lesson. And read “Slave Nation: How Slavery United the Colonies and Sparked the American Revolution” if you really want to understand that our nation was founded in order to preserve slavery, not in response to “unfair taxes and deference to a police state”.

        Google “Somerset Decision” also.

  2. indy222 Says:

    A huge and un-discussed problem in our response, is that so many of the environmentalists in this country were brought up in the eco-70’s and the New Age, and who are just not able to come up to speed with the new reality of today. Their modus is kind, earnest, come-let-us-reason-together with Republicans and with Congress in general, and a complete refusal to come to grips with the obvious facts – that Washington DC does not care what the average voter wants – there is ZERO (0.0 correlation coefficient between what the average citizen wants in the form of legislation, and what legislation is passed, and there is near PERFECT (0.78) correlation coefficient between what the Economic Elites and their lobbies want, and what legislation is enacted (Gilens and Page 2014). A complete refusal to come to terms with this fact, or even to acknowledge it, in my experience. It’s as if they’ve reduced our wholesale collapse into oligarchy, free-fire zone on scientists and science in general, and self-made blindness as we careen past the tipping points of key climate elements (Arctic Ocean ice, West Antarctica, soon the AMOC current, desertification of the rain forests and release of their soil carbon…), that these can be dealt with in the same way they plead for wider bike lanes, or charging stations in city parking lots. Get clear – “Write you Congressman” only gives them further evidence you’re a dupe, and mark, someone easy to string along ad nauseum, as they kick the can down the road in their progression from “It’s a hoax” to “it’s too late so stop agitating already”.
    Think “Neville Chamberlain”, and not Winston Churchill.

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