ThePhilosophicalSheep asks:

How screwed will you be if this tax bill passes?

Only moderately.

The main reason it affects me (for anyone not paying attention) is that, under the current version of the plan, tuition waivers given by universities would count as taxable income.  As a PhD student, I get a tuition waiver that is theoretically worth about $26,000 per year from my university.  As far as I can tell, that waiver represents money that one part of the university thinks about paying to another part of the university, but it never actually enters my possession and I have no discretion over how it is spent.  My actual income, in the form of a stipend, is about $22,000 per year, but if the tuition waiver counts as taxable income, then I’ll be taxed as if I actually made more than twice that.  This is only a minor case of screwedness, because the tuition waivers in a lot of other graduate programs are much, much larger – I know people whose real income is about the same as mine, but who will be taxed for imagined incomes of $60,000, $70,000, or even higher.  As far as I can tell, this provision is the creation of a government that is hostile to the basic concept of higher education, and has every intention of sacrificing the United States’ current position as a world leader in research.  In the long term, it will likely lead to postgraduate education being accessible only to those who are already very rich – which is fantastic if you intend to gradually break down a country’s democratic character and institutions by hobbling social mobility, but of questionable utility otherwise.

It is entirely possible that I will have to give up on my PhD and go back to New Zealand – but at least I have that option, and at the end of the day, I still got an MA and a year in Greece out of it.  Many of my colleagues are not so fortunate.

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