Magical Thinking: Tax the Rich More and America’s “Education Gap” Will Disappear


The New York Times provides a constant stream of articles showing the unshakable liberal belief in the benefits of redistribution. An excellent example is Eduardo Porter’s piece entitled “A Simple Equation: More Education = More Income.”

Liberals, as we know, obsess over statistical gaps of all kinds. Almost any such gap between groups in society is an excuse for more government involvement, and the income gap between rich and poor is at the top of their list. Porter informs us that between 1979 and 2012, the earnings gap between families headed by college graduates and those headed by high school graduates grew by $30,000 after inflation.

Of course, he has a solution for this terrible situation – higher taxes. Porter argues in favor of a new tax on the rich, one that would keep the “one-percenters’” share of “the nation’s income” (to liberals, a nation earns income, not the individuals who compose it) were reduced to its 1979 level of 10 percent. The take from that tax would enable the government to write a check to every other family for over $7,100.

Then what? Porter maintains that much of the money would be spent – actually, “invested” – in higher education. According to statistics, “American workers with a college degree are paid 74 percent more than those with only a high school degree, on average….” Naturally, the non-rich who receive that whopping check will choose to put their children through college, thereby reducing the awful income gap.

It’s so simple. More education equals more income.

No article could better prove that leftists never pay any attention to their critics. Porter’s suppositions in the article have been torn to shreds over and over, but he is blissfully unaware of that.

The most glaring problem with Porter’s reasoning is his assumption that all the beneficiaries of his tax would productively spend it on college education. The fact of the matter is that the reason why many young Americans don’t go to college has nothing to do with its affordability. Just as there are restaurants for people in all income ranges, so are there colleges. Community colleges in particular are very low cost, or even free.

The reason why many don’t take advantage of inexpensive options for post-secondary education is that many young Americans are woefully unprepared for and completely uninterested in further education. Their pitiable K-12 years left them with abysmal basic skills and a mindset disengaged from anything academic. Giving their parents a lot of money won’t change those facts. Even if they spent much of the money on college, a highly unrealistic assumption, it would do hardly any good.

Porter overlooks the fact that average earnings for non-college workers are dragged down greatly by the very low earnings of those who have suffered from twelve years of educational malpractice and neglect, not to mention an environment that largely disdains mental effort. Taxing the rich and spreading their money around can’t change that either.

Also, doesn’t Porter realize that some of the money he’d confiscate from the rich goes into charitable programs they fund that actually help some of the poor escape from miserable K-12 schools?

Another disastrous error he makes is to ignore the effects of our overselling of higher education. Porter looks at average earnings in the past, but those statistics are irrelevant. Instead, he should consider the results for recent college graduates. We already have an enormous glut of college graduates in the labor market, many of them doing work that the typical high school kid could do – serving coffee, delivering pizza, and so on.

Even if, magically, every young American who otherwise wouldn’t have gone to college did so thanks to Uncle Sam’s “generosity” there wouldn’t be “good” jobs for them. With great numbers of college grads already un- and under-employed, why believe that a rush of new graduates – most of them even intellectually weaker – will fare better? There is no reason whatsoever.

Sorry, Porter, but your big idea is sheer nonsense.


Read more articles:

by author on affordability