Goring The Sacred Cows

Ah, Massachusetts. If there’s one thing that can be depended on, it’s that the Boston Globe and the state legislature will agree on one thing — no matter what the problem is, it can be solved by raising taxes and taking more money from the subjects of the Commonwealth and placing it in the hands of the elected government. And anything can be taxed — it’s like they took the Beatles’ “Taxman” as an instruction manual:

f you drive a car, I’ll tax the street
If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat
If you get too cold, I’ll tax the heat
If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet

Well, the unthinkable has happened. The legislature is looking into a new source of tax money, and the Glob does NOT like it one darned bit:

They want to go after private college endowments.

The proposal is simple, even seductively so: if a private college or university’s endowment is over $1 billion dollars, then the state takes a cut of it — 2.5% a year. For Harvard, the example cited, their endowment is $34 billion, so they’d be on the hook to the state for $850 million a year.

Now, the Boston Globe’s arguments are fairly solid. For all my attacks on the Bay State, it is, indeed, a Mecca of higher education. And those schools do draw a lot of people — and money — to the state.

But on the other hand, that sort of thing is a long-term investment. Massachusetts has a short-term money crunch, and the government there is constitutionally incapable of cutting spending or doing anything else to fix the problem short of raising taxes. And it’s not like these schools are going to up and move out of state — they’re not like private businesses; they have far too much invested in real estate, not to mention traditions.

But the whole matter brings up a question that has been bothering me for some time about college and money: why have the costs of a college education been rising so damned much, well in excess of the inflation rate?

Well, a year at Harvard runs, currently, about $47,000. That went up about 3.4% over the last year. And I strongly suspect that that is probably below the average for most colleges over the last decade or two.

And Harvard is sitting on 34 BILLION dollars.

So, by the standards applied to other private entities (like for-profit corporations), they are extremely wealthy, and a great deal of their income and assets are tax-free. In other words, they are subsidized by the public.

Personally, I think that the state of Massachusetts already collects too much money from its residents (I can’t call them “citizens,” and “subjects” is just a little too harsh), and the representatives should learn to simply control themselves and cut back. But that’s not gonna happen, so I have no problem with them looking at this fresh new source of money.

Especially since it’s usually a bastion of those who call for raising taxes and fees and whatnot from everything else but themselves.

Blue on blue infighting, in the bluest of the blue states.

It’s a beautiful thing.

Brother, Can You Spare 400 Billion?
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