Billionaire Robert F. Smith of Vista Equity Partners made headlines this week when he pledged in his commencement speech to pay off the student loans of the class of 2019 at Morehouse College in Atlanta. It sounds great – and so, so wrong.
If people like Smith were taxed at a rate comparable to the little people, there would be ample funds for free universal post-secondary education. Merely closing the carried interest loophole would generate enough tax revenues to pay off the student debt of 450 Morehouse Classes of 2019. (source)
It’s a kind gesture and I have no doubt that Smith’s intentions were pure. But it also shines a light on how this system is broken:
- a prohibitively expensive education system (it’s college, not some super specialized education we’re talking about here) that puts young people in debt for merely acquiring the entry-level education to persist and make a decent living in an increasingly service-oriented world and society;
- a billionaire (that got rich by buying companies, breaking them up, relocating them to more affordable states [like from California to Texas], ie. a person that accepts putting people out of their jobs as a collateral in order to make money), giving handouts to a few that he selected himself – instead of paying his own fair share of taxes (he opposes closing a tax-loophole on carried interest, which in turn gives him a lower tax rate than the students he relieved of their debt now).
None of these students will be able to take the morally high ground and reject this gift. It gives them a first taste of what their role will most likely be in this society: suppress your critical thinking and accept what you’re given – because you’re not the one who’s in control here.