January 24, 2015

MEGAN MCARDLE: Uncle Sam Is Coming After Your Savings.

Earlier in the week, I discussed the Obama administration’s proposal to tax earnings on so-called 529 college savings plans, part of a package of tax hikes that will pay for new programs such as his proposal to make the first two years of community college free. This has been touted as a plan to hike taxes on the rich to help the middle class, but in fact it’s more of a plan to redistribute money from the upper middle class to the lower middle class.

As I noted then, this proposal is not going anywhere, not just because Republican congressmen will block it, but because it would be very unpopular with affluent blue-state voters who currently vote for Democrats. About the only people I saw defending this particular idea were blue-state singles who haven’t yet confronted the monstrous expense of shepherding their progeny into the new mandarin class to which they belong.

Everyone else seems to be somewhere between confused and aghast. One comment in particular struck me, as I saw it several times on social media and in writings: “How would you feel if they did this to Roth IRAs?”

Why did I find that particular question a compelling topic for a column? Because it’s a question we may have to ask ourselves. As I observed when I first wrote about the plan, the very fact that we are discussing taxation of educational savings — redistributing educational subsidies downward — indicates that the administration has started scraping the bottom of the barrel when seeking out money to fund new programs. Why target a tax benefit that goes to a lot of your supporters (and donors), that tickles one of the sweetest spots in American politics (subsidizing higher education), and that will hit a lot of people who make less than the $250,000 a year that has become the administration’s de facto definition of “rich”?

Presumably, because you’re running out of other places to get the money.

And spending less is unthinkable. Is this why Dems also want mandatory IRAs? First force the savings, then confiscate!

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