Democrats Discuss: GOP tax bill attacks higher education

At 2 a.m. Saturday morning, the Senate passed its version of the tax reform bill. The 479-page bill was given to Senate Democrats only hours before the vote, despite requests by Democrats to postpone until Monday in order to read the lengthy legislation.  The request was denied by Republican leadership.

While there are many negative components to the Senate tax reform bill, such as adding $1.5 trillion to the deficit, increasing taxes for much of the middle class in eight to ten years, and tax cuts for the top 1 percent, an important component for college students to discuss is how this new legislation will end up affecting undergraduate and graduate students.

The tax bill removes many benefits that enable students of disparate backgrounds to participate in graduate programs. In the new bill, tuition waivers that colleges grant to their students can now be taxed. Many graduate students work as teaching assistants and researchers for their university and in return, are paid for their work. Currently, tuition waivers are not counted as taxable income. But if this portion of the legislation remains after the House and Senate reconcile the differences between their two bills, that payments will be taxed, making it harder to afford graduate school.

There are about 5,000 graduate students that attend Ohio University, many of whom are employed by OU. All of them will be affected if this tax bill is put into place.

The House version of the bill also revokes the deduction of $2,500 for interest paid on student loans, along with other deductions such as the Hope Scholarship Tax Credit, the Lifetime Learning Credit, which is up to $2,000, and employee education-assistance programs.

Higher education is already hard to afford in America and this is another attack on education accessibility. I believe that everyone should have equal access to education despite their financial situation.

Personally, I don’t have a lot of help with it comes to paying for my education. This could impact my ability to pursue graduate school or a law degree.

There is still time to voice your opinion on this issue. The House passed their version of the bill which includes the taxation on tuition waivers, while the Senate’s version did not include these factors. The bills are now in conference committee, where their differences will be settled, and the same bill will be voted on in each chamber.

Continue calling your senators and representative to tell them how this tax bill will affect you as a student.

Rob Portman’s Office Numbers:

Washington: 202-224-3353
Cleveland: 216-522-7095
Columbus: 614-469-6774
Cincinnati: 513-684-3265
Toledo: 419-259-3895

This article originally appeared in The Post (thepostathens.com). Kailee Missler is a freshman studying strategic communications at Ohio University. 

Democrats Discuss: Hold politicians accountable for inappropriate sexual behavior

Over the past two months, more and more victims of sexual harassment and assault have come forward to identify their perpetrators. The growing list of abusers has swelled to include many prominent people, from Matt Lauer to Louis C.K., and these individuals are finally facing the consequences for years of abuse.

Yet, there is one group seemingly unaffected by the #metoo movement which seeks better accountability concerning sexual violence: politicians.

On both sides of the aisle, sexual harassment and assault appears a pervasive problem and yet, each case comes with a partisan split. When news broke of Alabama Senate Candidate Roy Moore allegedly making sexual advances on teenagers while he was in his thirties, the leader of the Republican Party and President of the United States himself rushed to his defense. Democrats criticized the party for their lack of moral fiber, but when confronted with their own reckoning, some liberals did just the same as Republicans.

Many stood by Minnesota Senator Al Franken, accused of forcing a kiss on Leeann Tweeden and groping her while she slept. Despite the photographic evidence, Democrats used Tweeden’s conservative ideology and her career as a model in efforts to discredit her.

Democratic Representative John Conyers has also been accused of sexual harassment and yet House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was unable to state whether or not she believed his accuser.

Some Democrats have used the defense that, comparatively, what Franken and Conyers allegedly did was not that bad. Yet just because what Moore is accused of was worse does not make what Franken and Conyers are accused of right.

Sexual harassment and assault should not be placed on a spectrum where victims are invalidated simply because their experience was not as bad as it could have been.

Perhaps even more troublesome is the faction of Democrats who believe the women that have come forward, but insist upon inaction. In the case of Al Franken, too many people have argued that while he took advantage of a woman, he should still remain in his Senate seat if only to fight for liberal values.

What values do liberals stand for if we continue to allow perpetrators to maintain their position? And what message does this send to those women who were brave enough to come forward that we could recognize their trauma and yet still make the case that the men who caused them so much pain should still hold so much power?

Democrats should not waiver when it comes to believing these women, but more importantly, they should not waiver on how they treat the accused based on political preference.

According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), out of 1000 cases of sexual assault, only 33 percent are reported and only 0.6 percent of perpetrators are incarcerated. The top reason for choosing not to report is a fear of retaliation. Thus, when prominent cases such as those against Franken are brought to light and people tear down the victims, it sets a dangerous precedent for continuing to accept the abuse and threatens to undo the progress that has been made these past few months.

Moving forward, we can no longer sit idly by and defend those accused of these horrendous actions. And if, as Democrats, as feminists, we say that we believe women, we need to believe all women, not just those who fit our agenda.

 

This article originally appeared in The Post (thepostathens.com). Ashley Fishwick is a senior studying English Pre-Law and Political Science at Ohio University.