The Other Numbers

By Mike Nichols

August 25, 2022 — It’s campaign season, so the only numbers that seem to matter to the mainstream media are the ones in polls. Here are some other ones that ought to matter more.

Approximately 92% of all student debt in America is held by people with at least a bachelor’s degree and well over half is held by people with graduate degrees — meaning President Biden’s massive student loan debt “forgiveness” of up to $20,000 per person will benefit people with high incomes.

Doubt that? Read the piece Scott Niederjohn wrote for us recently.

Fully 58% of the debt is held by households that make over $111,000 per year and 26% is held by households making over $256,000 per year, his study states. Meanwhile, most of the people who will pay don’t have degrees at all. According to the U.S. Census, only 30.8% of Wisconsinites over the age of 25 hold at least a bachelor’s degree.

The rest — the men and women who didn’t go to college or went to cheaper trade schools and, for instance, maybe have ongoing, outstanding loans for construction equipment or trucks or tools — are the ones who will eventually pay through increased taxes.

The numbers prove this is an unprecedented giveaway to educated, high-earners — many of whom are undoubtedly appalled themselves. After all, those degrees are in things like economics and political science and law and ethics — disciplines that say there is no free lunch, there are three branches of government — not just one — and taking money from one poorer class of citizens and giving it to another, however indirectly, is just unethical.

We now know from the Department of Revenue that the state finished the 2021-22 fiscal year with a surplus of well over $4 billion and, according to Gov. Evers, will end the 2021-23 biennium next summer with a surplus of more than $5 billion.

That’s good news, but talk among some in the political class of eliminating the individual income tax is, frankly, nonsensical. Preliminary figures from the Department of Revenue this week indicate the individual income tax accounted for $9.2 billion of $20.5 billion in total general purpose revenue in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2022 — or 45%. Surpluses only go so far for so long.

Gov. Evers again proposed eliminating the state’s harmful, Depression-era minimum mark-up law that mandates a 9.18% hike over wholesale gas cost — an antiquated law the Institute has been spotlighting for at least 23 years.

The governor has proposed eliminating this before — though always in conjunction with a bunch of other stuff Republicans find unpalatable. Too bad the politicians on both sides can’t pass at least one thing most of them seem to actually agree on — especially at a time of high gas prices — and leave the politics for another day.

Mike Nichols is the president of the Badger Institute. Permission to reprint is granted as long as the author and Badger Institute are properly cited.