Taxes are down. So is the net cost of college. But the gap between the rich and the rest of us is getting bigger. Taxes for middle-class Americans were reduced over the past two years and are now at the lowest level since the 1950s. A Bloomberg News poll published Friday was the latest to find that most people think, wrongly, that taxes went up. Meanwhile, a report from the College Board on Wednesday found that tuitions rose but at the same time higher education is more affordable thanks to increased student aid. Those trends were tempered by the more ominous statistical picture in a report on Monday that showed wages falling for all but the very richest Americans.
Taxes Lowest Since 1950s
Congress passed a total of $509 billion in tax cuts for American families and small businesses in 2009 and 2010. The tax burden on Americans is now at its lowest level in 60 years, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The most significant single change was a decrease in income taxes by up to $400 a year for individuals and $800 for married couples. Read more.
Four-year public universities increased tuition and fees by about 8 percent this year, but a big boost in student aid meant the net cost of a college education is lower today than five years ago, according to the annual survey released on Wednesday by the College Board. There was a $10 billion increase this year in Pell grants, for example, bringing the total for the 2009-2010 academic year to $28 billion for qualified students. "At a time of soaring college costs, increasing Pell grants for students is a smart investment in their future and ours," Sen. Bernie Sanders said last March 30, the day President Obama signed the higher education bill. Read more.
Haves and Have Nots
Consumers are buying more luxury items but spending remains tight for everyday essentials such as food and dental care, according to a USA Today analysis. Purchases of TVs, jewelry, recreational vehicles and pet supplies are growing robustly, government data show. At the same time, spending on medical care, day care and education is down. Read the article.
Our Humble Abode
Sen. Sanders is among those whose Senate offices "don't show even a hint of egotism, no pictures of themselves on the wall, no ostentatious displays of awards or trophies, just an overwhelming message of home-state pride," according to a Slate survey of all 100 Senate office lobbies. Go to Slate.com.