Make higher education for all a priority

The time has come for the United States to take a bold step forward. We should make a four-year college degree free for all citizens.

A couple of years into the Iraq War the statement was made that we were spending a half-trillion dollars per year on that war and that, for that price, we could've given a free college education to all our students. It's estimated that the total cost of college in 2002 was $289 billion.

Where are our values? Can we afford it? I say yes we can by asking the rich to revert to paying the same percent in taxes they did under Jimmy Carter. By closing loopholes for the rich, superrich and giant corporations, we could not only have free college, we could pay off all outstanding student loans ($1 trillion) and still have money left over to reduce the budget deficit.

What kind of loopholes am I talking about? First, the main sources of income of those with inherited wealth are dividends and capital gains. In 1978 their rates were cut in half. Also, at that time the top marginal tax rate was 70 percent (reduced from 90 percent under Kennedy). Reagan cut the top rate to 28 percent. The national debt exploded and, by my estimate, at least $10 trillion of our national debt at the end of fiscal 2010 could be attributed to these changes alone.

Meanwhile, corporations have drastically reduced their taxes through the use of offshore tax havens.

In the Thomas Piketty book, "Capital in the 21st Century," he points out how inequality is compounded from inherited wealth. We should eliminate the "step up in basis" that allows investments for which tax has never been paid to pass to heirs tax-free.

Kent Kirkwood

Mount Prospect

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