Jordan Ecker

Jordan Ecker is an editorial intern at The American Prospect

Recent Articles

Penalizing Marriage for the Poor

Incredibly, the Tax Act actually punishes low-income people for getting married.

This article appears in the Summer 2018 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . The tax code has long punished marriage. A married couple filing a joint return stood to pay a slightly higher rate than two individuals with the same incomes would pay if they were filing separately, especially if the incomes were close to equal. Early on in the tax reform process, House Speaker Paul Ryan bragged, “We’re going to get rid of the marriage penalty.” But the 2017 Republican Tax Act achieved that goal only for middle-income Americans, leaving low-income households penalized for doing exactly what conservatives admonish them to do—get married and start a family. Prior to the Tax Act, many couples found themselves in a higher tax bracket after getting married. In addition, many means-tested benefits like the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit are designed around a similar assumption—that the husband would earn more than the wife...

Sharing the Tech Wealth

Tech jobs tend to cluster geographically. Can we spread the benefits around?

This article appears in the Spring 2018 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . When the Democratic “blue wall” stretching from Wisconsin through Michigan and Ohio to Pennsylvania fell on November 8, 2016, its breach reflected a growing socioeconomic gulf between the prosperous coastal states and depressed non-metro America. The vast majority of economic growth since 2008 has flowed to the coasts, while the Midwest and rural America have seen spikes in deaths of despair, divorce, an opiate crisis, and a moribund economy. It wasn’t always like this. Once upon a time, from roughly 1880 to 1980—an era Trump’s white supporters may have in mind when they demand America be Made Great Again—incomes of different regions more nearly converged. Much of U.S. manufacturing and its supply chain was based in the Midwest. Thanks to unionization, a good deal of basic industry paid decent wages. Meanwhile, other industries such as textiles and...

How Neglect of Puerto Rico Sparked a National IV Bag Shortage

Hurricane Maria inflicted severe damage on Puerto Rican manufacturing plants that make the plastic bags that medical facilities need to administer drugs.

(Britta Pedersen/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)
When Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in late September, hospitals across the mainland United States already faced intermittent shortages of intravenous fluids. But the Category 4 hurricane severely damaged several manufacturing plants owned by Baxter International, one of the major manufacturers of the small IV bags that deliver those fluids, setting in motion a major national shortage. Nearly six months later, the scarcity of IV bags has reached crisis levels, illustrating what damage to a supply chain concentrated in Puerto Rico can do to one of the world’s most advanced health-care systems. This development underscores an inescapable reality: A strong sector may have great doctors, nurses, and hospitals, but if one link in the supply chain breaks, people suffer. IV bags, simple plastic bags that are used to mix and deliver a liquid medication or salt water to patients through an intravenous line, are involved in nearly every facet of patient care in a hospital. Health-...

Q&A: America’s Marijuana Moments

Historian Emily Dufton discusses the prospects of a Sessions-led backlash to legal weed.

book_cover.png W hen Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded Obama-era policies in early January, which had prevented federal prosecutors from pursuing marijuana cases in states that had legalized or decriminalized the drug, the staunch conservative rekindled the debate over a drug that some researchers and users believe is less toxic than alcohol. In Grass Roots: The Rise and Fall and Rise of Marijuana in America , independent historian Emily Dufton, a former American Council of Learned Societies fellow at the Center for Public Integrity , details how 1960s social movements fueled both the marijuana decriminalization effort and the reactionary “parent movement” that sought to recriminalize the drug. She cautions that today’s marijuana activists should view marijuana’s history as a pendulum swinging between more liberal marijuana policies and harsher criminal penalties . The American Prospect spoke to Dufton about how attitudes toward the drug have evolved in...

The GOP Tax Plan Places Huge Burden on Graduate Students

Late last week, House Republicans passed the “Tax Cuts and Job Act,” a bill they claim will cut taxes and raise wages for the majority of Americans. One group that would see a huge tax increase are graduate students. Many of them survive on modest stipends, but they could see their taxes quadruple under the GOP plan.    

Most doctoral programs come with a sticker price somewhere between $20,000 and $50,000 per year. Yet many graduate students usually do not pay the going rate. Instead, these students work as teaching assistants who conduct research and teach classes. They receive a small yearly stipend, typically between $15,000 and $35,000. Roughly 145,000 graduate students fall into this category.

The House Republicans' plan would treat waived tuition as income, which means some graduate students would see their tax bills skyrocket despite their meager take-home pay.

In an interview with Wired, Amanda Coston, a Carnegie Mellon PhD student, said she expects her tax bill to increase from roughly $2,000 to more than $10,000. Essentially, Coston would pay taxes on $76,234 (tuition plus stipend), even though her real annual income is only $32,400. (The latest version of the Senate bill does not tax waived tuition.)

Michael Stenovec, a UCLA graduate student working on his doctorate in political science, told The American Prospect that the Republican plan “hurts graduate students who work in high-cost areas like Los Angeles and at public schools without the resources to better compensate grad students.”

The higher tax burden is not the only new penalty: Interest on student loans would no longer be tax deductible. Other workers in the higher-ed sector would also suffer under the Republican tax scheme. University employees from janitors to administrative assistants have long been able to score free tuition for their children. Under the GOP plan, that valuable benefit would be counted as taxable income.

In knowledge sectors like “eds and meds,” graduate students help large research universities—as well as the regions of the country that host them—maintain a competitive edge in the global economy. A plan that forces graduate students to cough up thousands in additional taxes a year to give tax cuts to the super-wealthy is no way to build off that success. It’s actually a move that may put graduate school out of the reach of America’s best and brightest.