To Comfort The Afflicted
And Afflict The Comfortable

To Comfort The Afflicted And Afflict The Comfortable

Monday, April 22, 2024

Observercast

Greed Threatens Home Ownership

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I once envisioned a new feudalism where gated communities and large estates evolved into fortresses to protect the super-rich from those whose labor created their wealth. As Will Rogers reminds us: ”A man can make a million and he is on every page in the morning. But it never tells you who gave up that million he got.”

We do have armed compounds of crazies who spout “liberty” when they only mean their own selfish license to do anything they want with no regard to collateral consequences or the freedom of others.

But the walled cities of the Middle Ages have yet to materialize. Instead, new kind of serfdom is emerging around that most American of the American Dreams – a home of one’s own.

I live in a small brick home in a neighborhood almost as old as I am. And while The Antique Road Show and Internet searches assure me that nothing I have is worth more than semi-sentimental value, I have managed to accumulate enough stuff – such outdated items as books and CDs – that I feel a bit crowded at times. [My first draft of this was written in longhand on my south-facing front porch as I basked in the winter sun.]

In most parts of the world, three generations would consider my abode a place of luxury – running water, heat, even air conditioning. Heck, I have a small yard to putter around in without having to till every square inch for life-sustaining food.

But a two-pronged attack by capitalistic predators and the governments that enable them reduce the chances that future generations of Americans will enjoy this quality of life.

The most egregious form of this alliance centers around the concept of eminent domain, the “right” of a government to take someone’s property for the betterment of the community as a whole.

Eminent domain was originally applied for projects requiring rights-of-way. And the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority’s proposed land grab in the OKC area demonstrates the differing opinions as to whose community is going to benefit.

Worse, the definition of community betterment has been expanded to include more money in the tax coffers via greater profits for corporate vultures.

The corporate socialism that undergirds this country was best exemplified when the first developer convinced the first tax authority that a neighborhood of family homes could generate more tax money if the taxing entity would use eminent domain to seize the property and then sell it to the developers for a huge project: profits for the developer; more taxes for the taxing entity.

Donald Trump tried to seize a widow’s home in such a way for limousine parking for the Atlantic City casino that his ineptness could not keep open. She beat him in court.

She was lucky. Many corporate friendly courts have approved these land grabs. Why, it’s better for everyone – except the dispossessed person tossed onto the street to satisfy corporate and governmental greed.

That’s one avenue for dispossessing homeowners. Another comes through extreme taxation.

As my old boss, pal and political ally George H. Russell observed in a letter to The Huntsville Item in 2021:

“An entire page in the May 11th Item was devoted to exposing the irrefutable fact that there is no private real estate ownership in America. All homes, ranches, buildings and other ‘real’ property are owned by our communist government. Property taxes are not taxes at all. The so-called property taxes are rents forced upon people who may have worked 30 years to pay their bank or mortgage company believing that after the loan was paid off that they would actually own their homes.

“That is not the case at all as failure to pay rent to the corrupt communist system will result in eviction and one’s home will be ‘sold’ on the courthouse steps to another person that will then begin the process of paying rent to our communist government in order to live in the home.”

While I would label the anti-individual system in place corporate socialism rather than communism, the results are the same. And the taxing system itself is one of the key weapons in this assault on private property, Russell says:

“Even more tragic is that many Central Appraisal Districts … use the appraisal system to punish certain property owners with absurd and totally unfair appraisals and at the same time rewards ‘insiders’ and people loyal to the controlling oligarchy with lower appraisals.”

As early as 1933, Alfred North Whitehead observed: “Today private property is mainly a legal fiction.”

Russell lives in Texas, where cancerous population growth has sent housing prices sky-rocketing, which, in turn, has resulted in a taxing boom as property appraisals rise. In big cities and small towns, people are being forced to sell their homes because they can no longer afford to pay taxes on them.

This puts these new evictees – along with younger workers [doing the country’s work] at the mercy of multi-national investment firms who have made the despised corporate raiders of the ‘80s the capitalistic heroes of this century.

Their progenitors would force their way into companies, demand “efficient” streamlining to cut workers [the more experienced, and thus costlier ones, first], sell off assets for quick profits

and then unload the depleted company for more money, with tax laws – enacted by legislative co-conspirators – designed to maximize their take.

This new twist in capitalism switched the emphasis from creating widgets to sell to creating money with as little effort as possible.

Using this model – after the originators destroyed American industry in favor of child/slave labor in foreign lands – today’s money-to-make-money investors are not interested in creating the housing the rising population needs. Instead, they have swooped into booming areas to buy up as much of the housing market as they can.

The investment managers have the capital to take homes off the market, which pushes home prices even farther out of reach for many folks [in a continuing upward spiral], leaving them dependent upon renting from the investors at jacked-up rates with the minimum – or less – landlord upkeep.

Generations are being priced out of home ownership. Their fate is to become the new serfs, allowed a roof over their heads in exchange for what they earn by the sweat of their brows – or the brains behind them.

Of, if you prefer the southern model, it’s a new population of sharecroppers, where housing depends upon how they satisfy – with money and acquiescence – the new plantation owners who control their fate.

Among a mostly humorous collection of Baby Boomer talents and attributes no longer applicable – I could handle slide rule basics – was the projection that home ownership was out of the question for most of our successors, an American Dream turning into a nightmare.

Gary Edmondson
Gary Edmondson
Gary Edmondson is chair of the Stephens County Democrats. He lives in Duncan, following a sporadic career as a small-town journalist, mostly in Texas, and as an editor of educational audio-visual materials. Some days he's a philosopher/poet, others a poet/philosopher.
Mark Krawczyk
Mark Krawczyk
March 9, 2023
Exceptional reporting about goings on in my home state as well as informative opinion pieces that makes people think about issues of the day...........get a SUBSCRIPTION FOLKS!!!!!!!
Brette Pruitt
Brette Pruitt
September 5, 2022
The Observer carries on the "give 'em hell" tradition of its founder, the late Frosty Troy. I read it from cover to cover. A progressive wouldn't be able to live in a red state without it.