Affordable Housing – Who Are You Helping?

I caught an interview on the radio coming home tonight with a realtor who was lamenting the proposed end to the mortgage interest deduction. Now, I don’t think the interest deduction will go away – congressman tend to be cowardly in the face of difficult decisions. But that’s another post.

The realtor was lamenting first that it would hurt the housing market. Note that “hurt” always means “send prices down” – for people who make a living as a percentage of sales price, falling prices are hurtful indeed. Then he launched into some silly mantra about home ownership being part of the American dream, claiming that this policy would therefore hurt the American dream. What planet is this guy from?

Tell me, how do lower prices hamper the American dream of owning a home for those who don’t own homes? Search long and hard, but you will not find an answer. When prices come down, products (homes in this case) are more affordable and therefore easier to own. It really is just that simple.

Removing the mortgage interest deduction will not hamper the American dream of home ownership – it will help it. BUT, it will cause more financial damage to the people who already own homes. (As a side note, if you’re already under water and on the brink of foreclosure, losing another 20% really doesn’t mean anything.)

On a broader note, the entire tone of the argument is reflective of what has become the American way. We have become a nation of protectionists. I’m not talking about trade policy. No, I’m talking about keeping “what’s mine” and tacking a moral justification onto it.

Unions don’t at all mind higher unemployment – as long as the jobs that are still in existence pay high wages with huge benefits. Protect what’s mine, even if some of the little people have to suffer.

The baby boomers don’t at all mind laying heavy financial burdens on their children and their children’s children – as long as we don’t cut social security or medicare. Protect what’s mine, even if some of the grandkids have to suffer for it.

Don’t even get me started on the anti-immigrant idealogues. “‘Those people’ are coming across the border and taking over our country” … somewhere the Cherokee who wandered the trail of tears are snickering. (Yes, I too am concerned about the huge fiscal burden – but the answer is to cut the fiscal responsibility.)

The list goes on and on. Everybody wants fairness, self-reliance, personal responsibility – until it means they don’t get something that they once thought theirs by birthright. Whether it’s my home value, my federal subsidies, or my demographic makeup – my “rights” have expanded to include some far reaching ideas.

As a Christian, I would like to point out that this is symptomatic of the greater human condition. When what is “good for me” takes on a moral justification, there is a clear transposition of moral authority. I have placed myself in the stead of God. Therefore, what I deem as useful, valuable, good, or beneficial, is drawn directly from the source of all valid moral decisions and must carry the weight of the almighty.

This is not a slippery slope friends. The sheer cliff face is whistling by us at an alarming rate as we plummet.

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