July 26, 2004

Yet Another Reason

If Kerry is elected President, this problem will become worse as soon as he moves into the White House. This probably won't change anyone's mind. Those who think that inequality of outcome, even if influenced by inequality of input, is a problem are the same people who think that Kerry is the solution.

Neither of us ever finished college, but after we had been in the real world for a while we both went to trade school for saleable skills. Her union priced my wee wifey out of the job market two years after Emrack was born, and we soon found that any other work she could get would pay for little more than his child care. We decided that it was the right thing to do to educate him at home, and the result was that we were close to broke for the next fifteen years. Broke, but never poor, because in this country poverty is a state of mind.

It was the so-called tax cuts for the rich of the Clinton era which brought us into the middle class. It allowed us to put our hands on the wealth which we had accrued by keeping our home from falling down while the neighborhood around it appreciated. By moving from the hottest area in Chicago to an area in Milwaukee which was just turning around, we were able to buy twice the house in twice the condition with half the money we got for the old one. Now that our son is independent and we are both working we are living large on an income below the national median. Those who care about the above problem would look at the numbers and think we are still victims.

I will admit it. We had help from the government along the way. We had stability and a modicum of security (petty crime now and then but we never lived in fear). We had functioning roads (but construction delays), trash removal, sewers and running water (altho we had to haul it from the hose tap for a while when we couldn't afford a plumber). We paid less than the true cost of the trade school education which facilitated our earnings, such as they've been. I am by no means one of those anarcho-capitalists, even tho I am of libertarian temperment. I believe that government and taxation are a reasonable way to provide for the public good, and that all of these are public goods.

Note that I said nothing about the so-called common good. Everything I listed which came from the government made my life better only to the extent that I made the effort to take advantage of them. We bought our first home in 1978, back when inflation was driving interest rates toward the sky. We got the benefit of a below market 7.99% mortgage financed by municipal bonds. The money came from investors. The government paid for their incentive to invest, and the public good of protecting the value of the city's housing stock in difficult uncertain times. These mortgages were made available to any city resident buying their first home who had enough income to qualify for a mortgage but not so much as to buy at the high end of the market at market interest. No consideration was given as to whether at some time under some circumstance people who resembled me with regard to some particular detail had encountered difficulty obtaining a mortgage or buying a home. We got the mortgage, but after that it was up to us. If we had failed to make our mortgage payments, if we had failed to pay our property taxes, or if we had ignored the court order to fix the visible building code violations, we would have lost the house. If we had neglected to observe the trends in the real estate market, and bought in a different market, we would not have profited as handsomely. This is as it should be. To secure these ends, governments are constituted among men. Government is the logical means for providing an environment in which people can benefit from their endeavors, and thereby benefit others. It is not illogical for government to provide the means for people to pull themselves out of holes they have gotten themselves into. The belief that it is the duty of government to lift people out of holes they have dug for themselves, holes that they insist on digging for themselves, and that it is proper to pull downward on those who build upward in order to do this lifting, is utterly foreign to my view of how the world ought to work, and indeed to my understanding of how it does work.


On one point I did not express myself quite as I meant to. It is not illogical for government to be the structure thru which we provide the means for people to pull themselves out of holes they have gotten themselves into. There are certainly other structures, some of them "faith-based" which can also cover parts of this goal quite effectively.

Posted by triticale at July 26, 2004 11:16 PM

Bravo! I agree completely -- you said it so much, much better than I.

Posted by: The Grouchy Old Yorkie Lady at July 27, 2004 12:38 PM

I have nothing to add, it's absolutely excellent! Except maybe, that when my husband and I bought our first house in '83 we had an interest rate of 12.25%... *sigh* LOL. Not the best of worlds, but as you say, certainly not even remotely the worst.

Posted by: Teresa at July 28, 2004 05:20 PM

Excellent post!

Posted by: Kevin Baker at July 28, 2004 05:25 PM
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