Saturday, February 21, 2009

On Hauling Out the Tenants

On Friday evening J and I watch Washington Week, The McLaughlin Group and Bill Moyers. My favorite, by far, is McLaughlin Group. Pat Buchanan is a regular, as is Clarence Page. They've recently acquired Monica Crowley, one of the right's radio commentators. (I know, I'd never heard of her either, but the right has so many talk shows that it would be impossible to keep up with them even if I wanted to. Which I don't.) Pat Buchanan is, well, Pat Buchanan. On the rare occasion that he takes the right position, it's for the wrong reason. Monica Crowley is dependable--she's always got the Right's talking point down, no matter that whatever the position is, it's been discredited for months. Last night's was the Community Reinvestment Act as the facilitator for subprime mortgages. Eleanor Clift, the resident moderate, manages to hold her own--even when she has to yell to get a word in edgewise. This isn't serious politics--it's just fun.

Now where was I. Well, as part of the discussion last night on the Obama Housing Plan, Monica Crowley hauled out the poor, beleaguered tenants as victims of the Plan, which seeks to keep precarious homeowners in their homes by subsidizing their lenders. Now I don't like the Obama plan, for a lot of reasons, but I strenuously object to being hauled out by every rightist wingnut in opposition to subsidies for homeowners. What am I supposed to feel--virtuous because I was to lazy to get around to buying a house with an option-ARM? I may or may not be a virtuous person, but it has nothing to do with financial acumen, I can assure you.

And if I, as a tenant, proposed policies that would benefit me, rather than allegedly make me feel more virtuous than thou, these wingnuts would run scurrying from the room. I mean, what about replacing the mortgage interest deduction with a larger standard deduction. That would benefit lower-income homeowners as well much more than the mortgage interest deduction, which benefits people with really big mortgages. (In fact, a recent study found that households with incomes less than $40,000 didn't benefit enough from the deduction for it to be worth buying a house.) But I can't see anyone but flat-taxers proposing that, and the flat-taxers aren't doing that for tenants in particular, as low- and moderate-income families would pay more in taxes under flat-tax systems.

Or consider their reaction to rent control and just cause eviction. Or to the construction of government-sponsored rental housing affordable to low- and moderate-income households. I doubt that these would be very popular among the wingnuts. So if they want to sponsor widespread homelessness, that's fine, but they shouldn't be hauling us out in defense of their position.

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