An Open Letter to Heather Bullock, director of the Blum Center on Poverty, Social Enterprise & Participatory Governance at the University of California at Santa Cruz
The Blum Center's brochure states: "UCSC's Blum Center addresses the causes and consequences of poverty and demonstrates how participatory governance and effective policies and programs can alleviate economic hardship"
Their brochure makes no mention of homeowner subsidies and unaffordable rents. But the "political economy" of homeownership is a major cause of poverty in the United States. Homeowner subsidies artificially drive up the price of homes (and thereby rents). Without those tax deductions, fewer people would buy homes. There would be less demand, and prices would fall. Rents would also fall. Meanwhile, as homeowners' taxes are decreased, renters' taxes are increased, keeping renters in poverty.
To Heather Bullock:
In your presentation as director of the local Blum Center on poverty, you mention the deepening economic inequality in society. This certainly applies to Santa Cruz where home prices and rents have skyrocketed. But you neglect to mention your own role. You receive a government subsidy for your home, while most renters receive no subsidy for their rent. Instead calling it a subsidy, you homeowners say "tax benefits" or the American Dream to disguise this massive transfer of wealth from renters to homeowners.
Subsidies for homeownership are now $195 billion dollars per year-- a figure greater than the Gross National Product of Kazakhstan or Hungary or many other countries. Renters taxes are increased so that homeowners' taxes can be decreased, enabling you to buy a home.
If you say this money doesn't really come from renters, where does it comes from? Does God drop down out of the sky in a flying saucer with a big bag of money and run up to the IRS and give them $195 billion dollars to make up for the $195 billion dollar revenue loss caused by your $195 billion dollar tax deductions for homeownership? Tax deductions for homeownership are paid for by tax payers who don't have them--renters. You enrich yourselves while impoverishing renters, and then lie about where the money comes from.
It's a Special Accounting Trick. What is really "special" about the Special Accounting Trick is not the math--the math is simple. What is special about the Special Accounting Trick is how easily most renters are fooled. And then you portray yourself as concerned about the rich-poor gap.
You homeowners hold a monopoly of political power. You abuse that power to subsidize yourselves, massively, at the expense of people who do not even have the money for a down payment. Locally there are new measures to help people become homeowners, which you support, thereby guaranteeing your monopoly of power. When you say "participatory governance" you exclude renters.
Some of you argue anyone can become a homeowner, which is another lie. If everyone became a homeowner, your taxes would immediately go up. There would be no renters left to pay for what you don't pay. The American Dream--the American "sacred cow" of homeownership--has always been someone else's nightmare. Your forefathers stole this land from people who lived here for thousands of years, to provide themselves with homeownership. Now you steal from renters for your homeownership. The attitude is the same, which denigrates the human worth of people who do not own real estate. There is something bizarre in you making a living by writing books about the "attitudes" of the very people whom you oppress. Your academic papers divert attention away from this institutionalized thievery.
Not once during your lecture did the phases "homeowner subsidy" or "rent" even grace your lips. Since you benefit from these policies, your silence is complicity. What will it take to end your support of this massive transfer of wealth from poorer people to richer people?
- Jerry Simpson
Heather Bullock's presentation "Confronting the Rich-Poor Gap" was on Feb 9, 2019, at the Resource Center for Nonviolence, co-sponsored by the local chapter of the League of Women Voters and the Women's International League For Peace and Freedom.
Issue 21 -
Suppose a white man should come to me and say, Joseph, I like your horses. I want to buy them.
- Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce (1840-1904)