Killing off the American dream
Did you know that homeownership is inherently wrong, that homeowners are responsible for just about everything from the national debt to the decline of American cities? You mean you haven’t heard that? Then I guess you just haven’t been reading the weekly news magazines.
The cover story of the Sept. 6 edition of Time magazine is titled “The Case against Homeownership,” by Barbara Kiviat. I’m not sure what Kiviat’s credentials are since they were not shared with the reader, but I can tell you that her cover story contained a lot of opinion presented as fact and not much to back it up.
She starts on the first page by saying “Buying a house is supposed to make us better citizens, better investors and better off. But that American Dream may well be a fantasy.” She goes on to say that homeownership has let us down and can be compared to a “cult of homeownership” encouraged by politics, industry and culture to create a “fetish” of the idea of buying a house. This was in the first 200 words making me afraid to continue reading should she accuse every American homeowner of being part of the Manson Family.
She does acknowledge that homeownership is good in that it provides a sense of stability to families, however, in today’s economy stability isn’t necessarily a virtue. According to Kiviat you should not own a home because not owing will give you the flexibility to maintain income by being able to move from job to job easier, squarely placing the blame for the high unemployment numbers on homeowners.
In addition, by giving homeowners a tax break on their mortgage interest and property taxes, the federal government is subsidizing homeownership that is not particularly fair to people who rent. She obviously forgot that if the landlords of these renters didn’t get the tax breaks she’s against, their rents would be a lot higher. Apparently government subsidies also encourage homeownership, which silly me always thought was a good thing, leaving everyone else in a kind of renters’ ghetto.
Another dark side of homeownership according to Time magazine is homeowners' overuse of energy and oil in the form of more electricity and more gasoline for cars because homeowners have to drive everywhere. Why don’t we all just live in two rooms in concrete block buildings with coal stoves and fur hats? Now where I have seen that before?
But the icing on the cake was judging us against Switzerland where only 34.6 percent of families own their own homes and are perfectly happy compared to the United States at 67.8 percent. Anyone who compares a country the size of Switzerland to the United States who has the largest economy in the world and the most diverse population can’t be taken seriously.
There is no doubt that the housing bubble was created through greed on everyone’s part, and encouraged by easy government backed loans, but that doesn’t mean the American dream of homeownership should be bludgeoned to death. Homeownership is still a positive good for both individuals and the economy. We got blown way off course, and now it’s time to reevaluate the core reasons that makes homeownership a good thing, not the least of which is the freedom and independence it brings to everyday life.
I liked the comment one of the bloggers on Time magazine’s website made; “This article is history; now is the time to buy.” I couldn’t agree more.