Wednesday, November 16, 2011

MSHA: assorted foot (-in mouth?) notes

We just can’t stop our trailing thoughts on this subject, so while they are ‘top of mind,’ we’ll expunge them from our troubled braincase by passing them along.  Let’s set the stage for today’s commentary with this gem;

It's often the case that when a critic uses an embarrassingly accurate term to describe what a wrong-doer is doing, the wrong-doer protests: "Why don't you use my white-washed, conscience-soothing euphemism?" Such euphemisms, they claim, help promote "civilized debate."

- Steve Kangas

Let’s be honest with each other; the activity we’re discussing isn’t ‘affordable housing’ any more than a ‘free lunch’ is free.  In plain and simple English, which is rare these days, we’re talking about government subsidized housing.  No more, no less. 

Calling it affordable housing is a ‘white washed, conscience-soothing, euphemism,’ and carries the added benefit of making lots of bureaucrats and social justice advocates feel good about themselves, if not morally superior to the realists among us.

In objective economic terms, many of the projects that fall under this heading are actually unaffordable in real market terms.  If you’ve ever owned free market rental property, like we have, you know that the operative equation is whether the property can ‘carry itself’ at the very least, and hopefully provide a real return on investment.

In our simple way of thinking, there are three parties involved in this ‘affordable housing’ game (we had to bite our tongue more than once to avoid using the word ‘racket.’)  One party is the government, acting as proxy for taxpayers. This party doesn’t particularly care about rational concepts of ‘affordability,’ or return on investment, since it can compel whatever revenue it needs to make the deal work by force of law from we taxpayers.

The second party is a contractor/developer/property manager who decides to enter the ‘affordable housing’ sector as a business opportunity.  Think Rosa Scarcelli and Stanford Management, for example, who we referenced in recent posts.  As a side-note, they/she ‘have’ three properties right here in Brunswick.

Those who operate such properties are freed from the economic realities of open market, competitively priced rental properties in the region of interest.  They know they have a captive, targeted, government subsidized rental client base. If they are developers as well, construction costs are similarly distorted by government involvement and override of market reality, plus various and assorted tax credits, etc.

The third party is the client or tenant, to whom the housing is affordable in relative terms, but only because other persons (taxpayers) subsidize it, no matter how unaffordable it may be in real economic terms.

So why don’t we just call it government subsidized housing?  See the quote we opened with above.  Some will call us insensitive or impolite for suggesting such a thing.  Poppycock; PC terminology like ‘affordable housing’ is insensitive, impolite, and far worse. It disguises the insidious and widespread use of government power to insinuate itself into every aspect of our daily lives, and every square mile of our local landscape.  Signs in front of such housing seem benign and vaguely uplifting, instead of reminding us that the heavy hand of government is involved.

Not only that, but it sets the stage for capitol cronyism by which those with the ‘right’ connections can become wealthy without suffering the uncertainties of free markets; perhaps even wealthy enough to finance their own campaigns for high political office.

Wow; we’ve exceeded the expectations we had for ourselves as we began this post, so we need to head for the exit.  As we do, we’ll leave you with media coverage of yesterday’s meeting:

Then you can go to this item, which has a link to an audio only report on the meeting.

In one final thought, we can’t help but marvel at the irony that Dale McCormick, MSHA Director since 2005, was formerly Maine State Treasurer for 8 years or so.  This is the very same position now held by Bruce Poliquin, who is leading the way in demanding accountability from quasi-governmental ‘authorities’ who manage huge sums of taxpayer funds with virtually no oversight.

If you think the election a year ago didn’t make any difference, you haven’t been paying attention.  And it’s time you do, because ‘sunlight,’ even in the dead of winter, is illuminating all sorts of interesting things.  Many of which haven’t had to wear sunscreen for decades.

Maybe you should make sure you have a good pair of sunglasses handy, so that when unexpected glare occurs, your ‘eyes’ are protected.

No comments:

Post a Comment