Talking Housing Policy With the Right

Home Tax Benefit 1

Tim Lee has an interesting post up about how language shapes political coalitions and vice versa and I thought about it while reading Reihan Salam’s article on America’s crazy subsidization of owner-occupied housing. The piece doesn’t really break new ground in terms of policy analysis—not sure how it could at this point—but it casts arguments I’m accustomed to hearing from people with political commitments similar to my own in more conservative-friendly rhetoric than I would use.

One example, paint the tax subsidies for rich homeowners as a giveaway to decadent liberal elites: “Not surprisingly, over 75 percent of these benefits go to three high-cost metropolitan areas: New York City–Northern New Jersey, Los Angeles–Riverside–Orange County, and San Francisco–Oakland–San Jose.” If the right really wants to stick it to Barbara Streisand, replacing the home mortgage interest tax deduction with a modest tax credit would be an excellent way.

At any rate, my only real disagreement with the piece is Salam’s suggestion that suburbanization-oriented industrial policy was a good idea at some past point in time. My view is that this is the kind of thing that has in fact always been a bad idea, and whose badness has been kind of incidentally highlighted as a result of the financial crisis even though the causal relationship is a bit tenuous. Unfortunately, as with all issues that blend issues of class and geography there’s no real way to make the change on a partisan basis. At the moment, however, there’s no prospect for major bipartisan legislation of any kind.