Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Problems Funding Local Government In This Narcissistic Society

Today's news says, median price for a single family home in King County (where Seattle, WA. is located) tops $3000,000.

Meanwhile a lot of industry and jobs have evaporated. As industry goes overseas, the source of wealth, for American cities, has shifted.

It is now "home ownership."

This makes it harder to fund local government because industry is easier to tax, politically.

It is easier to tax "the other guy."

The "big bad industrial monster" is easier to tax than homeowners who vote.

Home ownership has become the wealth machine driving urban economies on the west coast.

Appreciation in home value has been so intense that people can earn more, just sitting in a lawn chair and watching their home values climb by, say, $30,000 per year, than working. Industry is no longer the machine for creating wealth that it used to be.

Local government is needing to shift some of the tax burden to home owners, but it isn't easy to do politically. It's "taxing voters." Industry is easier to tax.

With industry in decline, but house values continuing to explode one wonders where this economy might lead.

A topple tower?

What keeps house values so artificially high?

In Bellingham, many new residents have recently sold their California homes and bought up here. They often have enough left over money to retire early. That keeps consumer spending up so our malls and stores look prosperous. Local government finds it harder to tax this wealth than the "old factory" wealth of past decades.

An economy based on Narcissism.

Yet as housing and health care costs continue to go up, the cost of providing government services rises.

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