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by Rob Horning

4 Nov 2009

A useful myth took definitive hold in the Reagan years about taxes: the government steals our income through taxes and helps the lazy poor with massive transfer payments. Liberals have never managed to effectively counter this nonsense, perhaps in part because they are bought off by actual massive subsidies of their own, which arguably come at the expense of the poor. (Dean Baker and James Galbraith each have good books on how this works.)

Home-owning subsidies are maybe the worst of these. Justin Fox linked to this Congressional Budget Office report about the government subsidies in housing, which estimates that (as Fox notes in his post’s headline) that only 20 percent of the federal housing aid goes to renters. The remaining 80 percent goes to homeowners, mostly in the form of mortgage-interest tax deductions. Another way of putting this is that America uses policy to create a rentier society, subsidizing landlords and creating property bubbles for their short-term benefit. And meanwhile, the report tell us, “The burden of housing’s costs is more pronounced among renters than among owners: In 2007, 45 percent of renters (compared with 30 percent of owners) paid more than 30 percent of their income for housing.”

The alibi for these subsidies to those who are already relatively privileged is that homeownership is an inherent good in its own right, a widely disputed claim. It is neither economically efficient, environmentally sustainable, nor the facilitator of more livable communities. (America’s fixation on single-family homes gives us anomie and exurbs.)

I wonder what renters like me can do about this. I have no interest in home owning, but feel like a chump for missing out on the gravy train. I’m like a middle-class person who insists on riding the bus instead of buying a car like society seems to be insisting I must. It grows tiresome to go against the grain of what society tells you someone in your class should do; to persist in it we probably need to link isolated individual behavior to an organized movement. Otherwise it seems like pyrrhic self-importance.

by Allison Taich

4 Nov 2009

Them Crooked Vultures have officially released their second single “Mind Eraser, No Chaser” for free(!) on iTunes, and you can also stream it on YouTube. The band’s self-titled debut album is due out 17 November in the U.S. and Canada on DGC/Interscope Records. The first single “New Fang” premiered last week.

by Tyler Gould

4 Nov 2009

The Swell Season is Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova’s first album without the built-in emotional resonance that comes from the identification of character, plot, and image with song. It’s hard to imagine the music from the Once soundtrack without recalling its place in the film, whether Glen was busking by himself or recording with the band. “Low Rising” has a video, but for the most part, the music has to speak for itself.

by Sarah Zupko

4 Nov 2009

San Diego’s Anya Marina is a rising singer-songwriter whose 2009 sophomore effort Slow & Steady Seduction: Phase II was produced by indie hero Britt Daniel from Spoon and Brian Karscig from Louis XIV. Marina has a tune on the new The Twilight Saga: New Moon soundtrack where she appears in the company of Thom Yorke, Bon Iver, St. Vincent, Grizzly Bear, and Death Cab for Cutie. The just-released video for “Satellite Heart” was shot in Portland with Scott Coffey behind the camera. Marina’s upcoming tour dates appear after the jump.

by Zach Schwartz

3 Nov 2009

The Phenomenal Handclap Band played a funky, fun, lively set at the 9:30 Club to kick off their international tour.  Hardly the “eye-popping spectacle that overwhelms the senses”  that their press materials promise, they do have a great stage presence and a better sound.  It also doesn’t hurt that upfront duo Laura Marin and Joan Tick are nice to look at, in addition to having great voices.  For a Sunday night at 10pm, they definitely rocked.

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