Editor's Choice

Rent revolt

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.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

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Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

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Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

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A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

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Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

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