Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Newspaper: It's For The Cat

So why oh why do I keep reading it? And why do loving parents allow their innocent offspring to attend J-school when there are honest trades like repossessing cars and sweeping floors to be had?

Perhaps it's the amusing levels of nuttiness. Oh, not at the very top; the Indy [Red] Star's editor is merely a staunch FDR/LBJ Leftie, filled with smug self-assurance that he can uplift our heathen, rednecked selves (for our own good) by means of draconian law, regulation and unremitting hectoring: it's the Administrative Control Bias that infects all media, plus a generous dollop of condescension and it's as predictable as sunrise. Still, the guy can string together a sentence and even when I find his reasoning specious or deceptive, he's at least done his homework.

Some of the paper's regular columnists, on the other hand, appear to have been eating paint chips -- the old ones, with extra lead. Take today's offal, er, offering from smart-as-a-bag-of-hammers Dan Carpenter, bemoaning the horrific iniquity of adding property tax caps to the state constitution. "So what," you shrug, "This has been the bleat of those who would do good with other people's money since the debate started and Dan's to the Left of Lenin." This is true but at least Lenin could beat a pig at checkers. Mr. Carpenter doesn't even know what a "free market" is.

Our property taxes are based on "market value" assessments, which means in real life, I am paying taxes on an assessed valuation a bit over 1.4x what I paid for the house, a house presently worth 0.83x what I paid for it. The escrow for property taxes, which took a big lurch upward the year (before) I bought the place (but nobody'd seen the bill when I got my loan 'cos we pay 'em in arrears) was so large I nearly lost the house through not being able to make the unexpectedly large payments. As it worked out, instead of losing the house, I gained a boarder; but it was a near thing.

So when the Governor says of the tax-cap law (vs. the amendment), "If the statute brought certainty with it, that probably would be enough for me. We couldn't leave it subject to the whims of a judge." And the paper's leading Leftie whines in response, "Like so many of the governor's quotable toss-offs, this one begs and raises questions. What other risks of the free market shall government protect investors from?" I have to wonder what he's smoking: the "cap" only caps the tax rate.

If the free market -- as rather generously read by the township assessor -- says my house is worth more, I'll pay higher taxes; if the value of my house drops, so do my taxes. All the cap does is say it cannot be more than X percent of what the house is (supposedly) worth. (You'd think I'd be able to sell it to the State for that much if that's what they say it is worth, but noooo). Not much "protection," really, and none from the free market. It does shield me a little from decidedly coercive (that's "double-plus unfree" in Newspeak, Dan) actions of lawmakers, who can seize my house if I don't pay up.

But that's no matter to him: "There is little doubt that the electorate, given a rare point-blank shot at taxes, will endorse the caps. There is no doubt local government, which has to care for the property involved and the people occupying it, will suffer."

Hunh? "Has to care for the property involved and the people occupying it?" Since when? I paint it, I mow the lawn, I make my own breakfast. In fact, if the sidewalk out front gets funky, I'm stuck with fixing that, too. So...what, then? Sewer, water, power, gas, telephone, all pay-to-play. True, the city takes care of the road, the trash (I'd almost rather pay, as their list of rules keeps growing -- you can't even throw away a cardboard carton full of trash now: the box has to be folded flat and tied with string and the trash must be bagged, or they leave it on the curb) and police and fire, plus (some) ambulance, though the last usually results in a bill, but that's it. There are free streetlights, too -- but I pay for the one in our alley. If the city unlights the one on our street, I'd give serious thought to the $6.00 month it would take to turn it back on.

In Dan's world, things like that never happen; it's just us nasty, greedy or poor folk, awaiting the beneficence bestowed upon us by our betters -- using money they took from us under threat of losing our homes. Why not let us keep the money -- and our houses -- in the first place?


CGHill said...

We do this the other way around in Oklahoma: the rate can fluctuate every which way, but the taxable value cannot go up more than 5 percent a year. (There exists a measure to cut that to 3 percent a year.) The cap is removed for major improvements (adding rooms and such) and at the time of sale, though it's generally reinstated the following year.

My own house has gone up 27 percent, says the assessor, since I bought it in 2003. (It was 29 percent last year, so I took a small hit.) The amount they can tax me on, however, has gone up only 23 percent. The actual tax rate is up about 4 percent.

The Old Man said...

Be very careful. An idea like requiring the powers-that-be to purchase your property at the price that they use for tax purposes upon request of the owner could be viewed as seditious by our betters. Personally, I think it's a helluvan idea. My valuation sure as hell hasn't gone down and taken the taxes with it.
Good luck with that...

perlhaqr said...

You should be able to request a forced revaluation of your property. But look up the rules on it, they can be (as you might expect) a little funky. Here in Albuquerque, you have to request it at a specific time, and that time is oh so conveniently before they make up the bills. Because, of course, they only do it for about 2 weeks out of the year.

B said...

A La Heinlein: (Number of the Beast, IIRC)

YOU (the owner) decide what the value of your house is.

Anyone who wishes may purchase your house for the value you have stated (and are, therefore, taxed at). Should you choose to keep the house or property, you may pay the taxes in arrears for the previous 10 years or some such. Or, you move out in 90 days.

Somewhat market driven, as the owner of the house decides what the actual value is.

WV: topHo....the best ho on the block..

Anonymous said...

Those of us outside the big city say "Hooray for Indiana property tax reform!" I now pay even less!

As for Dan I consider him an important weather vane. What he is against, I should be for.

Shootin' Buddy

Fuzzy Curmudgeon said...

Years ago there was a fella named Tom Keating who wrote about social issues for the Star. His writing was rightly admired. Unfortunately, he died young of some dread disease, and the Pulliams, in a fit of misguided idiocy, hired Dan Carpenter to replace him. Unfortunately Dan Carpenter wasn't and isn't worthy to shine Tom Keating's shoes.

The Star was a better newspaper when Carpenter was suspended from writing. Not much better, but better nonetheless. They should never have let him near a computer terminal again.

Drang said...

We keep getting tax caps here in Washington AC, and the commies in Olympia keep ignoring 'em...

Our house appreciated in value almost 300%, before dropping (at last re-fi) to a mere 190% above what we originally paid for it. The re-fi dropped the rate enough that the difference in payments is not that great. (The Ghu we didn't re-fi at the highest rate it attained...)

George said...

Roberta ... it doesn't really matter what they do. Things aren't any different up here in the Great White North ... except I don't think our benighted journalists have thought of tax rate caps.

Whatever will generate more revenue for local governments ... with no thought to value received for the delivery of their services ... is what will fly. Local transit, for example, is often bedeviled with rapidly rising costs (capital equipment and wages). The solution is always to reduce services, increase fares and then moan to all concerned about the terrible state of public transit ... as if their own scheduling weirdnesses, surly drivers/collectors and lack of 24 hour service in major metropolitan areas isn't to blame. Oh ... and don't even mention crime.

Local newspapers. Local government. Should be able to wrap 'em both up with the cat litter.


WV = pewolo. Don't know what it is ... but it's pretty.