Dear President Obama: Should we sell our house?
by Craig J. Cantoni
This is your humble servant. I'm writing from my home in the Sonoran desert of Arizona, where it's 113 degrees outside and 82 degrees inside. I'm sitting here half-naked with the ceiling fan whirring so fast that papers are flying off my desk.
It gives me solace, though, to know that you and Michelle probably have the thermostat set at a comfortable 72 degrees in that big white house in Washington. I hope it's just as comfortable in the big home you own in Chicago, whether it's empty or being rented by someone.
If King Louis XIV of France deserved to live in Versailles while preaching to his lords about the living conditions of the serfs, then you deserve to live in luxury while preaching to plebeians like me about global warming. After all, Louie believed in the Divine Right of Kings, just as you believe in the Divine Right of Presidents. And like you, Louie was able to centralize power and raise taxes because his subjects were fed up with the wars of his predecessors. Were they ever surprised, however, when he would later engulf France in war. Still, Louie was able to stay on the throne and build monuments to his narcissism, thanks to having the undying loyalty of the propagandists at CBS, NBC, ABC, CNBC, CNN, PBS, NPR, the New York Times, K-12 schools, and universities.
Oh, sorry, I got him confused with you.
I'm turning to you for advice, your majesty, because you learned everything about everything at Harvard Law, including everything there is to know about real estate and climate change. Accordingly, I'd be honored if you'd give me your opinion on whether my wife and I should sell our house and move to a townhouse half the size, which, because of the peculiarities of the local market, is priced the same as our house. We'll be empty-nesters next month and, because of your unwavering belief that humans are causing the Earth to warm, we'll be facing rising costs for heating and air-conditioning.
As an aside, people I know who are the most learned in science and the scientific method have the most doubts about the unproven hypothesis about global warming and CO2. Obviously, their opinions are worthless, because they didn't attend Harvard Law, which is renowned for its expertise in meteorology and climatology.
Currently, the electricity for our all-electric home comes from one of the largest nuclear power plants in the country. Last year, our total utility bill was $3,368.70 for a 3,860 sq. ft. home. To save electricity, I sometimes shower outside during the summer under a homemade shower that is hooked up to 50 feet of garden hose, which is heated by the sun. I think I'm violating a rule of the homeowner's association, so please don't tell them.
It's a mystery to me why customers of Arizona Public Service should face rising energy costs from your climate legislation when our electricity isn't generated by burning fossil fuels. Could you explain that?
My guess is that it has something to do with the fact that many of your adoring constituents are Northeastern bluebloods and Brahmins who live in big, old, drafty, and energy-inefficient frame houses, many of which are heated with oil. Surely, they're going to expect you to bail them out with hidden energy subsidies at the expense of red-state people like me.
Normally, I'd make such an important decision as selling a house without coming to you, but real estate values have historically been whipsawed by the arbitrary and contradictory decisions of politicians. (Arbitrary political decisions have caused similar distortions in the markets for medical care, education, and energy.)
For example, when we bought our current home in 1992, we had to buy a larger and more expensive house than we needed in order to avoid the IRS's capital gains rule in effect at the time. Now your central planners, who drive around Washington in government-issued Chevy Suburbans, want to get people out of suburban homes and into high-density housing along mass transit lines.
Another example: Because you and your Democrat party have always been opposed to education vouchers, home buyers with the means have selected neighborhoods based on the quality of the local public school. This has led to an exodus from central cities and has caused neighborhoods to be segregated by race and socioeconomic status. With vouchers, parents could live anywhere and send their kids to good schools, wherever they might be located.
Still another example: Because of the government's easy money policies, its backing of the Congressional playpens of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, its longstanding loony belief that housing is a good investment, its tax deduction for mortgage interest, its tax dodges for investor-owned real estate -- because of all these reasons, the housing market expanded into a bubble and then burst, with the fragments landing in the toilet. Thankfully, we have a federally-approved toilet that doesn't use much water per flush, although we have to flush several times per visit and keep a plunger handy.
I hate to break this to you, your highness, but even a plunger won't unclog the blockage in the housing market caused by your economic policies, which have made things worse and protracted the inevitable correction. Now, uncertainty over what you might do next has caused other markets to become clogged.
Home prices have plummeted about 40 percent on average in Phoenix. Three of the seven homes for sale in our neighborhood were bought by investors during the bubble, in the hope of flipping them for a profit. To illustrate, an investor bought one of the houses two years ago for $850,000, made cosmetic changes to it to fool buyers who are easily fooled by cosmetics, and put it back on the market for $1.2 million. He since has reduced the asking price several times to the current price of $799,000, which is probably $150,000 too high. Idiots like him, responding to government incentives, tax deductions, and easy money, have hurt everyone else.
In his defense, no one in the government or media warned the public that a bubble was forming, although the data were readily available and indisputable. For example, Yale professor Robert Shiller published data showing that home prices had skyrocketed 99 percent above the historic mean. Unfortunately, he is an economist and not a Harvard lawyer, so his insights and predictions were ignored.
Well, those are the facts. Please tell me what my wife and I should do, based on whatever diktats you and your apparatchiks are hatching. Should we:
a. Stay put and start going naked in the house in the summer? (For some reason, my wife is less keen about this idea than I am.)
b. Sell our house for peanuts, get rid of most of our possessions, and move into a tiny townhouse? (Not to be nosy, but will you and Michelle be doing the same?)
c. Wait until Americans come to their senses and vote you out of office?
Thank you for your answer.
With all due deference,
Your hot and obedient servant,
Craig J. Cantoni
An author and columnist, the sweltering Mr. Cantoni can be reached poolside at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Dear President Obama: Should we sell our house?