Pete Sisco wrote this at a website called liberty.me.
That’s right up Nicole’s alley, isn’t it? “Liberty” and it’s all about “me.”
And Pete is bitching about property taxes. He says that property taxes mean that the state actually owns your property and it’s so awful and they will take it away from you in a second and sell it to the next person who comes along, because the state is so in the real estate business.
He then uses an example of how horrible this is.
I did a bit of looking to see who in the hell this guy is because I wanted to see if he’s just so stupid he thinks that is a good example of what he’s complaining about, or whether he’s a con man and knows better. I suspect the latter may be the case. He writes books and sells online shit and lives abroad.
Here’s what actually happened, according to his little story above.
His parents bought a house in 1964 for about $28,000.
By 1989, when their loan matured, they owned a house free and clear that was worth so damned much money that the property taxes had risen to $450 per month. He doesn’t tell us where this massive real estate appreciation took place, but we can probably make a reasonable guess.
California? New York? New Jersey?
However, it doesn’t matter where it was. The bottom line is that his parents made a very good, wise investment and it paid off handsomely. My guess is that his mother sold the house, took the profit which was considerable, moved to a smaller dwelling that cost less and lived on the difference, just like many thousands of people have done before her.
This is called “capitalism.”
He tells us that his dad didn’t live to see the loan paid off, as though somehow this is the fault of the state.
Furthermore, he doesn’t mention that in most states (certainly where we lived in Alaska) with hot real estate markets, seniors are often exempted from property taxes or given reduced rates in order to prevent them from getting in this sort of pickle (house has appreciated in value so much that the taxes exceed the original loan payment).
What he totally leaves out is that we the people are the ones who set those property taxes. We the people do this because we the people know that if you don’t have police protection in your neighborhood and you don’t have good schools and you don’t have good public lighting on the streets, your property value will not go up. Your property will go all to hell and your investment will go right down the drain.
We lived in a small village in Alaska for ten years.
There it is. The little town, called Cooper Landing, actually straddles the mouth of the river (above the bridge is Kenai Lake, below the bridge it’s the Kenai River). Our house was (still is, it’s just not ours anymore) about on the yellow dot.
The year-round population is about 300. Many of the people, when we lived there, who owned property along the lake and river-front had obtained it by homesteading. Not Naugler-style “homesteading,” but honest-to-God homesteading, via the Homestead Act.
I remember well that in about 2004, the Kenai Peninsula borough did revaluations of all the property in its jurisdiction. Some of those parcels hadn’t been revalued for decades, and when they were, it was a bit of a nightmare. People were suddenly the owners of property valued at more than a million dollars.
The borough had in place special rules for property taxes and seniors. If you were over 65, you could exempt the first $250,000 or so ( I cannot remember the exact figure – it may have been as high as $300,000 or maybe more), and only pay property taxes on the remainder. That meant that for most of our seniors, there was no property tax at all.
But some of these folks were taken aback when the revaluation took place and they realized they had property worth well over the exempt figure and hence would have to pay property taxes. And some of them simply didn’t have the income to do that.
However, the folks in that predicament had a very big asset – their property. In one case, the children of the homeowner paid the taxes for their parents because they were going to inherit the property and everyone who lives up there wants property in Cooper Landing (it’s a resort). And some folks opted to sell, pocket the money and buy something in a cheaper neighborhood.
But the point here is that we the people ran the Kenai Peninsula borough. We the people elected the representatives. The Peninsula has a population of about 55,000, so we pretty much knew the folks we elected. We’d met them. We the people determined that even though it was going to create some hardship for a few people, it was in the interests of the population as a whole to do those revaluations. We needed more troopers (we had one state trooper who tried to be available to an area bigger than most counties in the Lower 48). We needed better fire protection, which directly affected our insurance costs. We needed to make sure that adequate facilities existed along the Kenai River to protect the salmon because they are the life-blood of Cooper Landing. No salmon, and the local economy would collapse. (The Kenai River is one of the most famous, best salmon-fisheries in the world.)
The “state” didn’t do any of this. We the people did it. I was one of those “we the people.” And I remember discussing all this at our little Community Club meetings in Cooper Landing. The town was unincorporated, which means there was no real “government.” What served as a quasi-governmental body was the local Community Club.
There it is. The addition on the right end was added while we were living there. We the people decided to add it on. It includes a full kitchen, bathrooms, storage space and a furnace. Prior to that, we used the outhouse (not visible in the photo), there was no running water or kitchen facility at all and no heat except a wood stove. I have gone early and opened that building numerous times and built a fire to get it warm for a meeting.
You have to live in Cooper Landing to belong, and the dues were nominal, about $50/year. Meetings are generally once a month. They are a window into what democratic government is like. There is an elected president, who chairs the meetings and tries to keep order.
However, there are arguments and lively discussion, and occasionally a fist fight.
The Community Club maintains a small park along the highway, along with a site that had a large antenna to rebroadcast television signals. We had drawn up a map of the town and created parcels that were ultimately offered for sale by the state, with much discussion about how big they should be (relatively large) and how many there should be (not very many) and how much land needed to be left wild (a lot). And while our map wasn’t the final word on the subject, it was in fact a big influence on what the state finally did with that land. The village has a volunteer fire department and rescue squad, with oversight by the Community Club and lots of discussion and arguing over it. The local cemetery is the property of the Community Club (plots free for residents).
All administered by we the people.
Not by some nebulous thing Pete Sisco calls “the state.”
The fact that Cooper Landing is teensy and we could all see democracy in action doesn’t change the fact that my county in Kentucky runs along very similar lines. The issues are different, of course. The population is larger and I don’t always know everyone who is in office, nor do I even always know the details of every issue that arises. But the principle is the same.
We own property here. We want our property to at the very least maintain its value. For that reason, we want our road maintained. We want to make sure we have police protection and that meth labs don’t spring up all around us. We want to make certain that our neighbors don’t let their livestock run loose and destroy our land, or create hazardous waste by not having adequate sewage disposal facilities. To ensure that, we pay property taxes that support the court system and the local schools (so our neighbors are more likely to be educated and not need to make meth to make ends meet).
But we already knew all this, didn’t we?
It’s Nicole who doesn’t seem to know it.