From homeowners to worker drones?


What's the American Dream? A job, a family, a little house in the suburbs? Some are suggesting that the third should get axed. Or so says Time magazine, in its article "The Case Against Homeownership."

Certainly, in this economy, the idea of owning a home doesn't take on the same glow it once did. With more than 20 percent of homeowners currently
"under-water" and millions of Americans with credit too poor to think
about a mortgage, it may be a good time to buy a home. But there aren't
many doing so.

But are we giving up our homes to become worker drones - slaves to our economy without a real community?
Time's Barbara Kiviat makes some great points about how homeownership,
touted by politicians as the silver bullet for just about any social
problem, doesn't really help us that much. Even the mortgage interest
tax deduction, the reason so many families buy a home in the first
place, doesn't help middle or lower class families, she says. Families
making over $250,000 a year save an annual $15 billion a year thanks to
that deduction, but those making between $40,000 and $75,000 save only
$10 million. That amounts to about $1.48 a day for the average family -
certainly not enough to overflow their piggy banks.

But Kiviat's main argument is that owning a home just isn't practical
anymore. With the economy the way it is, people have to move too often
and too far to justify owning a home. Mortgages are a millstone, says
Kiviat, preventing people from moving to opportunity when their current
community fails them.

Kiviat could be right, but her argument did turn my stomach a little. The jobs and industries that are growing share a common trend: they pay very low wages. Many people are making barely above minimum wage, often without benefits, and are relying on government assistance to put food on the table. It may not be wise for some people to give up the dream of homeownership only to move state to state following the
trail of poorly paid jobs supplemented with a diet of food stamps?

It makes me wonder: do we have jobs so that we can live, or are we
living for our jobs? Since the industrial revolution, we've been dealing
with the fallout that comes from constantly moving, breaking up
families and communities to make ends meet, rather than creating jobs
with the idea that they're supposed to serve the people who work there.

Do we really
want to push people away from a stable home to a caravan life of
chasing the next growing-but-low-wage industry?

Photo credit: Chris Willis.

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