What Benefits the Bureaucrat Doesn't Benefit You
AP Photo/Reed Saxon, File
What Benefits the Bureaucrat Doesn't Benefit You
AP Photo/Reed Saxon, File
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My family moved from the northeast side of San Antonio to the west in 2008.  Given the precarious nature of the housing market at the time, we decided to rent the old house rather than sell it.

When reviewing a list of prospective tenants, our real estate agent, a friend and former roommate of mine, asked us what we thought about section eight.  “It’s a pretty steady income,” he said.

I didn’t want to get involved with Uncle Sam any more than I had to, so we declined.

This came to mind when I read of a proposed ordinance here that would prohibit homeowners from “rejecting a tenant based on the tenant’s source of income.”

“As long as (the income) is coming in, it should not matter where (it’s) coming from,” said one activist.  If only it were that simple.  Using the word “should” belies the naiveté that’s at the root of this, and many of our current problems.

When a consumer buys something, that purchasing power is usually backed-up by income derived from value created elsewhere in the marketplace.  Those are solid dollars.

Unfortunately, before that income is spent, or better yet invested, part of it has been siphoned off by taxation.  After being digested by the government, the remainder is expelled out via politically-directed spending.  

Such penalties on work and saving act as a wet blanket on wealth-creation.  Progress and prosperity necessarily slow.  The consumption that results from both bureaucrats’ subsequent “income,” and public assistance, creates the same amount of value as its private sector counterpart.

Zero, and it gets worse from there.

When politicians figure out they can’t spend all they want by simply poaching “the rich,” who incidentally fund most societal progress with their unspent wealth, they whip out the credit card.

They’ve been more and more emboldened to charge it this century, both at the national level and at the local level.  That’s almost beside the point though.  The root problem is the spending

It’s a vicious cycle which most hurts those on the lower socioeconomic rungs, and it’s compounded when the federal government rains down with its own policies to “make housing more affordable.”

Alas, this ordinance applies only to “property owners who get a tax abatement or other city incentives.”  Here, activists have a point. 

“If you make a deal with the devil, you are the junior partner.”

It’s all problematic in any case.

The eligibility thresholds are fairly generous.  Speaking from personal experience, it is totally doable to live at the lower end of the spectrum without reaching into the pocket of the taxpayer.  It’s even possible to go to school at the same time.

Such programs incentivize a sort of dependency on the state.  This goes for the landlords as well as renters.  It engenders an unearned income for both sides of the transaction.

The problem is compounded the more it’s mimicked across the country.  It creates itself and festers, and we encourage it by accepting its mere existence.   

There’s an irony when Rich Acosta, president of My City Is My home, decries the discrimination “against the citizens that put the funds in place to begin with” through the taxes they pay.  It begs the question, why couldn’t the beneficiaries have kept those funds in the first place?

There is absolutely merit in helping those in need. 

When one of our tenants was abandoned by her husband, we helped her out by lowering her rent.  It was the humane thing to do while she adjusted to the new reality foisted upon her.

A little of that humanity is lost when the taxpayer is hit up indirectly. 

One is left with the impression that programs like these are meant to benefit the bureaucrats who create and run them, as much as they are the intended beneficiaries they lure to them. Regardless, all involved are partially shielded from the free, competitive private sector where they could most flourish and contribute to overall community wealth and well-being.

Christopher E. Baecker manages fixed assets at Pioneer Energy Services, teaches economics at Northwest Vista College, is a board member of the Institute of Objective Policy Assessment, and is a member of the San Antonio Business & Economics Society.  He can be reached via email or Facebook

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