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November 6, 2013

It is a new country, a new existence, not given to the landless. To own nothing is to be ostracized by government; without money, you have no voice, without voice you’re not free. It makes you a peasant, moving from rental to rental, shopping at Wal-Mart or Target or some other corporate entity. You have little or no real control over the goods or commodities you purchase; instead you are force-fed a continual personality-based diet of infotainment. Will the government shutdown damage John Boehner’s standing in the Party? Harming the People, instead of doing the People’s bidding, ought to have consequences.

In the wake of a housing bubble — enabled, enacted, and perpetrated against the American public by members of both political parties — eight million homes were foreclosed on. With four members per family, it means thirty plus million Americans lost their homes; but sometimes the English language can be imprecise. Foreclosed, lost, tells us by implied misunderstanding the meaning of what has happened. Thirty plus million American who once had homes, were put out into the road, without care or concern. Thirty plus million Americans are now renters without freehold, in the largest theft by deception in human history

My days as a Real Estate agent remind me that renters usually don’t register to vote. Renters are less likely to properly maintain the property. The land lord is certainly not going to maintain the property at the same level as a home owner. It isn’t efficient, nor cost-effective, when after years of neglect, the property will be sold “as-is”, and the landlord simply moves on to a newer property. Renters tend to overhabitate; the economy of a low-wage renter society dictates more bodies to help pay the rent, which in turn speeds the decline of the property. A Real Estate rule of thumb says, never buy in a neighborhood with more than 20% rentals, as such neighborhoods are unstable and can decline rapidly.

Even more than brick and mortar, what about the people? How is this disaster any different from a hurricane or an earthquake? The banks were made whole and then some, but the victims got… nothing. Duped in the opium of the buying frenzy, encouraged by round-the-clock media messaging and low interest-rates, they bit, mistaking the shiny hook of sham for good times.

Why… here, you’re all businessmen here. Doesn’t it make them better citizens? Doesn’t it make them better customers? You… you said… what’d you say a minute ago? They had to wait and save their money before they even ought to think of a decent home. Wait? Wait for what? Until their children grow up and leave them? Until they’re so old and broken down that they… Do you know how long it takes a working man to save $5,000? Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you’re talking about… they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath? ~ George Bailey, It’s a Wonderful Life.

Sadly, the corpse of Mr. George Bailey was found in the alley behind the building and loan, beaten to a bloody pulp; the survivors will now live and die in Pottersville. Corporate America has bought up over 200,000 homes, because capitalism always answers the needs of the free market — after it creates them. Magnetar Capital LLC, a Wall Street hedge fund, bought the assets of Huber Homes in January of this year. With 1,900 properties it makes Magnetar the largest landlord in Huber Heights, a suburb of Dayton, Ohio. Taking advantage of Ohio’s tax assessment laws, the new landlord didn’t waste any time, and filed for a reassessment.

Magnetar asked the county to cut its tax obligations from $98.6 million to just $50 million on 1218 homes. The county had planned to use the money for schools, fire departments, roads and what-not. Magnetar feels justified in making this request because the value of the homes had declined since the last assessment; it’s kind of like the kid who murders his parents begging for mercy, because he’s an orphan. You see, Magnetar was waist deep in the big muddy of selling sub-prime mortgage securities. In June, J.P. Morgan Chase paid a $153 million dollar fine to the SEC over its involvement with Magnetar’s mortgage-backed securities.

In the heady bubble days, Magnetar created more than 20 such financial instruments and helped to forge the housing bubble and now they plan to collect. The rate of home ownership has fallen to 65%; falling wages and tight credit, limit the chances of ever recouping a freehold. There are bargains to be picked up and corporate America is doing the picking. Blackstone group, American Homes 4 Rent, are investing billions, primarily in Sunbelt states where there is job growth. But if those wages decline, the scavenger capitalist will move in, not responsible for communities or people, only profit.

But Huber Heights is conveniently located close to Wright-Patterson Airbase, Dayton’s largest employer. Magnetar is attaching itself to the government tit, betting the defense establishment jobs will remain, even during full economic contraction. In the absence of any actual government leadership, this transaction fully exemplifies economic activity in the United States. This is the new American landscape: corporate landlords, mass retailers, predatory banking and fractured infotainment. A thousand facets, a thousand views, a thousand opinions with no consensus possible, with government as the whipped puppy, anxious to please, tail between its legs, piddling on the floor.

These events whisper prognostications of a future darkened, a big house in a gated community, an office high-rise somewhere, pins stuck in a map, and a people reduced to rabble. There is no need to build concentration camps; keep the price of fuel and mass transit high, while lowering wages and you control travel. In pooled pockets of prosperity, buy up the assets and with the profits, buy local government. In small towns across this land wealthy families already dictate local policy, but now Wall Street’s coming!

Police Departments dependent on corporate largesse, school board administrators willing to make accommodations and zoning boards knowing on which side their bread is buttered. Brick and mortar Corporate Fascism, drowning and supplanting government. Money is Free Speech, isn’t it?

“I mean Pottersville. Don’t you think I know where I live? What’s the matter with you?”


About the author: David Glenn Cox is a senior staff writer for TLR and an award winning author and musician; he is the author of the novel, “The Servants of Pilate.”

2 Responses to Pottersville

  1. David Cox on March 10, 2014 at 7:09 pm

    You are absolutely correct, where from here? I’m just doing all I know how to do. To try and tell unvarnished truth as I see it. To have one place you can come and hear an honest opinion, no corporations, just a voice in the twenty-first Century whirlwind. But from homelessness to here, I know belief is the deciding factor, if we think we can, we can. Once we overcome our own self-doubt we allow ourselves to succeed. Thank you for reading

  2. Kellia on March 10, 2014 at 5:28 pm

    Another excellent description of a problem. Are you ready to join the call for the one true solution: The end of the money-jobs system as we know it? Why must we pay to live on the planet we’re born on? Why must we make a living, aren’t we already living? Why are homes the center of our portfolios instead of the center of our personal and family lives? Why must people do without necessities like food, clothing, shelter and healthcare if they don’t have enough money? Why is it good to fund a mega-military designed to conquer and kill but somehow ruinous to society to help people?

    Until we honestly face these questions, all we will have are well-written essays describing the various problems, and politically-compromised solutions that the moneyed interests will twist to their purposes or destroy.

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