Friday, November 5, 2010


Just looked into my property taxes on the house. In Spring of 2006, my father and I purchased the house for $154,900 - about 12 minutes before the market began to collapse, I like to joke. It was one of the lowest prices in the neighborhood, and of course, as high a price as this house has ever been valued at, according to the market.

After eight years with a conservative governor tainted by the will to power, "holding the line on taxes," while cutting Local Government Aid and thereby shifting the tax burden to the counties; a vast Hennepin County infrastructure slowly degrading; a vast county payroll and extensive pension liabilities; and one recession and housing market collapse later - the county has my house valued at $163,000, though I would likely get $110,000-120,000 on the open market. That amounts to $3,500 in property taxes.

Here we are, after an election that was a referendum on the economy, tilting in favor of Conservatives whose only real message was the promise to cut spending and taxes. The fact is, after several years of economic stagnation, there isn't as much money around - even though, taxes, mortgage payments, utility bills, material costs, etc, remain more or less as they would be, had there been no recession, had the economy grown several percentage points a year.

Both political parties have made a great many promises. The fact is, there are forces pressing upon us as a nation that no amount of tax cutting, entrepreneurship or government spending will alleviate. Namely, resource depletion, a debt burden that we only seem to increase at a greater rate when times are good, the confusion between the Market and Democracy and the "every man for himself" mentality encouraged by the former at the expense of the latter, the sense of entitlement affluence brings, and our near-absolute inability and unwillingness to imagine a life less affluent, top to bottom, for every citizen.

The American Dream isn't dead. It is dying. Such is the nature of life, such is the nature of Empire. We can't prevent it from dying. We can only redefine it, facing death honestly. Because the American Dream as it has stood since the end of WWII - the education, the house, the job, the car, the toys - is not Democracy per se. There are many things important to democracy, namely, access to free and diverse information, but most of what we take as the benefits of democracy, the fancy houses, the fancy cars, the high technology, we could do without and still have democracy.

What you can be sure of is, catering to the exceptionally wealthy, as if the exceptionally wealthy are the only reason we have Democracy, is inherently anti-democratic. This myth perpetuated by the Right of late leads away from Democracy and towards tyranny. Be careful, Americans. My advice to you: quit looking to politicians and sky gods to sustain America, start asking yourself what you can do to make your community stronger. The best thing you can do is make yourself stronger, which is to say, physically, mentally and spiritually attuned to the rhythms of the Earth.

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