Our (uniquely American) House

In 2009, we had a house. Most Americans lived in one part of the house. Rent in the house was going up every year. But in addition, 16 percent of Americans lived out on the street. It had been this way for a long, long time. After President Obama took office, Democrats had a lot of different ideas about how to address this. One Independent even wanted to sell the house and build a new (but different) house that would fit everyone inside. Republicans said: “Don’t you dare touch this house!” We’ll never know exactly why they said that; especially since we all seemed to acknowledge something had to be done about the house.

So instead, Democrats and President Obama saw what Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts did (and used to brag about until he didn’t) and built a third floor on the house so we could move more people in. At the time, some people even said it reminded them a little bit of some other blueprints they had seen before, but no one thought it especially helpful to point that out at the time. You might argue: floors one and two of the house already were too expensive (you’d be correct) or that even the foundation of the house couldn’t handle a third floor so we should have fixed floors one and two first. We can have a debate about that (I would say ‘no’, by the way. We had to add a third floor and use the equity to help do renovations on all three floors over a longer period of time).

Seven years later, rent is even higher in the house. We know rent would have gone up with or without the third floor. Did rent go up even faster because of the third floor? We can have a debate about that (I would say ‘no’, btw. The rent went up for other reasons).

Today, not everyone pays the same rent (like before 2009). And yes, rent still really sucks in the house for a lot of people and it’s not getting better. And in some ways, the house is actually getting nicer. But not all. However, we also have more (not all) people in the house.

For the past seven years, the GOP has said “This third floor of the house is a disaster! We have to take it off before it crushes the other two floors!” Democrats and some Independents have said: “This house isn’t perfect; some of us would still rather bulldoze this house and build a new one that looks like part of the house that most people seem to actually really like but for the sake of compromise, let’s talk about how we can work together to keep gradually improving all levels of the house.” Which is a better solution? We can have absolutely have a debate about that.

The House and Senate bills are not proposing to take the third floor off the house (like they promised). Instead, they have brought us blueprints that no sane architect would endorse. They want to tinker tremendously with the third level of the house to make rent cheaper but their shoddy investments are going to drive up rent and make the living conditions worse. And then, to get more money, they want to start selling the furniture and turn off the utilities on floors one and two. In other words, they make the entire house worse and millions of Americans are going to be forced out of the house. And then they take all that money, and they hand it over to the 1% of the people in the house who live in the fanciest, most expensive suites in the entire neighborhood. We cannot have a debate about this.