Citadels of Privilege: How LLCs funnel land rents into the pockets of wealthy investors

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As housing costs continue their inexorable climb upwards in cities across the US, concern is mounting about the role played by corporate investors. Referred to as the ‘financialization’ of housing, real estate is being hoovered-up by massive investment funds with names like BlackRock and Blackstone. With little personal connection to their tenants, these faceless investors engage in ruthless profit-seeking, deploying evictions as a weapon to raise rents as much as possible. The presence of these well-heeled investors is also driving prices upwards, pushing homeownership even further out of reach for the middle-class.

Mississippi: The Tangled Web of History, Class, Race and Water

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It's too easy for a northeastern US observer to have an overbearing and infuriating attitude regarding Mississippi. Unfortunately, Mississippi has a laundry list––or a butcher's bill if you like, of past sins that stick in the craw of humanists and the respecters of justice alike.  That said, no one is innocent. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. observed (after getting hit with a brick in Chicago), "As long as the struggle was down in Alabama and Mississippi, they could look afar and think about it and say how terrible people are. When they discovered brotherhood had to be a reality in Chicago and that brotherhood extended to next door, then those latent hostilities came out."  So, we ought to look at the current problems in Jackson, Mississippi, bloodlessly and try to keep emotions out (I'm not saying it's easy). What happens when a group surrenders political power but economic power remains the preserve of the privileged? Perhaps, it will turn out that political power is often no power at all. Instead, it takes politics and economics for political economy like two elements forming a chemical compound producing different behaviors. 

Free Newark Now!

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Along with New York City, Newark, New Jersey, possesses one of the best locational advantages of any city in the United States. Founded in 1666 by Connecticut Puritans, the town grew by leaps and bounds; the Industrial Revolution sparked a meteoric increase in population and a multi-sector industrial and commercial base. First, canals and then railroads converged into the city. With a population of 8000 in 1820, people poured in, swelling the city’s population to 367,000 by 1910. 

Mass MoCA: When Does Public Investment Pay Off?

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North Adams is one of of dozens of similar towns spread across New England, and similar to small Pennsylvania manufacturing towns centered on steel, coal, and railroads. However, cities like North Adams, Lowell, Pawtucket, and others also produced a broader range of goods which supplied the world with textiles, clocks, brass, firearms, and 20th-century electronic components.  What happened in New England factory towns also happened in Pennsylvania towns and in other rustbelt towns. It's an old story: factory closures or relocation combined with changes in global trading patterns. The result? Subsequent impoverishment and depopulation of communities.

Working Towards a Progressive Property Tax

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CPTR and its parent organizations have demonstrated how a property tax can be made progressive by using the land value tax. Why? Businesses and homeowners in the lower quintiles of value benefit from the tax shift. Why? The percentage of the building’s value to its land value is higher (though individual results may vary).  There’s also solid theoretical and empirical evidence that land value taxation turns a property tax into one that comports with principles of progressive taxation. In other words, a “progressive” tax is one in which the tax burden increases with income. As a result, high-income families pay a higher portion of the tax burden, while low- and middle-income taxpayers shoulder a relatively lower tax burden.  This is a generally accepted practice for income taxes (except in states with a flat (ergo regressive) income tax). “Flat” means one rate for every income level (though some states exempt the first several thousands of dollars in wages). “Regressive” means low-income/wealth taxpayers pay a relatively higher percentage of the tax burden. In contrast, middle- and high-income/wealth taxpayers shoulder a relatively small tax burden. 

Eat the Poor, Boise Edition

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In a nation with so many problems, it can be jarring to be informed about issues from ‘on high.’ What's not so harsh is finding practical solutions performed by people living with the pain. But, unfortunately, we have to come down to earth and  to be grounded for that. A case in point comes to us from the New York Times (the ‘on high’ bit) and the people in the trenches doing the hard but noble work (in this case, City Council in Boise, Idaho).