Wednesday, February 19, 2014

An example of what's wrong

From: Rob Shattuck
Date: Wed, Feb 19, 2014 at 8:29 AM
Subject: National Association of Realtors questionnaire
To:,,, garyp
Cc: "Mountz, John"

Fellow 6th Congressional district candidates:

I assume you have received the National Association of Realtors questionnaire that I have received (which I have taken the liberty of posting on my blog here).

It seems to me that the questionnaire is a representative example, which is is helpful in gaining understanding why, in Washington DC, there is NOT government of the people by the people, and for the people, and how the causes of that condition are also causes of Congress being dysfunctional and not being able to do its job properly for the American people.

Let's try to sort this through.

As the questionnaire reveals, the National Association of Realtors is concerned about things such as the mortgage interest deduction, the deduction for property taxes, the role of the government in the secondary mortgage market, "risk retention" under Dodd Frank, "short sale" rules, and the cap for credit union lending business related to commercial real estate.

It is unquestionable that the real estate sector is an extremely important part of the American economy, and it is further true that provisions of Federal law (such as those covered by the questionnaire) can have favorable or unfavorable effects on the real estate sector, which may be in the short term or in the long term, and it is clear the National Realtors Association wants things that will have favorable effects on the real estate sector.

While something may be viewed as having a favorable effect or an unfavorable effect, quantification and measuring of an effect, whether it be favorable or unfavorable, is, in most cases, extremely imprecise and uncertain. Also, there are frequently collateral negative effects on other things outside of the particular subject of attention. In this case, the subject of attention is the real estate sector, and an example of a negative collateral effect of preserving the mortgage interest deduction is less income taxes collected by the government, which may have to be made up elsewhere, say by higher taxes on other income or reduced government spending. Another possible negative effect is that preserving the mortgage interest deduction may present an obstacle to tax reform and simplification that is thought desirable.

Ideally, a lawmaker should be able to say openly and honestly to the National Realtors Association and to all the lawmaker's constituents to the effect of: "Yes, the real estate sector is an important part of the economy, and yes the provisions the National Realtors Association wants are likely to have some favorable effect on the real estate sector. Quantification of the benefits for the real estate sector is, however, very imprecise and uncertain. Also, the National Realtors Association is only one of scores of trade associations importuning me to do things that will benefit their industries and businesses. There are negative collateral effects to giving the National Realtors Association what they want. On balance, and trying to weigh this for all my constituents, I [have decided] [have decided not] to vote to give the National Realtors Association what it wants."

If every Congressman could speak openly and honestly in the foregoing way, without necessarily making the same decision about whether to give the National Realtors Association what it wants, that, in my view, would go a long way in evidencing that government in Washington DC is "of, by and for" the people.

That ideal, however, is not the way things work in Washington. The "money in politics" monster prevents such openness and honesty by the lawmakers and prevents them from making decisions that they can in good conscience defend as carrying out government "of, by and for" the people. Great non-transparency is the basic proof of this.

This email is already quite long, and I will save for later connecting the foregoing up with the dysfunctionality of Congress.

I hope you will respond to the core contentions of my campaign platform and this email.

I am copying our WERC contact on this email, and I will post this email on my blog.

Also, I still don't have email addresses for Scott Beason and Tom Vigneulle.

Rob Shattuck

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