Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Home Ownership = The Right To Be Billed And Taxed To Death?

Something has gone dreadfully wrong in this country, supposedly "the land of the free". So what are the freedoms that we are supposed to have, anyway? And where have they gone?

Take, for example, the airlines. Once upon a time, when I was an Airman Apprentice in the US Navy, I took a trip to visit my aunt and uncle. I had a layover at the Cincinnati airport, and it was delayed for several hours. I had a briefcase with some papers in it, and I left it at the terminal because I didn't want to carry it around. Couldn't do that today!

There was a period for several years where you couldn't do cross-stitch or other forms of needlework while on board a plane. Like you could take over a plane, post 9/11, with a 1 inch needle. If you let someone with a 1 inch sewing needle hijack a plane because you're afraid, you've got some big cowardice problems.

Now the big problem is liquids. If you're a breastfeeding mom who pumps milk and you go on a business trip, you can't take your milk back with you. I have a friend who was facing this dilemma. Thank you, TSA, for making this world a better place by starving nursing babies! At least they don't make you drink your own breast milk any more. That was the policy right after the liquid scare began. Blech!

But the problem of our lost freedoms extends farther than just inconveniences and hungry children during air travel. The problem extends much farther... to the very place where we lay our heads at night.

150 years or so ago, and even more recently than that, people could go out and stake a claim and build a homestead. Farm the land, build a house out of logs, and people'd stay off your backs. Since most people built their own homes, they didn't need to take out huge mortgages to pay for it. Sure, there were some scuffles with the Indians, but there's a tradeoff that must be made between true freedom and a false sense of security.

I don't really know when it happened, but the government thought it would be a good idea if they started taxing people's homes. Have to pay for the schools, roads, and police departments, right? Back then, at least the public schools were worth sending your kids to, and average folks weren't flocking to private schools and homeschools if they could afford it. But nice as it sounds, it was just a start... of taxes and mandatory bills that nickel and dime your average homeowner to a slow death.

Like when we moved onto our property. No, you can't use the septic tank that's already ON the property, you have to tap into the public sewer. And you also have to pay to have a pipe laid across the street so it will go to your property. The costs associated with all this sewer mess forced us to downgrade from a very large house to one that was 600 square feet smaller. Thanks sewer company. Of course, if you fail to pay your sewer bill they will condemn your house and force you off your property.

Don't forget the water bill, which is an entirely separate bill. Oh, and if you happen to live in Orem, Utah, you better make sure that you have enough money to water your lawn and keep the grass green. Or else the police will come and have you arrested like what happened to this lady. Oh, and evidently you're expected to identify yourself to any random police officer that shows up on your doorstep too. Never mind that there are people out there that go around posing as police officers that can hurt you. Sheesh, I don't even identify myself to people that call me on the telephone! Identity theft reasons, you know? Can't be too careful.

Then there's the whole HOA thing. If you live there, you have to pay rent to the HOA for the rest of your life... even if your home is paid off, you're still paying rent. You pay rent to the government in the form of taxes, you pay rent to the HOA in the form of dues or whatever they call them, and then the HOA people tell you what color to paint your house, what you can put in the driveway, whether you can put up Christmas lights, etc.

HOAs are getting harder and harder to avoid as well. They seem to have the new housing market cornered around here. If you want to build a new house, you either have to 1) go HOA, 2) buy a dilapidated old home, tear it down and build a new house, 3) build out in the middle of nowhere and deal with an incredibly long commute, or 4) build a nice stick built house in a manufactured home community. Which on the surface wouldn't make sense, because your house transplanted somewhere else would be worth more than twice any of the other homes on the block... but there really aren't too many choices left other than that.

I suppose that I do have some freedoms. I can write whatever I want in this blog (as long as it is not hateful and nobody turns me in for a hate crime). I can stand on the street corner and hold a sign and peaceably protest (as long as I'm not causing a disturbance and large numbers of people don't want me to leave), I can own a gun (as long as I submit to background checks and register), I can own a pet (as long as I'm willing to have it registered and get it microchipped and pay the microchip company... yup... another "rental" fee every year).

I know that there are many countries that are worse, really. In Germany they would arrest me and take away my kids for homeschooling. Here, they only arrest you and take away your kids if someone calls CPS on you because they think you spank your kids (oh, but if you molest your kid that's okay... a friend of mine in Tennessee has been fighting to get her grandchild away from his sexually abusive father, and 2 years later they're still working on it, even though they have proof that it happened many times).

Well, at least we have the delusion of being free.

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