Middle Class Burdens

Thanks to Don Boudreaux, I found this “Inconvenient Truth” about the struggles of the middle class. As readers here know, I have long been a bear on housing, but as always those who want their hands on our wallet can take any crisis or problem as a license to take from us. Todd Zywicki writes to the Washington Post:

In his April 27 op-ed, “Don’t Blame All Borrowers,” Robert H. Frank argued that the quest for better schools for their children has led many parents to overspend on housing. He cited “The Two-Income Trap,” a book by Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Warren Tyagi, to make this argument.

But Ms. Warren and Ms. Tyagi’s own data do not support Mr. Frank’s claim. In fact, from the 1973 to 2000, the percentage of household income dedicated to mortgage payments actually declined. So where did all the money go? To taxes — which, all told, rose a whopping 140 percent in constant dollars.

In some part, this is a result of “the two income-tax trap”: When a spouse enters the workforce, he or she is immediately taxed at a higher marginal rate than one worker would be alone. But it is also because of increases in myriad state and local taxes, notably property taxes, which have risen along with real estate prices.

If Mr. Frank is concerned about the financial plight of the middle class, the answer seems clear: He should be arguing for a reduction in the tax burden, not about some chimerical “bidding war” for homes near good schools.


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