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April 10, 2009 2:19 PM   Subscribe

As I understand it, the US government is giving away $8000 each to almost all first-time home buyers this year. How do I protest the government giving away money for free?
posted by malp to Law & Government (38 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
How about an online petition?
posted by mr_roboto at 2:23 PM on April 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Option 1: Contact your elected officials.

Option 2: Rant on CNBC.
posted by Xalf at 2:23 PM on April 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


write your congressman or senator? though i don't necessarily see how giving people money back that they earned as "giving away money."
posted by TrialByMedia at 2:23 PM on April 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


You could join the Taxpayer Tea Party.
posted by alms at 2:26 PM on April 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's actually a tax credit, which means their taxes will be reduced by that amount for the tax year. It's actually an extension of a $7,500 credit from the previous stimulus bill signed by Bush. The eligibility for the credit expires December 1, 2009.

In terms of effective protest, this would be very difficult, since it will happen when people pay their taxes next year and the bill has already been signed by the President. Perhaps call your Congresscritter to ask them not to extend the credit beyond that date?

This is probably one of the more popular parts of the stimulus bill.
posted by Pants! at 2:29 PM on April 10, 2009 [10 favorites]


As part of your background research, make sure you understand how this compares to all the bajillion other ways the government "gives away money for free."
posted by salvia at 2:30 PM on April 10, 2009 [8 favorites]


2nding Pants! and salvia. Make sure you understand what you're protesting. Not that protesting it will make a difference, anyway, frankly, since it was very popular.
posted by fructose at 2:33 PM on April 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I understand your possible frustrations here, but salvia hits upon a point. This isn't unique, there are plenty of government subsidies and programs where people would appear to be getting free money for doing much much less.
posted by jerseygirl at 2:35 PM on April 10, 2009


Just be sure to point out that it does nothing other than push house prices up by $8000.

Actually, it probably inflates housing prices even further, as people rush into the market to take advantage of the "free money".

(The same policy has been applied down under a few times now & the lemming-like rush of people desperate to buy a house before the cutoff date for the handout is just hilarious)
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:37 PM on April 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


The government is also taxing those people - likely far more than $8000.

And the government is not giving away the money for free. It is giving the money back that would otherwise be paid as taxes in exchange for the taxpayer buying a house in the middle of a horrible market. That's not something for nothing.
posted by The World Famous at 2:40 PM on April 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


The $7,500 credit from the previous bill was a 0% interest 15 year loan. The current $8000 credit is free money with no strings attached other than you must own the home for 3 years.

@TrialByMedia & @Pants! - You can call it a tax credit or free money. Either way, at the end of the day the government is $8000 poorer and home buyer is $8000 richer. Your distinction wouldn't pass in economics 101.

@longsleeves - Since I already own a house, I'm not sure how that would help.
posted by malp at 2:41 PM on April 10, 2009


free money with no strings attached other than you must own the home for 3 years.

Having to actually buy a house in this market is a pretty big string attached. The government is paying people to try to save the housing market.
posted by The World Famous at 2:44 PM on April 10, 2009 [6 favorites]


Either way, at the end of the day the government is $8000 poorer and home buyer is $8000 richer. Your distinction wouldn't pass in economics 101.

That's not how Economics 101 worked at my school (actually, it was Ec 10 at my school, but whatever).

The reason governments offer tax breaks and subsidies--whether they are to new-home buyers, to giant international corporations, to other giant international corporations through the Export-Import Bank (hated by both Bernie Sanders and Ron Paul)--is to stimulate the economy overall, thus producing larger revenues in the long haul.

In other words, sometimes you have to spend money to make money. Did they really not cover this in your school's intro to economics classes?

Of all the things to protest the government offering tax breaks for, this seems the silliest. The collapse of the housing market has cost the government and individuals trillions of dollars, and spending $8K per new-home buyer may well be the most efficient way to reinflate that market to a healthy level.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:49 PM on April 10, 2009 [8 favorites]


[comment removed - please keep this already-borderline question on topic and address the "how do I protest" question or just email the OP, thanks]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:55 PM on April 10, 2009


You are right about the loan/vs credit issue. I was explaining the background because I couldn't tell if you knew it or not from your question. Clearly, you do.

In terms of your aside about Econ 101, please remember that some of us are trying to answer your question even though we may disagree with your premise.
posted by Pants! at 2:58 PM on April 10, 2009


Since you're a homeowner, I suggest that you protest by returning the money you get back from your mortgage interest deduction to the government, or by giving this money to a charity of your choice. Show them that you won't accept free money from the government!!!
posted by mr_roboto at 3:00 PM on April 10, 2009 [32 favorites]


Donate $8000 to the campaigns of favored opponents of members of congress who supported the legislation, and then send a letter to those members of congress informing them of your donation and the reason for it.
posted by The World Famous at 3:00 PM on April 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ditto Mr. Roboto.

You already get free money, home-owner.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:03 PM on April 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Sorry, my question should have read "How do I protest the government giving away this money for free?". I'm not interested in home mortgage interest deduction or other government subsidizes. Only the $8000 tax credit.
posted by malp at 3:07 PM on April 10, 2009


Write a letter or call your congressperson, start a blog, and tell all your friends and family and anyone you know thinking of buying a house that you are protesting it. That's sure to win some people over.
posted by booknerd at 3:12 PM on April 10, 2009


Maybe it would help to know why you object to this money in particular being given away for free?....
posted by xammerboy at 3:37 PM on April 10, 2009


In theory, the money "given away for free" will be more than offset - over time - by the following:

1) Increased property tax revenues from enhanced property values and more property tax payers.
2) An increase in sales tax from all the things that homeowners do fixing up and improving their houses that they (and their landlords) wouldn't do as renters.
3) All the taxes - income and other - derived from the people who would be (statistically) employed via this boost to the real estate market and others like it.
4) Loads of others I can't be bothered to delineate.

You should get the point by now, this money may seem "free," but (at least in theory) the government will reap financial rewards from it. Since you somehow feel as a homeowner that your free money is just dandy, but newcomers should not reap similar rewards, you probably won't get a lot of sane sympathizers and a protest stands a good chance of making you like silly. Hence, the only way you can really make your protest effective in my opinion would be to allow people to point out the benefits of this sort of stimulus and then to refute them with solid information to the point that there *is* no stimulus really. I don't think you can do it, personally, but it's about the only meaningful way of protesting this that I can imagine.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 3:45 PM on April 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


I'm not interested in home mortgage interest deduction...

This complicates answering your question about how to protest, since the effectiveness of your protest will be undermined when you are perceived as hypocritical.
posted by found missing at 4:07 PM on April 10, 2009 [5 favorites]


Probably the best way to protest anything is to gather together with other people that also agree that what you are protesting is bad. Protesting by yourself is poor form and can make you look a bit wacky.

I had a tough time finding a group that just wants to protest this particular issue. Most of the groups that are protesting this are also protesting other things that they consider to be wasteful.
posted by jefeweiss at 4:13 PM on April 10, 2009


Contact the media and let them know that you're going to stage a protest by burning 8,000 one dollar bills, or burn $8,000 worth of tea bags. Or do some other equally effective display of protest that captures media attention.
posted by X4ster at 4:27 PM on April 10, 2009


As I understand it, people are protesting this (and other parts of the economic stimulus package) by mailing teabags to their elected representatives. Please be aware that this may have unintended consequences, such as making you look like a crackpot.
posted by dersins at 4:36 PM on April 10, 2009


Have you considered that the government isn't necessarily $8000 poorer, because this is causing new purchases that wouldn't have happened elsewise?
posted by floam at 4:44 PM on April 10, 2009


Join the ever diminishing minority of American winger whiners and attend your local Tea Party on April 15.
posted by imjustsaying at 4:44 PM on April 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


Jesus Christ, people, answer the question or shut up.

You might try going door to door; try to raise awareness of the issue through a petition or somesuch. By going door to door, you should be able to get some sense of how popular the policy actually is, and among whom. Protesting is, essentially, about marketing a message, and it helps to know how popular your message is with your audience. Once you gather the names/numbers of some likeminded people, you can stage an actual protest.
posted by smorange at 4:58 PM on April 10, 2009


[metatalk is your option, please use it or email the OP if you're not answering the question, thakns]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:52 PM on April 10, 2009


How do I protest the government giving away money for free?

(1) You just did.
(2) Walk around with a sandwich board and shout at people.
(3) Write elected representatives. Yours, someone else's, whatever.
(4) Buy megaphone. Harangue people outside. Move along when told to.
(5) Put bumper stickers on your car.
(6) Bring it up every day at dinner.
(7) Bring it up every day at lunch.
(8) Bring it up every time you're in an elevator.
(9) Get a tattoo that reads NO GIVING AWAY MONEY FOR FREE on some normally-visible body part and discuss it when people ask you "Why do you have that tattoo?".
(10) Find some interest group opposed to it and give them money, but that's not going to be emotionally satisfying.

I have to admit I'm a bit puzzled by the question. The way that you protest something is that you communicate your displeasure. There's an infinite number of ways to do communicate. It seems sort of like "I'm hungry. How do I make lunch?"

If what you mean is "How do I protest the government giving away money for free in such a way that the government actually listens and reverses itself, then the answer is:

(1) You don't. Nobody gives a damn what you, or me, or any other random peon thinks.
(2) Violence, if you don't mind having that on your conscience and being sent to prison forever or killed.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:29 PM on April 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


(2) Violence, if you don't mind having that on your conscience and being sent to prison forever or killed.

I'm having a hard time thinking of any example of a time when a violent protest convinced the United States government to change its tax laws. I would not recommend it, even if you satisfy the three qualifications set forth by ROU_Xenophobe.
posted by The World Famous at 8:33 PM on April 10, 2009


You need to make a real statement. Call your local media`together in a public place, put $8,000 of your own money in a pile (use ones so it's a big pile), then set it on fire.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 8:51 PM on April 10, 2009


I'm having a hard time thinking of any example of a time when a violent protest convinced the United States government to change its tax laws.

True that. I only meant that people do actually care, sort of, what Ted Kaczynski's or Tim McVeigh's opinions were, because they did such spectacularly dumbfuck things in the service of those opinions.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:25 PM on April 10, 2009


You could write letters — by themselves they won't do much good, but at least they will let your elected representatives know that the programs aren't as universally popular as perhaps they think they are.

The most effective way to influence policy, if you are a person of moderate means (i.e. you don't have enough cash to buy significant influence yourself), is to contribute to a political action organization dedicated to achieving the change you want to see. Donating money to these organizations, at least IMO, is more effective than giving directly to various politicians' campaigns most of the time.

A small donation made directly to a candidate might help them win an election, but unless the issue you care about influencing is one that's really at stake in that election (one that the competing candidate feels and would act differently on, which frankly is not very many issues in modern American politics), it's not going to have any effect. You're not going to be able to call them up when they win and call in a favor in return for your $25 donation. But if you sent that $25 to a PAC instead, and they pooled that money and instead made a max-limit donation or ran an uncoordinated ad campaign, then they have some actual chips to cash in later. It's the same money either way, but when you send it as an individual you're basically sending it no-strings-attached; when it goes as a PAC contribution it's got a string leading back to an organization with lobbyists and staff who can apply pressure when it makes the most difference.

The trick, obviously, is finding a PAC that's both aligned closely enough with your views to let you donate to it in good conscience, but that's also big enough to wield real power and do something with your money. I don't really know if any of the anti-tax groups are that significant right now, but they'd be who I would look into anyway. The biggest one seems to be the National Taxpayers Union; I know nothing about them but you might see what their thoughts are on the real-estate purchase incentives.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:06 AM on April 11, 2009


Ubu say: Actually, it probably inflates housing prices even further, as people rush into the market to take advantage of the "free money".

If you do use this answer in your protests, it's not exactly accurate. While the tax credit will increase home prices, it won't increase them by the full amount of the credit. Because some buyers do have the credit available, but most buyers do not, the impact is blunted and does not fit a "tax" model as implied.

You say: Either way, at the end of the day the government is $8000 poorer and home buyer is $8000 richer. Your distinction wouldn't pass in economics 101

One difference between a check and a tax credit is that the money isn't available when you close the deal. This means that you don't have that cash when you buy your home to use as a down payment. Since you have bought a house, I'm sure you understand the implications of that.
posted by Pants! at 6:12 AM on April 11, 2009


Since you somehow feel as a homeowner that your free money is just dandy, but newcomers should not reap similar rewards, you probably won't get a lot of sane sympathizers and a protest stands a good chance of making you like silly.

Since I feel what now? I'm talking about opposing the economic stimulus package of 2009, which passed 2 months ago. It hasn't benefited me directly nor has anything similar to it benefited me in the past. I'm not opposed to government hand-outs in general. Sorry if that was unclear. I liked my free k-12 education and the nice roads nearby.

If you're referring to the mortgage interest rate deduction, I've no interest in protesting it. While economists are largely united against it and I don't condone it, it's here to stay.

Hence, the only way you can really make your protest effective in my opinion would be to allow people to point out the benefits of this sort of stimulus and then to refute them with solid information to the point that there *is* no stimulus really.

Eh? It'll stimulate the economy. Hell, randomly dumping money out of helicopters would stimulate the economy. That doesn't make it a good idea. The government has better uses for the money.

though i don't necessarily see how giving people money back that they earned as "giving away money."

Because if you cut taxes without cutting spending, you haven't cut taxes. You've just postponed the taxes or transferred them to someone else. Maybe in the near future, the economy will be in better shape, and so paying back the taxes will be less of a burden then. That said, the economy wouldn't be in better shape because of the tax credit.

Maybe it would help to know why you object to this money in particular being given away for free?

Because it's an arbitrary redistribution of wealth, which I'm against.

That's not how Economics 101 worked at my school (actually, it was Ec 10 at my school, but whatever).

The class covered microeconomics at my school. Everything you discussed falls under macroeconomics.

Contact the media and let them know that you're going to stage a protest by burning 8,000 one dollar bills, or burn $8,000 worth of tea bags
Not a bad idea. I should start a fund raiser. Protesting wasteful spending with spending wastefully. Has this been done before effectively?

You could write letters — by themselves they won't do much good, but at least they will let your elected representatives know that the programs aren't as universally popular as perhaps they think they are.

This seems like a much better idea. Thank you.
posted by malp at 5:35 PM on April 11, 2009


How do I protest the government giving away money for free?

(1) You just did.


Repeated because it turns out that was the point of the exercise.
posted by found missing at 5:40 PM on April 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


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