Texas Gov. Rick Perry Rents Home, Taxpayers Foot the Bill

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This is a story about what I call America One versus America Two.

In America One, only a very small fraction of the millions facing the prospect of losing their homes to foreclosure are actually helped by the Obama administration's mortgage modification programs. While in America Two, a fat-cat politician (well, OK, so he happens to be the governor of Texas) gets to have taxpayers pick up the tab for what the Associated Press refers to as a "sprawling rental home in the hills above the capital."

If you live in America One -- that would be most of us -- you might be one of those homeowners who have come to the conclusion that it is more cost-effective to default on your mortgage and walk away. Because: Why try or a loan modification for a house that you are unlikely to ever afford -- so long as only interest and not the principal of your loan is what is modified?

On the other hand, if you live in America Two, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry certainly resides there, you not only do not have to concern yourself with annoying things like mortgage statements each month, but you get to have the public pay for a pad with five bedrooms, three dining rooms, seven bathrooms, and wood floors the color of pecans roasted in the Austin sun. (I know politicians are dirty, but, come on--seven freaking bathrooms? What is he doing, baptizing himself in all that money?)
Back over in America One, new figures just out show the Making Home Affordable Program has only made it "affordable" to about 300,000 homeowners out of an estimated 4 million that are close to foreclosure.

"The program is dying," the AP quotes one financial blog, Calculated Risk, as announcing.

Now, in America Two, Gov. Perry has discovered the true "Making Home Affordable" program: The citizens of his state foot the bill for more than $10,000 a month rent until repairs are made to the governor's mansion! (It was partially destroyed by an arson fire.)

You can argue that in both America One and Two, taxpayers are paying the bill: in America One, for defaulting homeowners helped by a government program; in America Two, for a cheap governor who could no doubt afford his own rental unit, or a more modest one paid for by taxpayers -- rather than living off the fast-food-infused fat of the land.

You can make that argument, but it won't wash. In America One, the financial help is to keep hardworking but down-on-their-financial-luck homeowners from being kicked out into the street. In America Two, the financial help is to keep an elected official in the comfort he has come to think he deserves and certainly, therefore, expects.

Wouldn't it be great if Gov. Perry could live in America One for just one night?

Charles Feldman is a journalist, media consultant and co-author of the book "No Time To Think -- The Menace of Media Speed and the 24-Hour News Cycle." He has written about real estate-related issues for several years.
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