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Renting from the County

For many elderly people who finished paying off the mortgage years ago, the tax bills many senior citizens now receive from the county must make it feel as though they no longer own their homes, but rather are merely renting from the county. Today's New York Times (requires registration, but there is no cost) cites several examples where the elderly are literally being driven from their homes because of the large increases in assessments. If the increased assessments were matched by equally large cuts in tax rates, there would be little outcry and even less demand for measures like California's Proposition 13 of the 1970's. However, politicians and bureaucrats love the wildly escalating assessments because it allows them to deflect the blame for the large increases in taxes. For those unfamiliar with California's Prop 13, Stephen Moore, director of fiscal policy studies at the Cato Institute, writes that "Proposition 13 was a political earthquake whose jolt was felt not just in Sacramento but all across the nation, including Washington, D.C. (Taxpayer advocate Howard) Jarvis's initiative to cut California's notoriously high property taxes by 30 percent and then cap the rate of increase in the future was the prelude to the Reagan income tax cuts in 1981."

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