This is Jim Sawyer. Welcome to Capitalism in Crisis, a podcast series that gets at rip-offs, first, by looking at those who exploit others through manipulation of capitalist doctrine.
The way in which the world works, changes, but the way in which economic fundamentalists think the world should work, does not change. Consequently, there is an ever-growing mismatch between reality, and pie-in-the-sky pronouncements—more religion than science.
Nowhere is this more obvious than in divergence between the robust pursuit of self-interest, and too often, the quite feeble attainment of the common good. I call the outcome, pseudo-capitalism. Check out what pseudo-capitalism looks like in Boulder, Colorado. Consider, also, how it mimics much grander rip-offs at the national level.
Recently, Robert McHugh, a 61-year old widower with multiple sclerosis, was evicted from the house trailer he has owned since 2009. Tragically, McHugh’s eviction is legal according to County Treasurer Paul Weissmann. If you don’t pay your taxes, says Weissmann, the County places a lien on your property, then eventually sells the lien to small-scale financiers who reap high interest rates. Tax liens are resolved, typically, when the home owner pays off the financier.
Weissmann makes clear McHugh had plenty of notice about his unpaid $175 tax bill, which he ignored. Eventually, the lien holder can evict the resident and sell the property. Fort Collins real estate agent Julie Carpenter did just that. She purchased McHugh’s lien, then sold the mobile home out from under him to Boulder-based Five Star Homes.
Felisa Marcia of the District Attorney’s Office describes a similar Boulder County situation. Jamie Landaverde purchased his trailer in 2010 for $14,500. Then, Carpenter bought it for $63 in unpaid taxes, and followed up by offering to sell it back to him for $26,500; that’s over 4000 times the value of the original lien.
The D.A.’s Office is concerned, Marcia says, about whether actions such as Carpenter’s may be predatory, although technically legal. The Daily Camera’s Dave Krieger adds that such actions are fundamentally sick, he believes.
Rather than just patching up laws, only, a deeper fix is needed. First, we should get at the root of why such injustices are tolerated. The answer, tragically, is that doctrinaire capitalism contains some provisions that may have worked in simpler times, two centuries ago, but now are outdated, woefully. Fundamentalists stand in the way of necessary fixes.
One such outdated provision is capitalism’s lack of distinction between productive capitalist roles, and nonproductive roles such as Julie Carpenter’s. Someone starting out in the role of capitalist, too easily may segue into a financier role without losing tax and regulatory advantages conferred upon those America considers to be making productive contributions. Scams occur when, rather than adding to the common good, vulnerable citizens become damaged instead.
Much more to come on these pernicious problems and how a fix on them should get done. In the meantime, check out Capitalism in Crisis. Org
From Boulder, Colorado, this is Jim Sawyer for Capitalism in Crisis.