Has the most important thing you’ve read recently come from a book — non-fiction, a novel, or a short story — a newspaper or magazine article, a blog post, the lyrics to a song, a poem, or a note from a friend? Or, perhaps, some other medium?
And, what has it been about? The pandemic? Politics? The economy? Or has the most important thing been about a passion of yours? Or has it taken you deeper into a hobby? Possibly it’s something a friend wrote you via snail- or e-mail. Or, maybe it’s been about something completely different.
Lastly, have you done anything differently because of what you’ve read?
Related questions: What are you reading? What are you thinking about? What is important?
3 thoughts on “What’s The Most Important Thing You’ve Read In The Past 6 Months?”
You know me; you know I want housing justice. One of the things I frequently talk about is how the most considerable amount of housing subsidies don’t go to those who need it the most, but instead need it the least — the top 20% income bracket — the amount skews even more grotesquely for the top 5%. It comes not through direct subsidies but through various tax exemptions (e.g. the mortgage interest deduction, capital gains exemptions for the increased value of property at the time of sale, state and local tax exemptions).
Middle-income folks, many of whom also benefit from these subsidies, get scared any time these issues get brought up because they view this assistance as the only set of benefits they receive from the government on a regular basis. While that is incorrect, it’s not crucial for this post. I’ll just note that if these subsidies were to remain, they could, for example, be targeted to lower-income brackets, or they could not include second homes — even cabins and houseboats count.
Anyhow, the most important thing I’ve read in the past six months comes out of the book “No Place Like Home” — an unfortunately lazy title and much of the content could be edited for brevity — by Brian J. McCabe. Still, six pages in the sixth chapter succinctly tell the history of these subsidies, which were never actually intended for homeowners, but for the very wealthy — only they owed federal taxes when the code was first created in 1913 — and their consumer debt.
“Changing tax policies during World War II broadened the tax base to include many middle-income earners.” And the federal government got more involved in financing housing mortgage loans. Therefore, a more significant number of households benefitted from these consumer debt subsidies. (Eventually, these subsidies were targeted not to include all consumer debt — as the subsidies became too expensive for the federal government to afford — but were focused on housing debt, due to a massive lobbying effort by, among other interests, the National Association of Realtors and the National Association of Home Builders.
It may come as a surprise that the mortgage interest deduction “is more than double the entire budget of the Department of Housing and Urban Development,” the primary department providing housing assistance to America’s lowest-income households. It also dwarfs many other cabinet-level departments.
Have you got any questions? I’ll take a look at these six pages of injustice to give you the details.
Despite the pandemic and the resulting lack of scheduling conflicts, in general I find that over the last six months I have been reading less that usual. And when I do read, it tends to be light stuff. I suppose I am reacting to the heavy current news through escapism.
Now “reading less” is all relative — I still read a lot. I keep a running list of every book, magazine, and graphic novel that I read (and movies and TV show that I watch), and over the last six months (from March 6th through September 5th) I read 23 books, 42 graphic novels, and 1 magazine. That may seem like a lot, but many of the books are kid’s books that were quick, easy reads.
Some of the stuff was really interesting. In particular, I have been reading about Artificial Intelligence, and two of the better books I read over the last half-year are on that topic: “Possible Minds: 25 Ways Of Looking at A.I.”, and “Artificial Intelligence: An Illustrated History”. I also rather enjoyed the anthology “The Future is Female” which collected science fiction short stories published in the pulp magazines from the 1920s to the 1950s written by female authors.
But I wouldn’t really call any of them, or the other things on the list, particularly important.
So instead, I’ll select some other reading I have been doing. Pretty much every day, I try to read the blog “Letters From an American”, written by historian Heather Cox Richardson, who attempts to put the political events of the day into historical perspective. There’s no entry for yesterday, but here’s an example from Friday:
For months now I’ve been learning about and working for justice for undocumented immigrants in our state of Minnesota. Did you know they cannot legally get a driver’s license?
With my understanding of Catholic social teaching, and Pope Frances’ leadership on treating immigrants with dignity, I looked in the Bible for guidance. Leviticus Ch. 19 verse 34 reads “The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”
This is one of the most important things I’ve read lately.