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Is This What Passes for Bipartisan at REALTOR Magazine?

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This is gonna get political, y’all, by necessity. You’ll see.

I went over to the REALTOR Magazine website the other day to check out a piece by Lawrence Yun on something or another. Then I started clicking around as I often do, and ran across this piece on the fiscal situation and real estate. Here’s how it looked:

ralph-martire

Note the introduction of Ralph Martire as the “head of a Chicago-based bipartisan economic think tank”.

Since I’m more than a little interested in fiscal issues and real estate, I read the interview with Mr. Martire. And was left wondering how in heaven’s name he got into the pages of the official publication of the National Association of REALTORS, whose core campaign these days is on defending private property rights, homeownership, and the American Dream.

An Example of Martire’s Sayings

Let’s take a look at just a one of the quotes of Ralph Martire, shall we?

Why do you think the nation’s finances are in such terrible shape?

The bottom line is the nation never could afford the tax cuts that were implemented [in the 1980s and early 2000s]. That has led to a lot of the long-term problems we see in the federal budget….

So the problem is we have some big costs in Medicare and Medicaid that will grow along with inflation, and yet the government is choosing to cut revenue. The economic theory behind cutting revenue is that it’s supposed to encourage enhanced economic growth. That has never materialized in the 30-plus years we’ve done it.

First of all, Martire carefully avoids the T-word (“taxes”) in the answer, except in connection to the evil dreaded “tax cuts”. Neat rhetorical dodge there.

Second, cutting taxes never encouraged economic growth in the 30-plus years we’ve done it?

Huh.

Third, since those people who buy and own homes are overwhelmingly people with (a) jobs, and (b) money, how exactly does raising taxes on them help homeownership?

The rest of the interview is filled with similar left-wing tropes: corporations are bad, deficit spending is good, no need to worry about the $16T-plus in debt, we need “investment” in infrastructure and education and so on.

Martire is parroting the talking points of any variety of left-wing organizations. This “interview” is worthy of appearing in the Journal of Insert Public Union Here. And there’s a reason why.

More On Center for Tax and Budget Accountability

Naturally, one should be curious about this “bipartisan” think tank of which Mr. Martire is the Executive Director.

You could start by taking a look at CTBA’s paper on housing from back in 2006, in partnership with United Power For Action and Justice. You might then take a look at the Board of Directors of Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, which includes the following people:

Bill Barclay, of the Chicago Political Economy Group, who authored this little paper on housing (the bottomline: nationalize the housing market), whose official CTBA bio proudly acknowledges that he is “a member of the Democratic Socialists of America“.

John Cameron, the Director of Political and Community Relations, AFSCME Council 31.

Michael T. Carrigan, President, Illinois AFL-CIO

Jonathan Jackson, listed merely as a “member” with affiliation to the Chicago State University. But actually, we’re talking about this Jonathan Jackson, son of Jesse Jackson, brother to Jesse Jr., convicted congress-criminal who resigned in disgrace over skimming campaign funds for personal use. Not a Republican, by the way.

Dan Montgomery, President, Illinois Federation of Teachers

Jim Reed, Director of Government Relations for the Illinois Education Association

Maybe by “bipartisan”, CTBA and NAR meant that both the Democratic and the Socialist parties are represented? Because it sure ain’t what most of us think of as “bipartisan”.

But forget bipartisan for a second; are these people even mainstream? Can we get anymore leftist than an actual Socialist?

Homeowner Rights? Property Rights? Balance?

I confess to being surprised that Mr. Martire made it into the pages of REALTOR Magazine at all, since public unions, organized labor, and “community activist” groups are probably the most significant threat to the power of NAR and the private property lobby today. I’m puzzled that Martire was given the absolute kid-gloves treatment by the reporter who wrote this story, not being asked a single hard question.

But more than that, I’m disturbed by the total lack of balance. If REALTOR Magazine wants to present adoringly a left-wing perspective in its own pages, that is its own business. But given that the members of NAR — the REALTORS themselves — are all independent businesspeople, and that more than a few of them do not think that “bipartisan” means both Democratic and Socialist parties are represented, shouldn’t there be at least some attempt at balance? Maybe someone from the American Enterprise Institute or Cato Institute or even the Bipartisan Policy Center?

I know that the Last Word pages (under which Martire appears) do not show any similar perspective from the center or the right.

As it stands, it appears to this conservative homeowner and industry commentator that NAR is embracing the left-wing agenda of groups like Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, United Power for Action and Justice, Rainbow PUSH Coalition, the Chicago Political Economy Group, and the various public unions. If NAR wishes to do that, it should make its intentions clear and declare itself the enemy of the American taxpayer and American businesses.

Otherwise, this article was a mistake. Correcting that mistake should mean at minimum presenting with similar kid-glove treatment the perspective from across the political spectrum, whether moderate liberals like Third Way or centrists like Bipartisan Policy Center or right-of-center groups like Heritage Foundation. I’m a far-right Tea Party constitutionalist conservative, and I wouldn’t want NAR to go do a softball interview with only Ted Cruz without presenting the other side of the argument. NAR and its official magazine need to go beyond that and be pristine about its nonpartisanship.

Let’s be clear about this. If NAR gets into bed with the Democratic Socialists of America, it will cease to exist as a national organization. Just as it would cease to exist as a national organization if NAR got into bed with the Tea Party. In a time of division and political rancor, it is absolutely critical to focus on the core mission, the core concepts: homeownership, private property protection, and the American Dream.

-rsh

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Rob Hahn
Managing Partner of 7DS Associates, and the grand poobah of this here blog. Once called "a revolutionary in a really nice suit", people often wonder what I do for a living because I have the temerity to not talk about my clients and my work for clients. Suffice to say that I do strategy work for some of the largest organizations and companies in real estate, as well as some of the smallest startups and agent teams, but usually only on projects that interest me with big implications for reforming this wonderful, crazy, lovable yet frustrating real estate industry of ours.