Can the American Dream Not Include Home Ownership?

The New York Times ran a fascinating story about Americans equating the American Dream with home ownership. There is actually more public support for people to own their homes than create jobs!

Read on:

Nearly nine in 10 Americans say homeownership is an important part of the American dream, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. And they are keen on making sure it stays that way, for themselves and everyone else….

Forty-five percent of the respondents say the government should be doing more to improve the housing market, while 16 percent say it should be doing less. On the politically contentious issue of direct financial assistance to those having trouble paying their mortgages, slightly more than half of those polled, 53 percent, say the government should help. And almost no one favors discontinuing the mortgage tax deduction, a prized middle-class benefit that has been featured on some budget-cutting proposals.

President Obama, who has been criticized for both doing too much to help the housing market and for not doing enough, was given poor marks. Only 36 percent of those polled approve of what Mr. Obama has done, while 45 percent disapprove.

As someone who has witnessed many people “under water” with their homes and has spent a good chunk of her life in a rental, I don’t get this at all. An unaffordable home, or home that is tying someone to a job he doesn’t like and/or keeping a family living paycheck to paycheck doesn’t seem liberating to me at all. Yes, renting can feel unstable — although not in Berkeley, California where there is rent control — but so can a house that is really owned by the bank.

What do you all think?


Saturday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Boston University’s Bostonia magazine had a question and answer session with a professor who wrote a book about the bible in regards to homosexuality and sexuality in general. This piece is worth a read, especially in light of all the theological discussion we have had here lately. Thanks all for that, by the way! I have been enjoying it as it has made me stop and reflect on my faith.

In related news, Christian music singer and songwriter Jennifer Knapp has come out of the closet. CNN ran a profile on her, and I especially liked this quote by Knapp: “I would rather be judged before God as being an honest human being. If I am in any way unpleasing in his sight, I can only hope and pray that he gives me the opportunity to find who I am supposed to be.”

Here is yet another article critical of the Catholic Church’s handling of the sex abuse scandal. This piece was written by conservative columnist and practicing Catholic Peggy Noonan for the Wall Street Journal. She has written extensively about the Catholic Church and gives, IMHO, an accurate portrayal of the Vatican.

In the first of its kind, Nebraska just passed laws banning abortion at and after 20 weeks of pregnancy and requiring mental screening for patients who seek an abortion, according to the Guardian in the UK.

This is sad: New York City will begin charging some people living in homeless shelters rent, according to the New York Daily News. The people who will be paying rent have jobs, but are struggling and will be contributing about 44 percent of their paltry income to the city.

Here is a fascinating Science Daily story about children with a genetic condition who are not racist. Basically, those children with so-called Williams syndrome lack fear and are friendly in nature. In this study, they were found less likely than other children to stereotype based on race.

The state of Vermont voted to ban the synthetic chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) in sippy cups, water bottles, infant formula, and food containers, according to our Katy Farber in a special report for the Mighty Nest blog. Go Vermont!

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Midday Coffee Break

What’s up?

Vaccines for AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, genital herpes and other diseases are five years away, according to the Associated Press.

I know some of you mentioned this in Gloria’s open thread this morning, but due to flooding at one of its bakeries, Kellogg’s is facing a Leggo waffle shortage that will last until the middle of 2010, according to MSN Money. The latest Washington Post e-mail newsletter reported that some people were attempting to profit from the shortage by auctioning off a box of Leggo waffles for $65. Also in MSN Money: Costco will no longer carry Coca Cola products because of a pricing dispute.

Texas is No. 2 in impoverished people with inadequate food, according to the Dallas Morning News. The state is also experiencing a backlog in the food stamps program, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

From the Washington Post: a University of Pennsylvania professor put to rest the American notion that owning a home is always better than renting.

Mary Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, just gave birth to a baby girl, Sarah Lynne Cheney, according to Salon. This would be the second child for Cheney and her partner of more than 17 years, Heather Poe.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Moving Back In With Mom and Dad

MSNBC ran an article about the regression of parent-child relationships when adult children move back home with mom and dad during the recession.

This latest stint at home is (Chanelle) Schneider’s second, the first coming right after college, making her one of 77 percent of college grads to move back home after school, according to a August 2008 survey. (In 2006, that number was 67 percent.) In recent years, though, returning 20-somethings, sometimes dubbed “boomerangers,” have been joined by adults in their 30s and 40s — sometimes with a spouse and kids in tow. From 2000 to 2008, multigenerational households increased by 24 percent, up to 6.2 million, according to AARP.

So, too, have the problems of the blended households, particularly when it comes to settling that age-old question: Who’s the boss?

“I’m 25, so I want to be taken as an adult, a grown woman,” says Schneider, who’s grateful for her mother’s help but less thrilled about the “growing pains.” “But I’m still my mother’s child. She’s in mom mode, always.”

Adults who go through a job loss, home foreclosure or other financial hardship often feel infantilized, says Dr. Marion Lindblad-Goldberg, clinical professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania. Throw in a return to the family home and you have the makings for a full-blown recession regression….

Parents may start yelling at their adult kids to clean their rooms, wash their hands, and “Turn down that dang TV!” And adult children can revert back to throwing tantrums, neglecting responsibilities and feeling resentment about their powerlessness.

“Moving back home has the potential for robbing people of that feeling of adult competence,” she says. “And that can cause a dilemma.”

So what is an unemployed twenty-something or thirty-something to do? The article did not offer much in the way of advice. But it seems like parents and children need to sit down and make their expectations known before living together out of necessity. Otherwise, the arrangement will only breed resentment.

Are any of you in this boat? How have you and your adult children split chores and other responsibilities?


Adult Children in the Home Part II

Unfortunately, my long weekend was off to a rocky start. There were fireworks at my house as my husband confronted my 22-year-old sister and told her to find a place of her own.  

As you may recall, my baby sister (she is the youngest of four children and I am the oldest of the four) came to live with us 3.5 years ago. She was estranged from my parents in New Hampshire so she came to live with us in California and attended the local community college. She was 19.

While we never established any ground rules, we assumed that she would help with her newborn nephew in exchange for free room and board. It never happened. Well, at least not consistently.

Initially, she was grateful to have stable housing so she was very helpful. She was so helpful that my husband and I began to pitch in $500 a month for her to have spending money. But then school started, she made friends and disappeared. She told us not to worry about paying her and instead found a higher paying job. The problem is she was living with us rent-free and wasn’t contributing anything for it. We grew resentful as she used our home as a crash pad and for free food and laundry. Even more insulting, some of her friends at the community college had children! Yet, she acted like hanging around us was a burden to shoulder.

I approached her a couple times about pitching in, which the first time she acted flabbergasted and threatened to find another place to live. That was six months ago. The second time she was more gracious and offered to draw up a schedule to earn her keep. The arrangement lasted two weeks. We went to Europe, came back and found out she took a job, which would take her even more time outside the home.

“I will try to fit you in,“ she told us sheepishly. Try? In the meantime, Markos and I were passive-aggressive as we always were with my sister. I wanted so badly to support her until I felt confident she could stand on her own two feet. Because she was my sister, my husband was always reluctant to say anything to her.

But after weeks of stewing, all the pent up resentment boiled over. He was upset she did not help me the week he was on the east coast for the Colbert Report. She knew I was home alone with the two kids.

On Saturday morning my husband confronted her. “I am concerned that we made a deal and you have not been helping out like you said you would.“

“I am trying!“ she yelled at him. “It is hard in the Bay Area!“

“Don’t give me that crap,“ Markos said. “Elisa and I did it. We lived with six other people in a house in Boston. People get roommates. People do this all the time.“

She stormed upstairs to her room and slammed the door. “Don’t give me attitude!“ Markos bellowed.

The scene was almost comical. It was as if she were his teenage daughter. He fumed about it even hours later. Well, at least we know what’s in store for us with our own children.

Which leads me to my point: I have come to the sad conclusion that parents can’t give their children everything. Our intentions are good. Understandably, we don’t want our kids to face hardship. But facing hardship shapes character and gives people a motivation to work. It gives us the motivation to live.

I had the complete opposite upbringing from Ari. I was the oldest of four children and the six of us lived in a two-bedroom house in a rundown section of Miami. I don’t remember a time, in which my parents did not worry about money. They always had a hard time paying their bills and we would have the water, phone and electricity cut off at our house. But it did — as my mother once proudly pointed out — give me the motivation to work. Hard.

Yesterday my sister let me know she was looking at apartments in Berkeley this weekend and she would be out within the next two weeks. “I am getting rid of some stuff now,“ she said. Was she selling things? Putting her stuff in storage? I wanted so badly to ask her if she needed money. Did she need an extension on moving out?  But I stayed mum. This is necessary. I am sure she is freaking out. But one day I am certain she will thank us for it.