Monday, August 04, 2008

Mr Secretary

I will admit this is mostly my mischievous side to even mention this... but Neal Pierce's recent column throws out in passing the possibility of former Mayor Tom Murphy being named the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development by the next President.

I know some in town may go a little apoplectic reading that. I am kind of alone as best I can tell being a little less emotional over the Murphy years. I am on the semi-public record1 as at least suggesting that the pedestrian bridge built next to the Hot Metal Bridge ought to be named for his work in building the region's bike trail system.

Curiosity makes me ask Mr. Google what TM is up to these days. here is something from about a month ago down in Raleigh where he is talking public transit.

(1) or is that the public semi-record?


Blogger O said...

Makes you wonder (a) how many, if any, folk would be drawn from Pgh to DC and (b) if any of us should start polishing up our resumes.

Monday, August 04, 2008 11:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish Murphy would have followed-up on this promise to go to Peru. Washington is far away, but I'd feel better with another continent.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008 9:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding the article, can you explain how the mortgage deduction primarily benefits the rich? If it's applicable only to homes worth up to $1 million, then it would seem to be at least a little progressive, since it would benefit people whose homes are worth $50,000 as well.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008 9:30:00 AM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

and I always suspected O would be revealed as pseudonym for Tom C.

on mortgage deduction. Home ownership must rise with inoome; not much chance to take advantage of mortgage deduction if you do not own to begin with. But at $50K and a decent interest rate you may not even have enough in interest payments to itemize your deductions and thus be left with the standard deduction, thus again no benefit from the mortgage deduction for low income households. Then still if you do use it, the difference between what you would get using the standard deduciton is proportionally a lot less than for those with bigger mortgatges.

So unless you are a lower income household with a disproporionately big mortgage you will not benefit as much in either absolute or proportionate terms. The exception may be the pathology that the mortgage deduction could help out lower income households get very sub prime mortgages.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008 10:13:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


The main beneficiaries of the mortgage deduction are what the Democrats call the rich and the Republicans call the middle class. Most of the poor rent, but even if they own, the mortgage deduction doesn't help those with lower income much because they have cheaper houses and pay taxes at a lower rate. Also, you have to get above the standard deduction (which is something like $8,000) before the mortgage deduction is worth anything.

Someone with a $50,000 mortgage would have (at the high end) $6,000 to deduct (if they also deducted their property taxes). If they had a couple of kids or gave a lot to charity or something, they would still get the deduction, but they are probably only in the 15% bracket (earning up to $30,000) so the deduction is worth under $1,000.

On the other hand, if you are deducting the interest on a $400,000 dollar mortgage (and the property taxes), you are saving something well over 10 thousand on your taxes because you'd better be in the 33% bracket to pay that mortgage*. (Of course, the AMT can bite your ass and take a big part of your savings.)

*not that there aren't plenty of people in a $400,000 mortgage and a five figure income, but I can't imagine that it would be a comfortable spot to be in right now.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008 10:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two things: First, in my above comment, I used the single income tax brackets, not the married. A couple with a $400,00 mortgage could easily be in the 25% bracket and thus save less.

Second, in the article they call the mortgage deduction a "federal expenditure", which really irks me. Not taking money from somebody isn't exactly the same thing as spending money. It didn't irk me as much as the mention of Murphy being given high office, so it didn't register until now.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008 10:52:00 AM  
Blogger O said...

and I always suspected O would be revealed as pseudonym for Tom C.

It's true. Little would they suspect that the Deputy Mayor for Policy would be a clandestine blogger.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008 8:18:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

I would be impressed if TC could edit html to add italics.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008 10:44:00 PM  

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