By Seth Grossman, Political Columnist
Government is the great fiction, through which everybody tries to live at the expense of everybody else.
—Frederic Bastiat, French Economist 1848
??? Last week, I wrote about the safety, comfort and affordability of Century Village in West Palm Beach, and dozens of similar over-55 gated community built throughout Florida during the 1970’s.
Recently Florida developers built tens of thousands of houses in new upscale gated communities for the millions of babyboomers who are now retiring.?
??? But very few are buying in Florida right now, and many are selling.?? Real estate prices are tumbling.?? Why?
The “experts” blame high prices, high taxes, high insurance, and high crime.?? But what caused these things??? To me the answer is obvious.?? Most Florida voters (like most Americans these days) no longer care about securing “liberty and justice for all”.?? Instead, they vote for the politicians who promise the most favors.?? Florida no longer has liberty.?? And so its prosperity is also gone.?? Let’s look at the details.
??? 1.?? High Prices:?? In 1968, Irwin Levy was free to dig out lakes, fill in swamp, and build 8,000 condos, a club house, a golf course, and 18 swimming pools on land he owned.?? That is how he sold Century Village condos for $9,000 each, and still made a huge profit.??????
That doesn’t happen any more.?? The retirees who “overcrowded” Florida in the 1970s quickly demanded and got new laws to limit development and stop “overcrowding’ by others.?? The new laws did nothing to stop development.?? But they did force builders and to pay fortunes as fees for lawyers, experts, and bribes to politicians to get their permits.?? The Palm Beach Post reported a new scandal every day I was there.?? New homes in Florida are no longer the bargain they once were.
??? 2.?? High Taxes.?? When Florida’s newly arrived seniors became Florida’s largest voting block, they demanded and got low taxes for themselves, but not for anyone else.?? They set up a complicated and unfair tax system where long time senior “homesteaders” pay $600 a year for a $200,000 condo, while newly arrived “snowbirds” pay taxes of $10,000 a year for identical property.?
Spending by Palm Beach County government went up 12.2% per year during the past 10 years.?? That is double the population growth of 5.5% a year, and income growth of 6.2%.?? There were big increases in salaries, overtime pay, pensions, and health benefits for government employees, lots of lavish new public buildings, special “redevelopment projects”, etc.?? The local government of West Palm Beach even set up its own TV station!?? Florida seniors pinch every penny spent by their condo associations.?? But they did nothing to fight government spending hikes, since they did not affect senior “homestead” properties.
??? 3.?? High Insurance.?? In Florida’s corrupt political culture, nobody paid attention to Florida’s complicated insurance regulations, which forced insurance companies to give low-cost coverage for shoddy construction, and buildings in high risk flood zones.?? So when a bunch of hurricanes came, everyone in Florida got whacked with big hikes in insurance coverage.?? Many owners of modest $200,000 homes now pay $5,000 to $10,000 for flood and homeowners’ insurance.
??? 4.?? High Crime.?? Last month, a suburban 47 year old mom and her 7 year old daughter were kidnapped as they left the upscale Boca Raton Town Center Mall in their brand new SUV.?? They were taken to a remote ATM machine to get cash, and then brutally shot to death.?? These crimes are happening more and more in Florida, and it is easy to see why.?? Florida’s seniors could not hire Florida’s poor, uneducated blacks to do their landscaping or staff their nursing homes.?? It was easier to give them welfare, food stamps, and government-paid housing, and invite hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants to do that work.?? But while the illegal immigrants were working two and three jobs to make ends meet and send money back home, their kids were dropping out of school and joining a culture of drugs, gangs, and violence.?? Florida’s police and public schools are overwhelmed.
??? In a recent poll, 50% of South Florida residents said they are seriously thinking about leaving the state.?? Those who already moved out of Florida are jokingly called “half-backs”.?? They came from big government, high-tax home states in the Northeast but did not return there when they left Florida.?? Instead, they moved “half-back” to states like Arkansas, Tennessee, Georgia, and the Carolinas.?
Seth Grossman, Executive Director, www.libertyandprosperity.org,
453 Shore Road, Somers Point, NJ? 08244.?