Rent is too damn high

Jimmy McMillan stole the show Monday at the debate among the New York state governor candidates. His refrain of "The rent is too damn high," was novel, memorable and—most importantly—frequently repeated. By now, millions have seen the video of McMillan putting out a passionate cry against rent inflation, as well as enthusiastically sliding down the slippery slope of marriage equality arguments.

Many people will write McMillan off as a loon flying out of left field, but this is a mistake. It is a credit to our democracy that people like McMillan can carry an issue, get their petitions signed and run for office just like any of the major party candidates. American government openness to such candidates testifies to this country’s deeply held belief on egalitarianism, even if it is an ideal we do not always realize.

American democracy is more like football than polo: it is an everyman’s game. Government should never be a pastime of elites, the Kennedy’s and Bush’s alike. And by eclipsing both Cuomo and Paladino at Monday’s debate, McMillan reminded us of the aggrieved common man’s place in politics. One man, if he passionate enough, really can make a difference, sometimes just by screaming the message from the rooftops.

We at The Oswegonian applaud McMillan’s single-issue candidacy because of the light he shines on the fundamentals of democracy and ballot access. But we also tip our hats to McMillan because he is right: the rent is Too. Damn. High.

Philosophers since Descartes have all agreed that we exist. But that is not the whole story. We exist in a place. We are, but we are also somewhere. As Earth’s population increases we will have to face that more and more people will have to vie for the same fixed amount of space. Any economist will tell you this kind of increase in demand will serve to raise prices. The rent, already too damn high, is going to get higher.

What does this mean for our individual homes and families? For most of us, we will have to pay more to in order to live in the same amount of space as our parents. If we fix the dollars we are willing to spend on housing, then we might as well see the walls shrink around us. Is this fair? Most certainly not.

The basic human right of shelter ought not be out of reach to any significant share of the citizenry. Room to breath is not a luxury or frill. It is an essential cornerstone of anyone’s Maslovian pyramid. That the rent is too damn high is no insignificant matter. How will we be the giants upon whose shoulders our children stand, if we are forced to spend an ever-greater portion of income on the physiological needs? How will our generation add to the whole of human knowledge and creativity? Will we ever have the time or leisure for self-realization?

McMillan harkens back to the virtues of Georgist economics. Henry George, in his magnum opus "Poverty and Progress" theorized that nature’s bounty of land belonged to no man alone. Instead, the private owners of land held their deeds in trust from the entire community. The idea is reminiscent of Native American’s views of landownership.

Whatever the case, the fact remains that the rent is too damn high and something must be done about it. If rent continues to climb, then where will people and their newlywed shoes live? More importantly, where will their children go when they come home from karate practice? Perhaps all that is required to find the answer is that we listen: listen like McMillan.