Share

POLITICS: PennAve

Big Ideas: On war powers, fruits and nuts, and overcrowding

By |
Taxes,September 11 Terrorist Attacks,PennAve,Joseph Lawler,Economy,House Ways and Means Committee,War in Afghanistan,Housing,Magazine

Mieke Eoyang for Third Way: Sixty words have defined the last 13 years. In the days following the 9/11 attacks, Congress voted overwhelmingly to give the president broad authority to use force against those who had attacked us. But those 60 words, known as the Authorization for Use of Military Force, or AUMF, have been in effect for far longer, in more places, and invoked against more groups than anyone could have suspected in 2001. After bin Laden's death and with the war in Afghanistan drawing to a close, now it is time to revisit the AUMF.

The law itself gives the president the authority to “use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.” In the past, this has been interpreted as a grant to go after al Qaeda, the Taliban and “associated forces” wherever they may be found, although military operations now seem to be focused on Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and sometimes Somalia.

The last administration also invoked the authorization as the basis for some electronic surveillance, rendition and interrogation programs. It still provides the basis for detention at Guantanamo. It has been invoked to justify military action against groups far from the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, from the Philippine Archipelago to Yemen and Somalia. And it is not clear what triggering event would shut down the authorization - neither the death of Osama bin Laden nor the decimation of core al Qaeda seem to have given us our victory parade moment.

 

THE STRANGE FRUIT OF A HOUSE TAX BREAK

Howard Gleckman for the Tax Policy Center: When the Ways and Means Committee sent the House a measure to make permanent extra-generous tax subsidies for firms that purchase capital equipment, I noted in passing that the bill included a provision extending “bonus depreciation” rules to fruit and nut trees.

If I had read the bill more carefully, I would have noticed that while it applied to fruit that grows on trees and vines, it inexplicably excluded fruit that grows on bushes. As a blueberry lover, I am shocked and outraged.

This job-killing exclusion also extends to raspberries — both black and red. Cranberries are more complicated. They usually grow on a bush, but sometimes a vine. So eligibility for the special tax break may depend on the variety of cranberry we are talking about.

I suspect the bill has tax lawyers scrambling to find the broadest possible definition of tree. After all, there must be some bright-eyed legal associate out there who can make the case that a bush is nothing more than a short tree. Or a fat vine.

 

BIG ISN'T AFFORDABLE

Molly Scott for the Urban Institute's MetroTrends: The most ubiquitous unit size in the American rental market is the two-bedroom; 40 percent of all rentals fall into that category. Roughly 30 percent are larger; 30 percent are smaller. Studio apartments are the least common, accounting for only about 2 percent of all rentals.

How does that compare to rental housing demand? Unfortunately, we can’t guess people’s preferences, but we can estimate what American renters might need. The standard rule of thumb in much of the rental market is that households should have at least one bedroom for every two persons—anything less than that is considered crowding. ...

Applying this standard, nearly two-thirds of American households (63 percent) need only a studio or one-bedroom rental unit. Roughly another quarter (27 percent) would fit comfortably in a two-bedroom, and only about 10 percent really need to live in units with three or more bedrooms.

So how do renters actually live? Analysis shows that their living arrangements look pretty much identical to the supply of rental housing.

In all reality, there are far more people who could live in studios or one-bedrooms than rentals of this size. That means singles and married couples must compete with families and larger households for larger units, driving up their cost. Small households’ “over-housing” may also indirectly lead to “under-housing” for larger low-income households who have to seek smaller and smaller accommodations to keep the rent within reach. ...

One solution might be very well to build more bigger units to lessen the competition at that end of the rental market, since almost everyone has a preference for more space, holding all things equal. But while counterintuitive, building more smaller units may actually be just as important a strategy for policymakers to consider.

View article comments Leave a comment