Homeownership and The Economy As Culture War

COLUMBIA, SC - JANUARY 17: Republican presidential candidate, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich speaks during a town hall meeting at the South Carolina Farmer’s Market on January 17, 2012 in Columbia, South Carolina.

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is for free markets, except when it comes to lavish government subsidies for middle class families to make highly leveraged investments in owner occupied single-family housing:

Apparently speaking to his suburban, middle-class base, he struck a populist tone: “Those who, you know, live in high-rise apartment buildings writing for fancy newspapers in the middle of town after they ride the metro, who don’t understand that for most Americans the ability to buy a home, to have their own property, to have a sense of belonging is one of the greatest achievements of their life, and it makes them feel like they are good solid citizens,” he told the crowd.
To be literal about it, of course, Gingrich is being analytically confused here. I write for a fancy website in the middle of town, walk or ride the Metro to my office, and live in a high-rise apartment building but I’m a homeowner. I used to be a renter living in a single-family home. But it’s telling how swiftly any kind of commitment to free market economics melts away in the face of the identity politics concerns of prosperous older white suburbanites.