Ross’s BS sensors on full alert

by Kirk Ross

The flip tax

I don’t know about you, but when I see a political organization whose name includes the phrases “concerned citizens,” “good government” or “protecting the American dream” the BS detector in my head goes off with enough volume to wake the dead.

So imagine the cacophony as I scrolled through a list of “local committees” set up to fight the real estate transfer tax in the 17 counties that have it on the ballot this fall. Now most of these organizations’ titles are plainly put “Something-Something County Against the Transfer Tax,” but a few have to trumpet their effort to protect home equity, homeownership or, in the case of Pender County, “protect the American dream.”

After reading that name I was a little worried that my homework on the transfer tax, which applies a .4 percent tax on the sale of real estate, is incomplete because I could not for the life of me see how an extra $1,000 on every $250,000 was that big of a threat to our way of life.

Thankfully, Reuters settled it for me in a recent, unrelated article about the collapse of the subprime mortgage market. In the article, an individual in New York left holding the bag when values and sales plummeted on houses in which she was speculating said the American Dream in the 21st century involves flipping properties at a handsome profit. I suddenly felt silly and old thinking it was still a brick ranch in a quiet neighborhood. And that totally explains why Pender of all counties would choose to protect that dream – flipping property there is bigger than Texas Hold ‘Em and hair bands put together.

You can find all the local groups on the revamped web site, which is now stripped of any reference to the recent statewide campaign that failed to persuade the legislature to not include a local option tax in this year’s budget. But please be aware, though, that there’s no sign on the site of Angie, the poor woman who drove around the state in a red pickup trying to warn us. She was so caught up in the effort to fight the tax, and now that she’s vanished without a trace, I’m left wondering – worrying, really – what happened to her. Is she in some kind of narrative commercial limbo along with that couple who were always on the verge of getting it on thanks to Taster’s Choice coffee?

Evidently, the Realtors PAC, which sponsored Angie and her truck, have moved on and their website is focusing instead on the above mentioned local organizations. Curiously, all those local organizations have managed to purchase toll-free phone numbers, most of which seem to have a very similar voice asking you to leave a message.

As you can imagine, money is flowing into these campaigns from local and state interests. According to Greg Flynn, a journalist who has been tracking the money going into the effort to stop the transfer tax, RPAC has already spent close to $2 million this year and last. Links and finance reports are at Flynn’s site

One thing to keep in mind is that this battle won’t end on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. Several counties that considered the tax opted to wait to put them on the ballot until the May primaries.

Kirk Ross is the editor of the Cape Fear Mercury and the blog

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