Tuesday, December 18, 2018
I have reached a comfortable place in life. I want and need to work for a few more years, but all in all, I am in a good place. To some extent I am where I am, because of government programs.
I bought my first home, using a special state program for low to moderate income first time homebuyers. The special rate was 13.5%, but market rates were about 15% back in 1982. The loan was paid off, when I sold that house a couple of years later, and the money was rolled into my next home, that was financed with a mortgage insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA.) I owned that home almost a decade, and rolled most of the proceeds of the sale of that home (I paid off my car also) into the house in Lexington that we will close on the sale of soon. I used an FHA insured loan when I bought the condo in the DC area. Most of our cash was tied up in the house in Lexington. Five years later, I was far enough ahead on paying the mortgage balance down, that FHA waived the insurance requirement. We will pay off the condo soon. All of this started, with getting a break on buying that first house.
I started my higher education in a state community college. Books cost more than tuition, the state supported the college. When I transfered from there to a private college to move beyond the two year degree, the state awarded me a modest scholarship for a couple of semesters, on the theory that it was cheaper for the state to subsidize students at high quality private colleges than to expand the state university system. It was not a huge amount of money, but the couple-of-thousand dollars helped.
I went to a state university for Law School. My tuition was below the cost of the school. I borrowed on Federally guaranteed and some Federally subsidized student loans. On the subsidized loans the Federal government paid the interest until I started repayment 6-months after graduation. The guaranteed loans accrued interest while I was in school. I owed about $45,000 when I went into repayment. More than I paid for my first house - almost as much as our mortgage payment at the time. I took a job out of law school providing free legal assistance to low income seniors, a public interest job, for $28,000 a year. Six months later I started making $740 a month student loan payments. Not being a believer in debt, I paid ahead as I could, but those first few years the budget was tight. Seven years later the state came up with a student loan repayment program for persons working in public interest programs (teachers, nurses, legal aid attorneys.) The program was very difficult to qualify for, I applied and hoped for the best. I was awarded $10,000 and a year's interest in loan repayment. I paid off the balance out of savings the next month. Then paid $2,000 in income tax on the loan forgiveness. I stayed on that job for almost 10 years, helping over 12,000 low income seniors. Then moved onto a support program that helps legal aid lawyers, be better lawyers. I am coming up on 20 years in pubic interest and non-profit work.
Without government programs, I wouldn't have been able to buy that first house, or this condo, I would not have been able to afford an education that has enabled me to do good work, and to earn a good living (the last decade have been good to me.)
When people talk about government being bad, I wish they would look at the way that government programs help ordinary people.