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You'll be happier if you buy a house and vote more, too

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Posted: Monday, February 6, 2006 10:00 pm

A lot of us are old enough to remember parents who had the philosophy that said (in effect) if you can't pay for it, in the name of heaven, don't buy it.

My dad really detested renting and he was also not only smart and inventive, he was gutsy and ambitious. When he got to the point where the $35 a month rent checks only paid for a stack of about 14 rent receipts, he set about building a house, one that still stands and is being nicely cared for by the present owners. In fact, all the homes my parents owned here in Lodi look really nice. They're nothing all that fancy, but they are worth way over a million bucks in the play money of today.

Bob Bader

Is it me, but do the new bills these days remind you of play money or something that was printed in Europe? I heard it said that one way you could tell you were in Europe years ago was that the money tore but the toilet paper didn't.

What led me to talk economics today is a comment by a fellow named Robert Dietz, who did a study called "The Social Consequences of Home Ownership" in 2003.

He said: "If you own your own home, you are happier and more satisfied with your life. Your children are better educated and less likely to get into trouble. Your daughters are less likely to become pregnant as teenagers. You vote more often and are more active in your community. You are more likely to recycle and less likely to get mugged."

One of the reasons you are less likely to get mugged is the fact that, no matter where you look if you own your own home, you can see something you should be doing … you don't have time to be out on the street making a mugger's target of yourself. I have worn a virtual rut in the road between my house and the hardware store because the house I bought was almost exactly 20 years old when I bought it. How I knew it was 20 was simple enough: Everything in the house and yard with a 20-year guarantee broke the day after I signed the deed.

Sometime when you have nothing better to do, count the electric motors you have. Each of those represents a guarantee of one kind or another. In your kitchen you have an electric mixer (outdated, but guaranteed), a toaster (the one appliance we use, but that's OK, we got four when we married), a food processor, an electric carving knife (that can't cut so you always resort to your trusty Ginzu), an electric can opener, a microwave, a stove hood with two-speed motors and lights to match. Interestingly enough, few of these things will wear out for the simple reason they have to be used to wear out. My food processor, for example, will rust out long before it wears out. Why would I get that big, heavy tool out from under the oven just to slice up an onion so I don't hafta get tears in my eyes?

Those tools all looked so good when the TV chef used them … especially when he filleted out a tomato … you just had to have them and when they got here (in your kitchen), you used the bread knife and a steak knife, you sure as hell didn't make a flower out of a radish … end of story. Aw heck … it doesn't matter; you got a thousand dollars worth of knives for three easy payments of $19.95, so that's cool. They look impressive standing there between dustings.

So, if you go around the house and count. For example the bathroom has a ceiling fan, an electric shaver and a clipper as well, an electric toothbrush, a hair dryer, maybe a portable heater, an ear-hair clipper, and in some cases, a shoe buffer. That makes eight and you aren't even fully awake. Even your watch … unless it's a Rolex … has a battery and a motor.

Picture what your life would be like if all of the (electric) clocks in your home were suddenly turned back 100 years.I don't know how I can soften the blow, but you would have to actually move your hand back and forth as you brush your teeth!! How primitive!!

This all started when I mentioned renting (and to be fair, I will include in the mix buying things on time … monthly payments).

Years ago, I had a patient who was hurt at work. He actually wept as he came into the office, not because of the pain, but because being off work for just a few days would jeopardize his lifestyle. He explained to me that his paycheck took care of the apartment rental, the car payment and the groceries. His wife's check covered the payments on the TV, the VCR, the washer, the dryer, the front-room furniture and her car. What made the story even sadder was the fact this was a childless couple in their fifties.

Ah reckon we should be grateful for the excesses in which we wallow. We could be living in a mud hut in Africa and the last worry we would have is the possibility of a guarantee pooping out just as the guests arrive for the party.

By the way, I read where a string quartet played Mozart's music on his birthday last week … in a GROCERY store in North Dakota. That should shed a little light on what a classless bunch we squareheads really are.

Bob Bader is a Lodi writer and chiropractor. He may be contacted at

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