Americans have invested in homes in many ways for a long time. During the frontier days of the West, families would homestead property and so through grit and endless work transform a patch of prairie into a home, a barn, a farm, and an investment. Federal policies have gutted much of that wealth. Environmental regulations have interfered with the sensible activities of farmers (as if Big Government had a greater long term interest in the preservation of the land than those who lived and worked on it). Farm subsidies, beginning with the disastrous New Deal, contorted rational economic decision-making by farmers and induced them instead to enter the Never-Never Land of government subsidies, so that in Iowa — a politically potent state because of its early role in the primaries — the wasteful use of corn to produce ethanol is still sacrosanct. Federal estate taxes, too, have forced families to sell farms which their grandfathers intended to remain in the family forever.
Stocks and bonds have historically been another long-term investment for millions of Americans. Long before the Roaring Twenties, middle-class Americans saw the virtue of creating a portfolio of stocks and bonds. Innovators such as Edison and Bell, geniuses of management such as Carnegie and Ford, and people with just great business ideas, such as Sears, created vast amounts of commercial wealth and then converted that potential wealth into usable cash by liquidating their stock holdings and selling them on the market.
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