17 February 2014

Google Bus

In order to protest income inequality, instead of attacking the corporations who pay minimum wage or outsource their labor, despite huge profits and huge executive compensation, we attack a corporation that actually pays well - and goes beyond good pay to provide (among other things) an alternative to car commuting.

Which means the goal isn't to actually ensure everyone has a living wage and can afford decent housing, its just to drag everyone else down to the lowest common denominator.
Actually, its not even that, since its the buses that have drawn anger, representing reasonably paid people moving into poor neighborhoods. Our solution to inequality and poverty is... segregation!


When middle class whites moved out of urban areas, it was called "white flight", and activists objected, because it made life harder for poor residents by turning them into ghettos. Now middle class whites are moving back, and even though you can't evict someone just to get higher rent in a rent controlled city, we call it "gentrification" and claim it is making life harder for the poor residents.

Now, I understand it is easier and more gratifying to pick an enemy to hate, and to throw stuff and be destructive than it is to think critically about complex issues - but is it too much to ask to go after WalMart and McDonalds and all the other low wage and outsourcing companies?

When I have pointed all this out to people, they mostly agree that it isn't productive, but say it points to a larger issue regarding gentrification's affect on housing.I 100% agree with the notion that having a place to exist should be a basic human right. I have a major problem with the idea that one person can "own" the land that another person lives on. (More on that in upcoming posts)

However, living in the SF Bay Area is most certainly not a basic human right.
Not all 7 billion humans in the world can live in the Bay Area.

High eviction rates didn't start because of tech companies. They started in 2008 with the foreclosure crises.
High rents didn't start with tech companies. Rent has been higher than average here for at least a good hundred years.
High rents are because everyone wants to live here - we have good weather and good culture - but there is a finite amount of space.

Increasing housing is like increasing traffic lanes to deal with traffic,
the more you build, the more people drive. It is like buying a bigger belt to deal with obesity.
You are at best temporarily solving a symptom, while the "solution" itself will ultimately only encourage an increase the size of the original problem.

Along the way you either increase urban density (which has a direct correlation to crime rates) or you increase suburban sprawl (with its environmental consequences) and either way you increase traffic, parking, and pollution.

If a person has trouble affording rent here, there are lots of options:

1) Live with roommates (that's a popular one), or in an RV park (I used to), or do work-trade for rent (that's what I do now), or live in a communal house.

2) Apply for public assistance.

3) Live anywhere in the entire country other than Honolulu HI, New York City NY, or the SF Bay Area CA. Literally anywhere else. That leaves about 20,000 options.

It almost seems that the idea is people should be able to live where ever they want, even in places they can't afford (and we aren't talking about being forced out of an existing home, because we have rent control here) - except the entire objection is middle class people choosing to move somewhere less expensive. In other words, they should not be allowed to live where ever they want. Only poor people should. That seems a very odd and arbitrary way to try to even the score. I can think of a whole lot of much better ways.

Other people have said the issue is private use of public infrastructure.

How about millions of people driving private cars on public roads?
That solves the problem of transportation for yourself, while leaving everyone else behind.

How is it Google's responsibility to provide transportation for all people?

How would it benefit the people of Oakland if all Google employees drove their own personal cars to work instead, increasing the already excessive congestion on our highways?

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