About the header photo: Fox News’ Kennedy called Seattle a “socialist hellhole” in a July 12 broadcast. We wish!
This week’s Hellhole includes a few bright spots– the people of our fair city are banding together to push back against capitalists and bigots, and we’re highlighting some ways you can help. We even added a few emojis! Of course, it wouldn’t be the Hellhole if we also didn’t take some time to dunk on the dunces who want to keep you in capitalist captivity, so as we alluded to last week, we’ve inaugurated the Class Enemy of the Week feature. Welcome to the Hellhole.
Housing is a human right
- The same coalition that introduced a tax on high-income earners to Seattle with wild success has introduced their newest effort: the Housing For All campaign. The Transit Riders Union is again leading the charge, along with organizations like the Seattle Democratic Socialists of America, the Neighborhood Action Coalition, SHARE / WHEEL, Socialist Alternative and Nickelsville. The campaign’s efforts are multifaceted, but focus on preventing the city from confiscating the remaining worldly possessions of people who already have very little while also calling for more interim shelters and more affordable housing in general. Seattle DSA is proud to stand with the coalition in the belief that housing is a human right, and we are prepared for the challenges ahead. In a kickoff event last Saturday, Katie Wilson, general secretary of the Transit Riders Union, told the crowd that this campaign might be harder for NIMBYs and others to swallow, especially given the intense backlash to other social service programs like safe-injection sites. “There is in our city a small but vocal minority who believe that the problem is not homelessness, but homeless people,” Wilson said. As socialists, we believe the problem is actually the ruthless pursuit of capital by the few, not the many who unjustly suffer from that pursuit.
Seattle DSA is part of the Housing For All coalition. There is a Housing For All action committee meeting Saturday, Sept. 16 from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Frye in Pioneer Square. If you would like to get involved with the Housing for All coalition as part of SDSA, please email [email protected].
?Call your senators!?
- If you want a retirement option that doesn’t involve crushing medical debt, working until you’re dead, or both, the only real solution is healthcare for all, as a human right and a matter of course. Normal Americans agree, but the type of American that is also a politician isn’t so sure. Case in point– both Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell are expending vast amounts of effort to avoid accidentally supporting any aspect of Bernie Sanders’ new Medicare-for-all proposal. To quote Murray, “I am focused right now on fighting back against Trumpcare [ed. this is effectively dead already] and getting Republicans to join us on legislation to stabilize health care markets and prevent premium increases [ed. they won’t], but I am also excited about the great ideas that so many Democrats have [ed. they don’t actually have any ideas, unless you count Sanders] to keep us moving toward that goal of health care for all—and this bill should absolutely be a big part of the conversation and something every Senator should look at seriously [ed. this quote does not actually contain meaning].”
If you’re a normal American like us, maybe call and let your Senators know how you feel about making healthcare available to everyone, regardless of cost. Patty Murray’s contact info is here, and Maria Cantwell’s is here.
A literal hellhole
- An enormous crater of a lot across from Seattle City Hall was decided in an 8-1 vote to be sold to British Columbian developer Bosa Development for $16 million, plus $5.7 million in the sort of affordable housing-funding fees developers have to pay if they’re not going to build anything the majority of Seattle residents could afford to live in. This property had formerly been tied up in a Recession-doomed, Mayor Nickels-era deal with developer Triad, who’d tried to bribe Seattle DSA member Jon Grant during his 2015 city council candidacy. Socialist Alternative Councilmember Kshama Sawant suspected the downtown Seattle lot was being given away for a song for luxury development and the sort of potted-plant “public plaza” where a locked gate isn’t immediately seen. Sawant asked for an honest appraisal of the land for a month, but was given the runaround, only to find out from Councilmember Tim Burgess on Wednesday at the vote that an appraisal HAD been completed; the property is actually worth between $45 and $55 million.
Another thing she’s clueless about
- At first glance, you might think that prospective mayor Jenny Durkan’s plan to leverage a wealth fund to entice wealthy developers into building low-income housing is stupid (if you’re rational) and / or hilarious (if you’re irony-poisoned).
Of course, you’d be right. Durkan betrayed her ignorance of Seattle’s housing crisis by citing a Pioneer Square-based “workforce housing” development– a misnomer, obscuring the simple truth that “workforce housing” refers to homes for civil servants making $50,000 to $70,000 a year. If you’re making that much, you can no longer afford to comfortably live in Seattle.
The Stranger’s Charles Mudede also pointed out you’d think the plan was stupid even if you were a wealthy developer. Durkan also betrayed her ignorance of finance by promising returns of 5-7 percent for investors, which Mudede points out is a ludicrously high number, one that was promised for the AAA, good-as-money securities peddled by Wall Street just before they destroyed the entire American economy. Turns out that lying to your constituents in order to appease moneyed interests is a pernicious habit, and one that politicians like Durkan will pursue regardless of the social (or financial!) costs.
If you’re looking to elect a politician that understands Seattle’s housing crisis, the Seattle DSA has endorsed tenant-rights activist Jon Grant for Seattle city council. You can learn more about him and his campaign here.
Not too late for those “Bobb Ferg” knuckle tats
- In response to the Trump administration odious decision to shut down DACA, Seattle’s local activists rallied to pledge their support for immigrants and the undocumented. They were supported by Paul Quinonez, a DACA recipient and employee of the state legislature, as well as Washington attorney general Bob Ferguson, who pledged to fight Trump’s administration in court. “If the overwhelming majority of Dreamers were Caucasian, does anybody really think this president would take the action he took yesterday?” Ferguson said in a press conference about the suit on Wednesday, Sept. 6.
“Just die sooner” is not that great of a healthcare plan
- Bloomberg recently reported that healthcare costs are projected to be an irresponsibly-large portion of your retirement (for those that can retire, that is). Bloomberg gets pretty close to the point at first, reporting of high-deductible HSAs that “…employees will be better healthcare consumers under such plans… if being an informed, effective consumer weren’t extremely difficult and time-consuming in the murky world of American health-care pricing.” In classic fashion, they immediately zing right past the point again by reinforcing the capitalist narrative about who deserves healthcare: “[healthcare] costs will likely keep climbing, so one of the best investments anyone can make is to work at staying healthy, if possible.” Another option, of course, is to die sooner.
Games (rich) people play
- Seattle-based Nordstrom opens its first Nordstrom Local location in… Los Angeles next month, the first store of a AmazonFresh pick-up-like concept that proclaims that each location will be “a small, neighborhood ‘hub’ that will have no clothing in stock and will focus instead on digital sales, customer service and tailoring.” The bespoke-focused concept is led by a customer experience executive formerly of Trunk Club, a Nordstrom asset purchased for $350 million in 2014 before receiving a $197 million write-down two years later. Department stores have not recovered from the Great Recession, as middle class and upper middle class demographics and their spending power have vanished. Investors know this and news of a Local opening was met with shares plummeting as much as 5.4%. Staggering numbers for you, maybe, but business as usual for the Nordstrom family, who are looking to take the company private, finding a willing firm to put up $1 billion to fund the deal, as they face a lawsuit alleging compulsory, unpaid overtime, something the business model has evidently relied on in the past.
In Stock-holm syndrome
- Last week’s news of Amazon’s search for a tax haven to build a second headquarters was met with overreaction from not only local news media, but also from government officials such as (former) Mayor Ed Murray, who had pledged to “immediately begin conversations with Amazon around their needs with today’s announcement and the company’s long-term plans for Seattle.” More perverse was the reaction from venture capitalist and incoming Chair of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, Heather Redman, who suggested that, “It’s never too late to say we’re sorry” to Amazon. If pledging emotional fealty and massive public wealth to Jeff Bezos is your vision of Seattle’s future, consider voting for Jenny Durkan, whose mayoral candidacy this Chamber of municipal horrors has endorsed.
Request for profit
- This week, Geekwire sang praises of what they see as the glimmering success of the Seattle Department of Transportation’s re-jiggering of the city’s Request for Proposals permitting process. This process, which “can take years,” is the traditional route of municipalities examining a proposal and how it adheres to regulations. But, in the case of Car2Go, LimeBike, Spin and others, these private companies have “approach[ed] the city with an idea that can function as a consumer business while also meeting a goal of the public agency.” The city, then, invites the private entity to co-write its own regulations, setting the stage for the deleterious entangling of public service (cw: fictional violence) with the business models of companies motivated by profit. Cities elsewhere in the nation are looking at this program with interest.
Class enemy of the week
- Two *~innovators~* disrupted an industry that didn’t need to be disrupted this week when they introduced a “startup” called Bodega that is essentially a cabinet that is supposed to replace… actual bodegas. West Coasters might not be as familiar, but East Coasters (on Twitter) were launched into a frenzy at the thought of their neighborhood corner store being replaced by a vending machine. Members of the Hispanic community, who represent a large portion of those who own and run bodegas, were no less outraged. “To me, it is offensive for people who are not Hispanic to use the name ‘bodega,’ to make a quick buck,’” Frank Garcia, the chairman of the New York State Coalition of Hispanic Chamber of Commerce told Fast Company. “It’s disrespecting all the mom-and-pop bodega owners that started these businesses in the ’60s and ’70s.” See you on the bright side, Bodega. ?