The Hellhole – week of 10/30

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Can't make no demands

About the header photo: Fox News’ Kennedy called Seattle a “socialist hellhole” in a July 12 broadcast. We wish!

Socialists want to create a world in which everyone is safe, warm, and healthy (or if you read DSA’s platform, we want you to lead “a full and dignified life”). Capitalists only want that if it creates more profit for them, and unfortunately for many, it usually doesn’t. We illustrate that divide this week with a few stories about how those who have control of the food supply don’t care if you’re fed, those who control housing don’t care if you’re housed, and those who control your tax dollars don’t care if they’re used for your benefit. Right now, in all these cases, those who serve capital are in control… but we’re working on that. Welcome to the Hellhole.

Amazon Is Eating Big Food’s Lunch

There’s a lot of interesting stuff going on in this piece by the Seattle Times:

  • “Big Food” (Kraft, Heinz, General Mills, etc.) is apparently selling any food concepts they can’t market to a company that can figure out how to market them, and then they buy it back. We say it at once per issue, but say it with us, now: capitalism is efficient!
  • The company that makes un-hip food hip again is called, of course, Halen Foods. Yes, they’re named after that Halen. Because they really like Van Halen. Also, they’re very hip!
  • The article sails past the phrase “AccelFoods [has] $40 million aimed at developing the latest in natural and organic products…”, as if the tricky part of the research and development in “natural and organic” products wasn’t completed ten thousand years ago when humans discovered agriculture.

We live in interesting times. Where would we be without the marketing genius of Big Food and Halen Foods, or the unmitigated greed of companies like Monsanto who engineer and patent foods so that no one can grow them unless they pay? With a cheaper, more nutritious and secure food supply, probably.

But What If We Monetized The Rot?

Seattle’s center-right politicians are tripping over themselves to furiously and vociferously acknowledge the homeless crisis, but are apparently completely unwilling to do anything that requires any money from their friends in business.

This Crosscut article details what lengths our friends Johnson, Juarez, Harrell, Burgess and Bagshaw are willing to go to avoid responsibility to their citizens. Especially hilarious is the bit about Bagshaw claiming that the provisions don’t go far enough (“we’re not seeing the big global step forward we all want”), and then also saying that she doesn’t favor a head tax to fund it, because business wasn’t “at the [negotiating] table”. Frankly, that’s a phrase she says so often, she should just write it on a sign and hold it up at council meetings to save her voice.

This Seattle Times article shows one more Seattle centrist’s solution to the homelessness crisis: Burgess’ plan to tax short-term rentals (e.g. Airbnb) for $6 million. For comparison, the council estimates the head tax could create $20 to $25 million in funding, and the overall portion of the budget devoted to homelessness is currently $30 million. Good work, Tim!

The faux-centrists on the council are going to have to face facts sooner or later– Herbold, O’Brien, Sawant and Harris-Talley are right more often than they’re wrong, and ignoring the homelessness problem to avoid annoying your benefactors in business isn’t going to make it go away. If you agree, there’s still time to contact your councilmember!

It’s not a resource problem; it’s a distribution problem

Land-use and zoning laws may not seem like the most exciting topics, but they became very exciting after an article in Crosscut last week quoted King County Assessor John Wilson saying the city has enough unused land to shelter 1,000 homeless people a year.

A number of bureaucratic hurdles stand in the way of turning empty lots into new housing for those who need it most, not the least of which is the fact that property owned by utilities must be sold at market rate as a kind of “fiduciary bind between the companies and the ratepayers,” Crosscut explains. Wilson described the situation as “maddening,” and the rule essentially prevents city utilities such as Seattle City Light or the Seattle Department of Transportation from turning over their unused land because it wouldn’t make anyone money. Housing is a human right, and financial kickbacks should never, ever come at the expense of human life.

In a City Council budget meeting Tuesday, proposed additions to the city’s $63 million homeless budget included almost $3 million for supportive housing and almost $600,000 for transitional housing for foster youth, among other provisions. The additional funds are sight for sore eyes, but it also feels like too little too late—it has now been two years since former mayor Ed Murray declared a state of emergency over the city’s homelessness crisis, and Seattle has little to show for its efforts to get people off the streets and into shelters.

  • Seattle DSA is a coalition member of Housing For All, which is a group of organizations putting pressure on the City Council to stop homeless encampment sweeps and provide more funds for permanent housing and shelters. You can learn more about the coalition and get involved here (and read more about their most recent action at City Council below).

An App For What, Exactly?

Meanwhile, in area start-ups, Remitly received an unimaginable $115 million from South African investors to expand its operations around the globe. Users can send and receive money all over the world via Remitly’s mobile app. What does this mean, other than a proprietary network of finance getting absorbed by a stronghold of already-hoarded wealth, presenting its service as some kind of good to folks scattered all over a planet with scarce resources? Well, it means that only folks who can afford a smartphone can use it.

Class Enemy of the Week: Merlino Foods

Instead of using his position as the Chief Financial Officer of a 100+ year-old business success to advocate for likely underfed, unhoused Seattleites, Todd Biesold (“Beisold,” if you’re KOMO) of Merlino Foods (“Melino,” if you’re KOMO) had the gall to complain to local media that the company’s water bills go up when encampments are situated nearby and that the company has “gone to the trouble” of installing means of shutting off water from indoors, guaranteeing that the truly victimized never have to go near their suffering neighbors

What we did this week: #HousingForAll at Seattle City Hall

In an awesome show of solidarity and force, allies of homeless individuals and Housing For All coalition members flooded Seattle City Hall Wednesday night demanding the city stop the sweep of homeless encampments. The demonstration came on the two-year anniversary of the city’s declaration of a state of emergency on homelessness, during which time little has changed or improved for those living unsheltered or without permanent housing. 

As socialists and allies to those without permanent, safe or stable housing, we know the sweeps exist to serve and protect capital, and are tremendously harmful to the most vulnerable among us. They are a viciously inhumane way to tackle an issue that instead requires deep human compassion and kindness, and they always do more harm than good.

After the public comment period, dozens of demonstrators took over the Bertha Knight Landes room and spent the night, while others camped outside.

Despite the success of this action, it’s important to recognize the fight is not over. Mayor Tim Burgess said halting the sweeps “pose health and safety risks,” and he does not currently support a head-tax for large businesses that would funnel a longterm, sustained cashflow toward homelessness issues. Seattle DSA is a Housing For All coalition member, and if you’d like to join us in this important fight, attend an action meeting with other coalition partners or join Seattle DSA. Together, we’ll make sure our city officials recognize that housing is a human right.

? Get involved with Seattle Democratic Socialists of America ?

Learn more about us | Come to our next meeting | Read more Hellhole

Hellhole is written by members of the Seattle DSA communications team. Unless expressly stated, Dispatches do not necessarily reflect the views of Seattle DSA as an organization or its leadership.

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