Hellhole – Week of 7/30

9.4 minute read

Life is too short to be spent in toil for the sole purpose of making a billionaire richer. This week we have stories about Jenny Durkan’s Technology Justice League, the … Read more

Life is too short to be spent in toil for the sole purpose of making a billionaire richer. This week we have stories about Jenny Durkan’s Technology Justice League, the Showbox Showdown, another big gift for billionaires, and that guy Bill Gates. Enter the Hellhole …

The Future According to Jenny Durkan (AKA Seattle Superprime Super PAC)

Mayor Jenny Durkan on Thursday signed an executive order proclaiming that along with Amazon, Zillow, Tableau, and Microsoft she is putting together an “Innovation Advisory Council” to address the State of Emergency surrounding houselessness in the city, among other issues (because our problems are technical in nature, and not political, of course.) In her proclamation via twitter, Durkan claimed “Seattle has always invented the future. We are home to some of the most innovative companies and technologists in the world…” She goes on to say that through this new Advisory Council, we will use our city’s best technology to “address our City’s most urgent challenges – from homelessness to transportation mobility.” To note, The Tech Workers Alliance and Seattle Tech Workers 4 Housing are already doing this.

If Seattle didn’t have the most regressive taxes in Washington State, which has arguably the most regressive tax code in the country, we wouldn’t need an Advisory Council of different privately held multi-billion dollar corporations to innovate around solutions to homelessness and transportation. We would have money to fund these programs and to innovate as a city. This is an absolute slap in the face to working class Seattleites, the poor, and the houseless, who pay more taxes on average than those executives who have enough money to stake ownership of the Mayor’s Office. Not to mention our corporate overlords contribute directly to the problems they are setting out to “solve.”

When the poor pay more in taxes than the wealthy, we don’t need privatization or technocratic committees. We need common sense solutions that work (like giving housing to people who need it). If Durkan and her aristocratic friends are to invent the future, our questions are these: do the poor exist in their idea of the future? Is transportation publicly owned and controlled? Are low income individuals allowed to live in Seattle? Is housing guaranteed? Will there be an app for that?

We’re living in the gilded ages, and we are here to reclaim our resources and our city.

Rage Corner: More Free Money for Billionaires

Through 242 years of unbroken capitalist administrations, the ruling class has one policy prescription: more money for lords, zilch for actual workers. The current administration is already delivering around $2,300 billion in tax cuts to the uber-wealthy. Now they’re considering redefining how stocks are taxed to help the wealthiest get richer. It wasn’t enough for nine men to have more wealth the poorest 4 billion people combined. They want more.

The current president, much like previous ones, plans to deliver. Without a single vote from congress, Trump (through Treasury Secretary Mnuchin) could eliminate another $100 billion that the people could use to heal the sick, feed the hungry, shelter the unhoused, or teach the children. The grift? Redefine how “cost” is defined when capital gains tax comes due and allow billionaires to undervalue their earnings due to inflation, lowering their tax. It is unethical, stupid, and flat-out wrong to give American oligarchs any more money.

Jeff Bezos’ stolen wealth is some $142 billion. He could spend $28 million per day without losing money. Most of this wealth isn’t accumulated through a capitalist’s own labor, but from skimming the value that everyday workers produce and using those margins to enhance the “value” of the company stock — the currency with which executives are primarily paid and in which the workers primarily are not. In the case of Amazon, their stock goes up through low wages and worker exploitation, a theft of the value produced by every worker.

Amazon also double-dips at the profit trough by ducking out of paying taxes while their lowest paid workers need food stamps to survive. From the warehouses to the server room, from seasonal workers to that overtime-exempt bullshit, that value is stolen from the people. It was their work that produced such wealth and it’s time to take it back.

Showbox Shutdown Showdown

Things are heating up as City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant throws her support behind efforts to save the historic Showbox music hall on First Avenue in downtown Seattle. Sawant has been both increasingly vocal about the issue, and also has plans to introduce a resolution to the Council to preserve the Showbox in its current and absolute form.

Parallel to the Councilwoman contributing her resources and voice to the cause, a petition to save the famed venue has surpassed 80,000 signatures. It’s great to see our community fight for a landmark that means so much to so many. The hope is that this fight will open people’s eyes to Seattle’s regressive and discriminatory zoning laws.

Perhaps if apartments were not outlawed in over 80% of the city, developers would not immediately eye Seattle’s favorite haunts, dives, and hole-in-the-walls for demolition. But the advocacy for displacement must also extend to our neighbors who may be unhoused, underprivileged, or otherwise systematically oppressed. Let us lend our voice not only to preserve culture, but for everyone in our community, too.

Read more about Seattle’s regressive zoning laws and the impacts they have on our city (and our children) from Seattle School Board Member Zachary DeWolf here.

Excerpt of the Week

Bill Gates was once the richest man on Earth and has been throwing his weight around our neck of the woods and the world for a long time. But most people don’t realize what he’s up to because of the philanthropic public relations juggernaut behind him. Thankfully, the excellent folks at the Citations Needed Podcast have gone out of their way to profile the union-busting billionaire/quasi-nation state for what he really is:

Adam Johnson: Capitalism is, as New York Times opinion editor James Bennet said, “the greatest anti-poverty program in history.” And that’s a hugely contestable, ideological assertion that is just taken for granted in pretty much 99% of the coverage of Bill Gates. People say, “why would you criticize Gates, you know? He’s doing what he can he’s trying to help out.” The issue is not whether he’s a good person or not. It’s irrelevant to the equation. Because his capitalist ideology is not good fundamentally, whether or not he has good intentions is irrelevant.

If you honestly believe that unions are what makes people poor, and that not having proper IP protection for Monsanto is what makes people poor, and that all these kind of dubious and sinister things are what make people poor, then his good faith is irrelevant. People want to naturally believe that people are good people. What matters is what their antecedent ideology is. What are they starting with? And if they’re starting with something that is fundamentally flawed, it doesn’t matter how good they are.

Nima Shirazi: Since they’ve benefited so much from that ideology, what they then do is put this money back into the philanthropic model, in large part that is good PR, and it helps them stave off the torches and pitchforks when people realize how much money they have that the people don’t have.

Listen to their excellent series on Gates here.


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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.