People are hungry. Capitalism produces cycles of overproduction, culling, and waste while workers struggle to get food on the table. Efficient. Some workers are striking through their hunger. Some politicians are hungry for power. We enter the belly of the beast in this week’s Hellhole…
A Month of Hunger at NWDC.
Three of 27 remain on hunger strike at the Northwest Detention Center after a month of action. From the onset, the NWDC has lied that there is no hunger strike, while threatening forced feeding reminiscent of the Bush- and Obama-era practice of stripping prisoners and forcing nutritional slurry up their rectum at Guantanamo Bay. A recent judicial ruling against the strikers may bring that torture to pass.
The remaining hunger-striking detainees, all Russian, highlight a blindspot upon a blindspot, wherein the pleas of Latinx and indigenous immigrants are continually silenced by Democrats and Republicans but propped up as the sole monolithic face of immigration.
This has utility for the capitalist class and their politicians. Immigration allows for an “other” to be more easily demonized and scapegoated while denying structural power to America’s agricultural migrant base: los campesinos. Groups are erased or forgotten altogether for the sake of expediency and trumped-up nationalism, while minimizing the ability of a united proletariat to create a class-conscious, international, open-borders movement. Fascist calls for an “America for Americans” must and can be dismantled with calls for a World for All Humanity. As José Buenaventura Durruti Dumange once spoke:
We have always lived in slums and holes in the wall. We will know how to accommodate ourselves for a while. For you must not forget that we can also build. It is we who built these palaces and cities, here in Spain and America and everywhere. We, the workers. We can build others to take their place. And better ones. We are not in the least afraid of ruins. We are going to inherit the earth; there is not the slightest doubt about that. The bourgeoisie might blast and ruin its own world before it leaves the stage of history. We carry a new world here, in our hearts. That world is growing in this minute.
Mayor Durkan appears to be steaming ahead on the road to austerity. The mayor was quoted talking about congestion traffic pricing, saying, “we’ve got a lot of work to do to see exactly how we would implement it, how we would put up the cameras to catch people, how you would charge, how much you charge, and what we do for equity.”
Equity. That’s the rub, isn’t it?
By restricting access to those with wealth, by refusing to explore ways to fairly reshape taxes so the poor aren’t taxed to death while the rich enjoy the regressiveness of it all, and by gleefully increasing police and CCTV camera presence, Durkan reveals her agenda. There is no equity about it. It’s roads for the rich; austerity for workers on transit. Hell, people might get on-board with abolishing cars outright in the urban core if housing were publicly available to everyone and transit around the region made free at use.
It would take around $160 million to eliminate all point-of-service or ORCA card fares on King County Metro per year, including the Sound Transit light rail. That’s less than 1% of Jeff Bezos’ stolen wealth. Tax folks like him to pay for it. There are operating costs that would go away as well with free transit. Goodbye fare enforcement and the violence that brings. No more disputes over fares that endanger drivers. No more kiosks for stubs, and noisy tappy boxes. No Rubik’s Cube reshuffling of funds to build new lines, new rails, and find fair compensation for drivers. By the people, for the people, from the people.
A 1% tax on $160 billion in capital gains would be $1.6 billion. That’s ten years transit funded at current rates. Or 5,333 units of housing, if priced at an over-estimated market rate of $300,000 each. Homelessness, addressed. Some of those costs could even be recouped with a modest payroll tax. Instead of gentrifying the foothills of Tahoma or removing the banks of the Duwamish, we could build dense cities for all: one we could work in, spend time with our families, and not die in traffic with a police camera watching. All we need to do is restore what’s stolen from workers by the capitalist class.
Given the recent scandal where venture capital had the mayor’s ear, it’s fair to ask if the workers ever will?
Wait – “Green Power” Means Handing Money to Adam Smith’s Campaign?
The Earth is still warming, the seas are still rising, and hurricane Florence disrespected the hell out of the American flag on camera. The American people have noticed, and overwhelmingly support an immediate transition to 100% renewable energy. Washington’s public utility districts (which are run by elected officials for the good of the public) already get over 95% of their power from carbon-neutral sources ?. But if you live in east or south King county, or in Pierce county outside of Tacoma, you probably get your electricity from Puget Sound Energy, a private company. PSE gets 59% of its electricity from fossil fuels, up from 56% in 2008. Over half the electricity that powers Bellevue’s herds of Teslas and forests of LEAFs comes from burning dinosaurs ?. Not only does PSE get more electricity from fossil fuels, they’re building a giant liquid natural gas plant in Tacoma, right near the NWDC.
Puget Sound Energy has been owned by an Australian private equity since 2008. Private utilities have to turn a profit. Without profits, Australian plutocrats would have to make do with smaller yachts. If power companies were run by the public, they wouldn’t have to turn a profit and might do something inefficient and irresponsible, like generating electricity without cooking the planet while charging consumers exactly the same rates.
In a shocking coincidence, PSE also started making lots of political contributions in 2008, and #2 on their list of recipients was Adam Smith (WA-09), in whose district PSE’s new LNG plant will reside. Adam Smith is the kind of progressive who, as PSE progressively burned more fossil fuels, progressed from #2 to #1 on that list. He is also a New Democrat, which means that he’s been in congress longer than any other house member from Washington. He knows how to “get things done.” When he boldly stated in 2009 that, “it is important that we look towards new sources of cleaner and renewable energy, rather than the fossil fuels that we have depended on over the past centuries,” who would have guessed that almost 10 years later he’d be telling us exactly the same thing, but one paragraph lower?
Forging a better world is possible, but we’ll need better Smiths.
Note: The Seattle Hellhole represents the views of its writers and are not official positions of Seattle DSA at large. Its writers are a collective working on independent pieces, editing, and design to deliver this each week. If you want to volunteer, join us in #communications on Slack or email [email protected]