Commenter TFH posted a link about another anti-tech protest in San Francisco in which tech workers were blamed for the massive rent increases hitting a number of West Coast cities. The techie targeted in the latest protest is Kevin Rose, founder of Digg, who is accused of parasitism (by anarchists, no less).
According to a flyer, well-compensated young techies are “ravaging” San Francisco while service workers “suck their cocks, watch their kids, and mop their floors.” Maybe it’s true; I have no idea. From the looks of the protesters, however, the language seems rather imaginative. I also didn’t notice many tech workers with kids in tow when I was in town. In fact, there aren’t many kids at all in San Francisco.
But I’d like to address the idea that tech companies are responsible for the rent increases. I’ve been thinking about this issue a lot, because Seattle rents went up faster than anywhere else in the US last year, and because of that I’m going to move. Seattle, with its third-rate public transportation, traffic problems and costly parking just ain’t worth what they’re asking these days. My choices in Seattle are pretty constrained, the rent of a two-bedroom apartment having gone up on average about 90% over the last four years. Up north close to the border, on the other hand, I can rent a pretty nice one for about what a similar apartment would have cost in Seattle before the housing boom. And I don’t have to go so far to get my kids. Maybe I’ll come back someday, but there’s no point in sticking around if you’re just going to get ripped off.
I suppose I should be furious, like the anarchist girls in the link above, that I am being run out of my hometown. As a fourth-generation Seattlite, don’t I have a right to stay? Fortunately for me, I don’t really want to. I’ve wanted to get out for years, but stayed because of family; sometimes you have to do that if you have kids.
But whether or not the prospect of being forced out of a tech center bothers me, I’ve been paying attention to what’s going on, and I can say with some assurance that it isn’t the techies who caused this problem. Seattle has been a tech city to some degree for ages. Aerospace is high tech (Boeing), and then Microsoft came along in the 80s. Neither company had much of an effect on real estate, despite the fact that a bunch of billionaires were created in the area in the 90s, and a lot of people got paid a lot of money for their tech work. Amazon has even been around since the 90s, and although the company has hired thousands in Seattle recently, it doesn’t create anywhere near as much wealth as MS or Boeing.
Seattle’s housing was quite reasonably priced throughout the 90s, despite an enormous influx of tech wealth. What pushed up housing costs was the speculation of the housing bubble, and the rising rents are a result of speculation as well. The last housing bubble created an unholy alliance between city halls and real estate developers, and despite its deflation, this alliance remains in force. Today, big companies are once again pumping foreign money into real estate development in American urban centers. They have already bought legislation that gives them tax breaks and the right to build whatever they want, and they are partnering with banks that own foreclosed homes in an effort to corner the rental market. That corrupt Chinese officials are hiding their ill-gotten gains in American real estate, and have been doing so for years, is an open secret. Deutsche Bank is ramping up its real estate investment operations in the US, and California in particular. Surely the Dutch must be involved, too (would the Dutch ever pass up a chance to make a buck?).
It takes only a little effort to see what’s really going on, but these activists are aiming their guns at an innocent target. Why? Perhaps because there’s nothing they hate more than a successful male that they do not personally own.