Daily Archives: June 13, 2018

Homelessness in Amazon’s Home Town

A recent posting by Bob Massie had me looking into this issue. (Bob Massie is a candidate for Governor of Massachusetts).

Shame on Amazon for refusing to give back to the city and community that has provided it an educated workforce, clean roads and a public transit infrastructure for their employees to get to and from work for years. This is corporate bullying at its worst, and we can’t allow this to happen in Boston if Amazon chooses to locate HQ2 there.

Massie linked to the NPR article Seattle Repeals Tax On Big Business After Opposition From Amazon, Starbucks.

Critics of the tax reportedly saw the city’s homeless problem growing, despite large amounts of spending by the city already. Seattle spent $68 million on fighting homelessness in 2017, according to The Associated Press.

If having all these huge corporations in Seattle were so good for the economy, then why would Seattle be having an expanding homeless problem despite putting money into solving the problem? Perhaps raising the minimum wage for low income people made them homeless. Or might the gentrification of Seattle have made low income people homeless?

You might find it interesting to read the Washington (D. C.) Post article. The Washington Post is owned by Jeff Bezos who also owns much of Amazon. The article is Seattle council votes to repeal tax to help homeless amid opposition from Amazon, other businesses.

The Seattle area has the third-largest homeless population in the country, according to federal statistics.
The number of homeless people in the county surrounding Seattle has jumped by 4 percent, to 12,112, according to a Seattle Times report from May, while housing prices in the city have continued to soar. The city declared a state of emergency over its homeless population in 2015.

Here are 7 pages of listings on articles about the Seattle homeless crisis published in the Seattle Times.

The Committee To End Homelessness in Seattle has the article Causes of Homelessness.

The average rent plus utilities for a two-bedroom unit in King County is $975; in Seattle it is $1,120 and in Bellevue it is $1,502 and in south King County it is $855. A worker must earn over $17-21 per hour to afford this housing, making it out of reach for many of the areas working poor families. A Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipient receiving $603 per month can afford monthly rent of less than $200, yet the average rate for a one-bedroom unit is $812 in King County. In a two-week period in April 2008, the Seattle Housing Authority received nearly 12,000 applications for their Section 8 Housing Voucher wait list.

This may be a little overstating the costs because it uses average costs instead of median cost or minimum cost.

Here is another issue mentioned in the report.

Legal barriers can lead to homelessness or the inability to secure permanent housing. Prior felony convictions, outstanding warrants, and lack of proper documentation are barriers to accessing many subsidized housing programs, which are key supports for low-income persons. Vagrancy ordinances create legal problems for homeless persons. In addition to personal legal barriers, land use and zoning regulations and community opposition can be significant barriers to affordable and supportive housing development.

Can you imagine a vagrancy regulation meant to solve a symptom of homelessness actually causes more homelessness? I can believe that people who don’t think these things through can demand such “cures”.

Another way to look at this is to consider The Tragedy Of The Commons described in the WikiPedia article.

The tragedy of the commons is a term used in social science to describe a situation in a shared-resource system where individual users acting independently according to their own self-interest behave contrary to the common good of all users by depleting or spoiling that resource through their collective action. The concept and phrase originated in an essay written in 1833 by the British economist William Forster Lloyd, who used a hypothetical example of the effects of unregulated grazing on common land (also known as a “common”) in the British Isles. The concept became widely known over a century later due to an article written by the American ecologist and philosopher Garrett Hardin in 1968. In this modern economic context, commons is taken to mean any shared and unregulated resource such as atmosphere, oceans, rivers, fish stocks, or even an office refrigerator.

Another excerpt from the above WikiPedia article is as follows:

Although common resource systems have been known to collapse due to overuse (such as in over-fishing), many examples have existed and still do exist where members of a community with access to a common resource co-operate or regulate to exploit those resources prudently without collapse.

In my mind the cooperation and regulation is the main reason we agree to have governments.

Who Says Labor Laws Are “Luxuries”?

Naked Capitalism has the article Who Says Labor Laws Are “Luxuries”?

A standard recommendation given to late-industrializing economies by the economic advisors of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund has been to refrain from imposing regulations on the labor market, or if such regulations are already in place, to abolish them.

In discussions with a friend of mine from India, I finally came to the conclusion that the workers in each country should have a say in what labor laws they want to see in their own country. It is unfair of us to insist on our labor standards in other countries. Workers in other countries could conclude that trying to impose our standards on them is just an excuse for preventing our jobs to go to their workers. So let the workers in these countries decide if they think it is to their advantage to have jobs at the wages and working conditions that would prevail in their countries if they had labor laws to their liking.

You can have all the economic theory you want, but democracy might be the more important principle. Not our style democracy, but whatever style of democracy that suits the people in their own country.