The behemoths of the new economy are taking over Seattle and remaking it in their own image. Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft/Vulcan, etc. are pouring money into the city, attracting swarms of young workers who need a place to live. Mayor Murray says this is “a great problem to have.”
Perhaps. But the consequences are grave, and the neoliberal, trickle-down, market fundamentalist approach taken by the City is failing to cope. Despite record construction, rents and housing prices are heading for orbit, while the Mayor and his commercial backers can think of nothing to do but chant “Build, baby, build!”
The housing emergency is symptomatic of a much larger problem. The wealth inequality and income disparity created by the new tech economy is undermining the social contract that has sustained much of the world since the end of WW II. The middle class is dying, eclipsed by the rise of a super-rich oligarchy of billionaires who increasingly call all the shots:
There’s no good name for this phenomenon of a middle class imploding while economies nominally “grow.” It’s not really a “recession,” which is just a few quarters of poor growth. Nor is it a “depression,” which is sustained negative growth. This new phenomenon of the middle imploding into the new poor, while the ultra rich get ultra richer has no name. And its lack of a name reflects the truth that the people who come up with names for such things are barely really aware of it at all.
But its namelessness doesn’t make it less real to the people suffering from it. They’ve grown enraged by a system that has abandoned them—one that won’t even acknowledge that abandonment. And that is why, across the globe, they are turning to demagogues.
This nameless phenomenon is robust here in Seattle, where the municipal government serves up housing schemes that confiscate the property of the middle class to make way for the workers of the mighty tech businesses. The Empire is coming home, and the oligarchy rules!
Business Leaders Have Abandoned the Middle Class
by Umair Haque at Harvard Business Review – June 27, 2016