Three months have passed since the Seattle City Council’s unceremonious backpedaling and subsequent reversal on funding for very needed affordable housing. Our corporate overlords flexed their muscle and our timid council obliged, lest they bear the brunt of becoming unelectable for not working with our local “job providers.” I’m sure it’s a distinction that many politicians wish to do without.
It seems that politicians are helpless if they don’t receive Jeff Bezos’ blessing. And as we saw with the attempt to undermine the Employee Hours Tax, as goes Amazon, so go other, smaller entities wishing to mimic Jeff Bezos’ “success.”
This event has marinated in my mind since mid-May. Oddly enough, it keeps coming up in everything I do, whether it’s watching a PBS documentary on Robert F. Kennedy on my day off or working on my summer reading list for graduate school this fall.
Over the past half-century, we have gone from a “War on Poverty” to a “War Against the Poor.” In Seattle, we see a localized reflection of a larger socio-economic phenomenon that has bipartisan roots and had its cultural renaissance during the Reagan administration’s peak; Amazon just happens to be our most visible example of this warfare.
In the decades since supply-side economic policies were popularized, the very idea that folks are deserving of food, shelter, employment and basic human dignity appears to be a political liability.
The very idea that folks are deserving of food, shelter, employment and basic human dignity appears to be a political liability.
As historian Walter Trattner inferred, Ronald Reagan was nostalgic for the 19th century and often thought of the gilded age as the “golden era” of U.S. history, when individualism, provincialism and free enterprise reigned. This cavalier attitude was a cornerstone of his contemporaries’ modus operandi, as well as those of subsequent generations of politicians, both Democrat and Republican, who continue to carry the baton for neoliberal economics.
The past few weeks, smoke from forest fires has encroached on the Emerald City. Climate change and its many symptoms, including prolonged fire seasons along the Cascadia bioregion, are also a side-effect of this push to place economic gain above sustainability and the needs of those on the margins.
Those who will be impacted most directly by climate change will likely be the very ones who are the most vulnerable in our society. Young people, elders, folks with compromised immune systems and of course, those who have to live and work outdoors.
According to Crosscut, breathing masks have been in high demand. Sadly, disaster breeds a crass, capitalistic urge to make money off basic survival needs. This is indeed part of prolonged war against the poor.
It’s unfortunate that the Seattle City Council happens to be part of the same apparatus.
Oscar Rosales grew up in the Yakima Valley and works and resides in Seattle. He has previously contributed to HistoryLink(dot) org and the Seattle Civil Rights & Labor History Project.
Check out the full Aug. 29 - Sept. 4 issue.
Real Change is a non-profit organization advocating for economic, social and racial justice. Since 1994 our award-winning weekly newspaper has provided an immediate employment opportunity for people who are homeless and low income. Learn more about Real Change.