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My question for Mr. Hanauer, who has declared that $15/hour is too good for Spokane, is about the supposedly amoral nature of capitalism. That amoral nature - encapsulated in Milton Friedman's dictum, "the social responsibility of business is profit" - resulted in Warren Buffett's Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad building a leaking diesel refueling station over Spokane's sole source aquifer in 2005 and has Hanauer promoting himself in the film "Inequality for All" as a millionaire pillow maker while minimizing his role (in fact not even mentioning it) as board member and venture capitalist for Hood River, Oregon military drone manufacturer Insitu, maker of the world's most deadly drones for the US Air Force and Marines.
Following is my response to Nick Hanauer's "The Pitchforks are coming ... for us Plutocrats" published in Politico, June 2014:
My reaction to Nick Hanauer's "The Pitchforks are coming ... for us Plutocrats" (Politico, June 2014) is similar to my reaction to the movie "Inequality for All", Clintonite Robert Reich's primer on capitalism. That movie clearly documents the cyclical failures of capitalism, despite the spin put on it for Democrats to whom it is pitched. Nick Hanauer is a central figure in that movie.
In the movie as in the article, Hanauer begins by saying that he is an unapologetic capitalist. This piece is essentially a warning to the class with which Hanauer clearly and unapologetically self-identifies - the capitalist class which he hopes and intends to see survive. Hanauer's warning? You are about to kill the goose that laid the golden capitalist egg. Don't.
The other part of this article which disturbs me is Hanauer's incomplete and careful presentation of his personal history. Both in the article and in the movie, Hanauer essentially presents himself as a humble millionaire pillow-maker who has come to the, for him apparently, mind-opening realization that he can only buy so many pillows himself, only so many blue jeans, and only so many Volvos and other consumer products from his fellow capitalists.
Hanauer does mention his relationship with Amazon. But in neither the movie nor the article does he mention that among his venture capitalist endeavors was being on the board of and an early investor in Hood River-based Insitu, Inc., the manufacturer of the most deadly drones in the world for the US Air Force and Marine Corps, now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Boeing.
What is even more disturbing about that fact is that in the movie Hanauer makes the absurd and incredible statement that he doesn't really know where his money comes from. Again that is in the context of presenting himself as a humble pillow-making millionaire (as he say here "not the smartest, not the hardest working", just the most opportunist), rather than a drone manufacturing billionaire.
If he doesn't watch it, Hanauer's honesty will result in him taking a pitch fork, not from the 99.99%, but rather from his 0.01% colleagues, who at least as of today seem to be far from being convinced by his true confessions, as far as they go.
Perhaps Hanauer's intentions here are noble but I still find it rather peculiar and find myself scratching my head in large part because of his glossing over his understanding of how capitalist exploitation works and his unmentioned involvement with Insitu. To me, having watched the movie twice with Democrat audiences bubbling over with approval and gushing with hope, it is abundantly clear that this "Inequality for All" construct is part of the liberal-progressive Trojan horse the Democrats are climbing into already in advance of the 2016 US presidential election, the early stages of the campaign for which are already under way.
I took a large fall from grace after high school in Spokane. I ended up homeless on the streets of Seattle. I was lucky to be a white male from a middle class background with a high school diploma. When things took a turn for the better, society brushed the dirt off me and said essentially, "Get back in there, white boy, we need you." Given my white male status I have failed and been given more than one second chance others would be unlikely to get. Despite Mark Richard, DSP, and the private police forces (euphemistically called private security companies) harassing people in the shadows and in broad daylight, I will continue to reach my hand into my pockets and hand coins and bills to any human being I choose.
Here is a suggestion to help the malcontents like Mark Richard of Downtown Spokane Partnership (DSP) and his counterparts like Steve Stevens of Greater Spokane Incorporated (GSI) with their constantly negative voices. It is clear that some of these big prowling dogs of Spokane capitalism like Richard and Stevens are too close to these issues to see straight and objectively. They are, after all, spokespersons and enforcers for elements of Spokane with only one goal in mind, i.e., their own personal wealth, though of course they will always frame it in terms of their purported concerns for the larger community. They are also the ones most antagonistic to anyone interested in anything else -- public spaces, civil rights, compassion in a society in severe crisis -- outside that corporate economic bottom line and "Spokane for profits above people". And they also demand influence and power out of proportion to their numbers, largely based on their money and the sway they hold in our money-corrupted, so-called democratic system.
Both these organizations and their leaders will do themselves and all the rest of us great good by getting some distance from these issues. They can best do this by physically moving themselves and their organizations from of the core of Spokane's downtown and to some area where they can feel safe and sheltered, where they don't feel distressed day after day by the presence of the diversity of ordinary people who visit downtown Spokane and use its facilities and taxpayer-funded streets and sidewalks.
Richard, in particular, with DSP and its very own security operation, Downtown Ambassadors, needs not to be so close to the public that seems to troubled him so profoundly and makes him work so diligently to replace with a better class of "paying customers" for even the most human activities like eating, breathing, walking, sitting, and watching the clouds float by on a beautiful Spokane day. I am sure that Mr. Richard will find many a Spokane property management company more than willing to show him a piece of property or two in some location where he will feel like the people of Spokane are not an ever-present affront to his superior standards.
The fact that Mark Richard can say that he doesn't think that the sit-and-lie ordinance has increased problems at the Plaza is a clear evidence that, despite his physical proximity to the Plaza and the people affect across the downtown core by the sit-and-lie ordinance, he simply does not understand the impact the sit-and-lie ordinance has on ordinary people - long time downtown area employees, out-of-town visitors, shoppers who just take a notion to lean on a planter, and others harassed by police and private police forces. It is also an indicator that, unfortunately, area media and politicians have allowed monied interests and their spokespeople to dominate issues like this and frame them in the religion of the day: business and profit.
Unfortunately we are also seeing not a few "church interests" preaching this same gospel of "corner and convert" or else employ an ordinance and security-enforced approach to chase away the economically poor and politically disenfranchised (often one and the same) from the downtown core. Shape up and clean up or get the hell out. Not very Christian and, when enforced by police and private security, likely unconstitutional. This harassment has been witnessed by many who have then publicly spoken against it in community forums and written about it letters to the editor, as well as organizing and participating in protests of the sit-and-lie ordinance.
What kind of problems have been increased by the attitude of Richard and Stevens and their organizations? Both organizations are the proponents of a 21st century version of discriminatory red-lining, using the sit-and-lie ordinance, panhandling ordinance, and noise ordinance to red-line the downtown core on behalf of business interests. So explicit is the redlining for business that many now habitually refer to the "downtown business core". The red-line is spelled out in ordinances as Division west to Monroe and Maple and 4th Avenue north to Spokane Falls Boulevard. In effect, the red-line zone is larger than that, as evidenced by the radius of patrolling by Richard's Downtown Ambassador security operation and their Green Ford Ranger.
But beyond that, problems certainly have increased in terms of constitutional and civil rights, some of them just awaiting the proper test cases by civil rights attorneys. One example is the anti-personnel noise weapons known as "mosquitos" placed on downtown buildings like the Peyton Building at 10 N. Post Street which contains both US Rep Cathy McMorris Roger's offices and the Federal Defenders' Office. The use of these devices are a rights-violation directed indiscriminately at young people, emitting a disturbing ultrasonic tone frequency intended to drive young people under age 25 from the vicinity. In a variety of instances involving young adults engaged in political action and constitutionally protected speech and assembly, these devices have affected their well-being, including causing headaches and nausea. The "mosquito" at 10 N Post Street can be seen in its small metal cage mounted to the right and above the entrance to the Peyton Building. This location is directly across the street to the east of Stevens' GSI.
As for these private policing operations - like Mark Richard's personal Downtown Ambassadors as well as others like Northwest Protective Services, Phoenix, Kodiak, Securitas, and a plethora of other private security firms - their role in this community and their discriminatory, red-lining tactics and policies need to quickly come under direct public scrutiny, including by the Spokane City Council, the Public Safety committee of the City of Spokane, the Police Ombudsman, the soon-to-be selected Ombudsman Commission, the Center for Justice; the Spokane Police Accountability and Reform Coalition (SPARC), the Department of Justice as part of its ongoing review, and the Center for Naval Analysis (CNA - the outfit DOJ brought to Spokane with them to study the Spokane Police Department and its relationship to this community), NCAAP, the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane (PJALS) and other organizations concerned about policing, civil rights, justice and diversity in Spokane. And of course, the Spokane area media interests, both corporate and community media, need to begin covering this issue.
These everyday more visible and more numerous security firms operate in a nebulous space between community civil rights and the law, a space that the police have consciously abandoned to these private police forces and that the likes of Mark Richard and his Security Ambassadors have occupied with disturbing relish. Though the Downtown Ambassador Fact Sheet 2009 (1) states that they are "not Police", the Fact Sheet makes clear that Richard's DSP views them as police and that they act as police. According to the fact sheet, the Downtown Ambassadors act to "augment the Police", "intervening in all street disturbances", "patrolling 80 blocks of the Business Improvement District" "in a Green Ford Ranger", "increasing police efficiency" to "serve the businesses and patrons of Downtown with all of their security needs" and "ensure that the environment is conducive to business activities and tourism" "through collaborations with the police".
In its most basic form, this privatized policing translates into harassing youth, the homeless, the poor, and those seeing downtown as an area to come to relax and walk or pause to people watch or to meet up with friends or to shop at a level of consumption not of interest to GSI and DSP and their core backers like Bryn West and Claudia Kirkebo. One can observe this harassment most intensely in the areas within a few blocks of the offices of Stevens' GSI and Richard's DSP with its private police force. This "soft policing" is tolerated by Spokane businesses, the Spokane Police Department, the Mayor and the City Council. The fact that Spokane Police have in numerous instances had to intervene to prevent private security companies - including RPS (River Park Square) Security - from harassing and going after community members engaged in constitutionally-protected activity is a clear indicator that these security forces are out of control. In fact, some of their activities constitute vigilantism. And one should not be surprised that someone as extraordinarily controversial as Jack Lindell, who has done security for Homeland Security's Federal Protective Service at the Federal Building through Inter-Con Security (3) and also for River Park Square, has a history doing private policing for Downtown Ambassador (4)
And you may want to immediately download and save the following two DSP documents (1 and 4 below) before they are edited and/or removed from the DSP website:
(1) Downtown Ambassador Fact Sheet - http://www.downtownspokane.org/documents/S…
(2) The Mosquito - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mosquito
(3) Inter- Con Security - http://www.icsecurity.com/
(4) Downtown Ambassador Jack Lindell - http://www.downtownspokane.org/documents/D…
The first link in my last post should be this one from the website Business for A Fair Minimum Wage with multiple reference to research on the benefits of an increased minimum wage. My apologies.
Anonymous red-baiters aside (like muddydog) seek only to muddy the waters of this issue. The most important point to make - -and the reason that such water-muddying cowardly mud dogs have jumped into action on this issue -- is that workers have it in their hands to decide just what they want to do on the issue of minimum wage. By voting, by marching, by organizing, and by defining their own interests as exploited workers unable to provide for the needs of themselves and their families while the 1% get phenomenally wealthy off their labor, workers have it in their power to determine their own futures.
Evidence is abundant that raising the minimum wage is positive for job growth and worker purchasing power. Google "job growth and minimum wage", for example. States that have increase their minimum wage are job creators. The US capitalists have taken massive amounts of money out of the US economy and failed to re-inject it into the system. Putting money directly into the hands of workers via an increase in the minimum wage will put result in those workers, who are also consumers, spending that money for their own and their families needs. And while meeting their own needs as workers and consumers, we will all see more dollars circulating in our local economy, creating more jobs. Facts of past minimum wage increases bear that out.
As for the CBO, the report that muddywaters quotes starts with this sentence: "Increasing the minimum wage would have two principal effects on low-wage workers. Most of them would receive higher pay that would increase their family’s income, and some of those families would see their income rise above the federal poverty threshold." Beyond those positive effects, any number of analysis of that CBO report make clear that while nominally non-partisan, the CBO report is by no means unaffected by politics.
Thank you, Taylor, for this article on the fight for a $15 an hour minimum wage. I would like to provide some history on that fight in Spokane as well as the role of Socialist Alternative – a key organization in the fight for 15 in Seattle and now in Spokane and around the country. And at the end of this comment is an invitation to join us Saturday, June 7 at noon in Browne's Addition for a celebration.
People in Spokane have been in contact with Socialist Alternative for more than a year now and traveled to hyper-capitalist Seattle for economist Kshama Sawant’s November 2014 victory celebration after she was elected to the city council as a declared socialist. We have since formed a branch of Socialist Alternative in Spokane which is now actively involved in the fight for 15 and against the exploitation of workers by corporations and other business interests. Socialist Alternative Spokane has been holding branch meetings since the beginning of the year, discussing core readings, analyzing world affairs, and planning actions.
Following is a synopsis of those efforts to date:
On March 15, 2014, some 30 people, from Socialist Alternative, Occupy Spokane, Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane, Green Party, Spokane Rising Tide, the Oak Tree, SEIU 775 and YELL, marched and protested on one of Spokane's several "fast food alleys" as part of the nationwide March for $15. Chanting, dancing, singing, speaking, and marching, the group hit several major low-wage fast food employers, including Taco Bell, McDonalds, Carl's Jr, Jack in the Box, Arby's and Domino's. Local TV station KHQ covered the march and response from the public in passing cars was enthusiastic, judging by honks, waves, and thumbs up. During the two-hour event, speakers proclaimed the immediate need to provide workers with a living wage while denouncing the record corporate profits made on the backs of low-wage workers, mostly women and people of color.
Then on April 2, 2014, Socialist Alternative Spokane members and others set up an informational table at the minimum wage “debate” organized at Gonzaga University by the right-wing Washington Policy Center. Ten people leafleted and engaged those arriving while other pro-$15 supporters attended the event. Students and others entering the event were receptive to the message from those picketing that there is a deeper analysis than that provided by the two corporate-funded ruling class parties, the Democrats and the Republicans.
Less than two weeks later, Socialist Alternative Seattle members traveled to Eastern Washington for an April 15, 2014 public presentation on Sawant’s historic City Council victory and the fight for a $15/hour minimum wage. Twenty-five people gathered in Spokane’s Community Building to hear Socialist Alternative Northwest Regional Organizer Ramy Khalil and Seattle branch member Erin Kennedy introduce Socialist Alternative to an enthusiastic group of activists and community members. At the event, supporters donated nearly $500 to help retire Sawant's campaign debt and support the efforts of the $15 Now! campaign. During her campaign, Sawant refused all corporate donations and pledged she would donate all of her City Council salary above the average $40,000 annual wage of Seattle workers to social justice organizations. (Seattle City Council members are the second highest paid in the nation, receiving $117,000 per year, meaning Sawant will be giving some $77,000 a year to social justice organizations).
Shortly after this successful event, members of Spokane Socialist Alternative travelled to Seattle to attend the crucial April 26th National Conference on $15 Now! and a major Socialist Alternative conference on April 27th, with some 200 members from around the US, as well as international affiliate members from all over the world.
Next, on May 15, some 30 of us gathered at 3rd and Lincoln in Spokane to demand a $15/hour minimum wage for all workers everywhere. Four people - including two Colville tribe members - came down from Omak and were joined by other SEIU members from Spokane, representing the 43,000 home health care workers in Washington State. Socialist Alternative Spokane was also present, along with members of Occupy Spokane, Working Washington, MECHA EWU, and others.
Amidst signs and banners, chants and speeches, we called out the outrageous greed-driven profits of Taco Bell, Jack in the Box, Carl's Jr, McDonalds, Arby's and Domino's, while bringing attention to the inability of those who actually create those profits to make a living wage. As we had on March 15, we explicitly avoided any picketing of two family-owned restaurants along the route. Response from passersby was enthusiastic with several people joining us from off the street. Noting the attention, waves and thumbs up from residents of one downtown building, a small group of marchers led by SEIU members broke off to speak to them and quickly convinced four to join us.
One young man approached us to thank us and share his support, telling us that he earns $9.33/hour, one cent per hour over minimum wage. That means if he worked 40 hours a week all year long he would make a fabulous twenty dollars and $20.73 PER YEAR more than straight minimum wage workers in this glorious capitalist workers' paradise.
Spirits were again high. Both KXLY and KHQ were on the scene, filming and interviewing. This was another in a series of ongoing events in Spokane highlighting the plight of millions of under-paid workers and their families in a time of astronomically high record corporate profits.
There is much confusion today about the minimum wage issue and other issues related to our capitalist economy and the ever richer 1%. Having spent their lives propagandized by the US corporate media and the two corporate-owned political parties, many workers find that when they open their mouths, the voice that comes out is the voice of the bosses, defending their own exploitation and justifying the enormous concentration of wealth in the hands of so few people. It is the role of a fighting party like Socialist Alternative to help workers find their voice and organize themselves for the fight against capitalist exploitation.
There is also some confusion regarding small businesses, much of that confusion sewn by large corporations who prefer to divide the opposition to their ransacking of the economy while feigning concern for small businesses. Walk up and down Division Street, Sprague Avenue, Monroe, Hamilton and other area thoroughfares. The small businesses that closed in 2008 and since then did not close due to a $15/hour minimum wage or even a $9.32/hour minimum wage. They closed due to the failure of a system that bailed out bankers and corporations to the tune of trillions of dollars while causing working people and their families to lose jobs, homes, and buying power.
Finally, we must be prepared for attacks and naysayers. While it may be the job of politicians or certain types of labor and community action organizations to water down the demand for $15/hour, it is the job and duty of the working class to stand up and fight for what it is rightfully ours - the profits of our labor. That is where Socialist Alternative comes in.
Socialist Alternative Spokane has sprung to life out of our town’s legacy of early 20th century radical labor protests (such as the Spokane Free Speech Fight of 1909) and in the midst of current concerns about our endangered aquifer, the battle for police accountability, coal and oil trains passing through the Spokane rail chokepoint, the role of Fairchild Air Force Base in US global imperialism, and the numbers of workers suffering in the still seriously depressed climate of the post-2009 economic collapse.
We call on all workers to join us to build the Spokane branch of Socialist Alternative and the 15 Now! campaign.
We will be meeting this Saturday, June 7, 2014 at noon in Coeur d’Alene Park in Spokane's Browne's Addition to celebrate the victory of $15 in Seattle and the launch of an aggressive national campaign to raise wages and improve the conditions of all workers in the US. Feel free to bring a potluck dish or something from the grocery store or your garden or just drop in to celebrate. Bring a blanket or lawn chair and come join us!
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