Like many, I’m very cool to the idea of bringing Amazon to Boston. It solves none of the problems and needs we have, and indeed would exacerbate many of them. We don’t need 50,000 new high tech jobs with six-figure salaries. We don’t have the housing to accommodate so many well-heeled employees. We don’t have the functioning public transit, to say the least.
This would be the next wave of dislocating wealth entering the region, with no place to put it. This would be like the entry of the biotech and PhRMA giants moving into Cambridge in the early 2000s, only worse, given our shortage of housing stock already. It would be another great pushbroom of wealth and displacement, sweeping away the middle/working class — and creating even yet more stress on family budgets in the form of rent increases.
In addition, when you invite a large company in, you invite their corporate culture, and their lobbyists, into the State House. Amazon is built on ruthless, monopolistic and often inhumane business practices — whether in the offices or the warehouses.
I think that more disproportionate wealth and corporate ruthlessness in our region is not really on the list of Things We Need, and perhaps is a thing we should Actively Avoid.
But like the Olympics bid before it, Amazon is a Big and Shiny Object, which gets people at the Globe to fantasize about the Good Things it could bring, like the Wells Fargo Wagon, the Great Pumpkin … or, an Amazon truck. They wrote Jeff Bezos an open letter — on a first-name basis no less. #DearJeff:
We need the creativity and the resources of one of the world’s most innovative companies backing Boston as it tackles the thorny challenges of our 21st-century city: Expensive housing. Crowded roads and rails. A mixed bag of public schools that leave too many children behind. We need you, too, to help us address a yawning gap between haves and have-nots that endangers the rest of what we do here. The tech economy has helped deepen inequality in many cities.
This … is not what corporations do. Those things are done by government. That’s what it’s for: Provide public goods and amenities; protection; and justice.
Like with the Olympics before it, we have become so used to a government that can’t possibly provide these things for jes’ folks, that we’re reduced to begging a corporate fairy godmother for money and help. The Globe’s wishlist only heightens the perilous gap between tech corporations that seem to print money, versus austerity-crippled governments that can’t afford to maintain their assets, much less invest in a well-planned future. I question the odds of success in selling the merits and then begging for public goods from corporate Masters of the Universe. I don’t think they’ll be inclined to provide them; and even if so, they would never be provided in a fair, egalitarian way.
Most pernicious about the Globe’s “letter” is the embedded assumption that there’s no possible way we could get improved public goods from our political system without a Leviathan external stakeholder. It’s essentially offering an exchange of different kinds of corporate welfare.
This abandons self-governance: It implies we can’t possibly do things for ourselves, unless some external force demands it or provides proximate “justification”. Do the current political constituents of the Boston area not rate? Are our leaders so hopelessly unresponsive that there’s no hope that we’ll see any help from them?
I look forward to a time when the Globe’s op-ed board publishes #DearCharlie/#DearBob/#DearStan/#DearMarty (etc) sections, with realistic, vetted proposals for housing, transit, climate resiliency, and the like. I’m guessing our pre-eminent local paper could drive an agenda based on our commonly recognized needs, if it so chose. But we’d have to expect a different role from our state government; something other than overseeing decay and deflecting blame for predictable crises.
(I’m reminded of a nice profile/interview with the TransitMatters guys — three over-qualified volunteers who have had an outsized, outside influence on MBTA planning. Great, one thinks, Boston smart people making a difference. Until you realize that in a sane world, these folks would actually be running the T. We don’t have a lack of smart people with great ideas; we lack the cash (and the political coordination) to put their best plans into action.)
Thanks for posting this. I hate this whole process, the notion of bids, everything about it.
Amazon pays their warehouse workers less than $13 an hour while its CEO makes a little over $800 per hour, or 62 times as much as his warehouse workers.
Assuming that with capitalism, a person’s wage is equal to the value they add to a product or service, Jeff is 62 times more industrious and intelligent and productive than his employees. Jeff is superhuman……or….the system is rigged in favor of the lucky few, like Jeff.
We have far too many “Jeff’s” in Massachusetts. We do not need another.
In addition to his wages, Jeff makes money in the markets and has a net worth of about $90 Billion……while his workers make $13 an hour. In other words, if any one of his warehouse workers would have to labor for three million, three hundred twenty eight thousand, four hundred and two years.
We don’t need more “Jeff’s” in Massachusetts.
I’m not at all convinced that these things are mutually exclusive. I just think that any talk of tax breaks needs to be about what is best for the city or state. Tax breaks should be offered only on the premise that the difference can be made up for in other ways, such as more people working at higher salaries who will then pay more in income taxes. Speaking of jobs, tax deductions should be for jobs actually created in the previous tax year rather than those promised for the next one.
6 sixes for this.
We have two papers in this town. The Know Nothing Populists at the Herald and the Know it All Elitists at the Globe. A real journalist would see right through these no bid contracts as the corruption in waiting they are. And the idea that we have to outsource our infrastructure funding to corporations or Olympic Committees used to be a trope of dystopian fiction, not something ostensibly liberal editorial boards beg for.
While I certainly agree with assessment of civic buck-passing that is occurring, and the resultant despair, I’m not at all certain that a potential Amazon landing is to be equated with the stillborn Olympic bid. Without crunching any real numbers I, nevertheless, feel secure predicting that Boston will create 50,000 more jobs in relatively short order. That’s what a growing city does. That’s what a growing city wants to do. To the extent we have a choice about it Amazon might represent a streamlining of the process that has been underway for some time and is likely to continue for some time.
The problem isn’t Amazon. Certainly, with respect to the MBTA, the problem is elsewhere:
The problem is that Democrat Bob DeLeo, who lives in sequestered Winthrop with its wholly separate, and privatized, bus line, doesn’t think there is a problem.
The problem is that Marty “Car Guy” Walsh, keeps trying to tell us there isn’t a problem with transportation. I hate to pull the clich-AA, Marty, but the first step is…
The problem is that Charles D Baker, of tony Swampscott (a former resort town), when advised by former Governor Mike Dukakis to ride the T daily, dismissed that as ‘symbolic’ and — get this — ‘not honest.’ That, paradoxically, might be the most honest thing he’s ever said: implicitly stating the T is not something he considers essential or even real enough to make part of his daily grind.
Those are the three people who, if they got together on the subject, could solve it tomorrow. They won’t. They can’t. That’s the problem.
The exact level of agreement I have with the state of civic despair outlined above (and it’s a very very great level of agreement) is the level at which I vehemently disagree with a ‘shadow transit’ agency… whether or no their motives can be viewed as pure: Anybody, good or bad, who let the politicians off the hook, is letting the politicians off the hook.
I’ve taken the T back and forth from Swampscott before, and it isn’t even that bad.
It’s a quite nice ride,
Perhaps if Mr. Baker were forced to ride it more often, there might be more frequent service. On trains that have air conditioning in summer, heat in the winter, bathrooms that work, and seats to sit in. Perhaps there might be a way to actually get TO the Swampscott station without a car, or even park a car nearby.
If nothing else, I’d like to see the state end its subsidies of Mr. Baker’s private vehicles. Make him sit in traffic like everybody else. Make him pay for his own parking wherever he can find a spot downtown.
Trickle up says
Solve your own damned problems.
The money spent on the bids would be better invested in out of state lottery tickets. The odds aren’t much worse, there would be guaranteed less congestion, and the Globe could repurpose the “what if we win” articles they are already running.