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.)