Sunday, April 6, 2014

Who's the Parasite?

There just may be a parasite at the root of people's problems. But it's not the guy named on this flyer.
(Note that this post contains a bit of crude language.)

One Kevin Rose has become the target of a round of protests over the escalating cost of housing in San Fransisco, and the displacements and hardships that are rippling out through the lower-income workers who are increasingly finding themselves priced out of homes in and around the areas they work in.

Economics works, and when it works against you, it's a bitch.

Technology workers don't "on average earn four times more than a normal service worker," because the people who run start-ups are selectively generous. It's that there are, comparatively, a relatively small number of them. Conversely, there are a lot of people who are ready, willing and able to "serve [technology workers] coffee, deliver them food, suck their cocks, watch their kids and mop their floors." It's that fundamental disparity, which springs from a number of factors, not all of them "fair," that leads to the huge difference in pay. And because teaching the skills required to be a techie is also not something that just anyone can do (or has the resources for), learning them costs, too, creating a barrier to people abandoning the "normal" service sector for technology, which would put downward pressure on technology wages and upward pressure on service wages.

Which sucks. It's crappy to be in a job market where the skills you have aren't in high enough demand to allow you keep up with the Joneses or to go somewhere that the Joneses aren't. But that's not the Joneses' fault. They're not "parasites," they're people who are workin' for the Man, just like everyone else. When a town ain't big enough for all million-some-odd of us, the people who command the highest salaries get first pick, because that housing scarcity allows people who own housing to demand higher prices - not because it's automagically more expensive to sell or rent a home to someone with more money, but because techies are ready, willing and able (if not exactly happy about it) to give up a significant portion of that "four times more" to someone who's making out like a bandit simply because someone else is paying higher salaries.

Because how many San Fransisco homes, in the condition that they are in right now, would have commanded the prices (either to purchase or to rent) they currently do (adjusted for inflation) before the influx of technology workers came to the area? Now, I don't live in San Fransisco, so I don't have a viable frame of reference, but I'm willing to bet that a significant portion of the cost of housing increases that have come along since "the tech startup bubble" occurred for no other reason than the demand for housing has outstripped the available supply. This extra cost (appropriately known as "rent") goes straight into the pockets of the sellers and landlords for no other reason than housing scarcity - it's money that is being paid for no more value than having something that someone else cannot.

There may be parasites involved - but I suspect that there are better candidates for that label than Mr. Rose and his ilk.

People with the required education and skills to be "techies" are in higher demand than "normal service workers." And so is desirable housing And so techies can demand the lion's share of money from businesses, and people who own housing can, in turn, demand a lion's share from the techies. This leaves the service workers in a pinch - especially given the high level of competition for the relatively low-skill jobs that they currently hold. They've been trapped in a race to the bottom that is not of their own making. But it's not of Mr. Rose's making, either.
I think that they should leave out the threats. It hurts their cause in the eyes of the public.
H/T: Mike Elgan (Though I feel that perhaps Mr. Elgan is being more dismissive of the protestors' position than is perhaps warranted.)

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