Think of San Francisco and billionaires, tech, and opportunity come to mind. It’s a city some of the most recognizable tech companies claim as home. But there’s a big problem that’s manifested as a result: an underbelly of misery that the tech boom—and money cascading to the 1% instead of everyday San Franciscans—has created. Where some find wealth and power, others find poverty and desperation. San Francisco has a heart-wrenching number of homeless people, many of whom were previously middle-class. Enter Prop C, which aims to shuffle more of that money from the Silicon Valley slayers to those who need it most.
And the facts back Proc C. As alternative San Franciscan outlet 48 Hills reported, about 70% of all homeless people in San Francisco used to have a home there. The tech billionaire bubble has sucked all the air out of simply living for the have-nots, leaving an alarming number of citizens without one of the main life essentials of shelter.
The houseless problem is so bad in San Francisco that Leilani Farha, a UN special rapporteur on adequate housing, traveled through the city and other parts of California to investigate with The Guardian. What she saw led her to ask some of the homeless she met: “Did you know you have a right to housing?... That’s something your government is supposed to do...I hate to tell you, you’re being ripped off... In international human rights law, providing shelter to people who are homeless is the absolute minimum standard for any country, regardless of resources.”
Bingo! But, as I’m sure Ms. Farha knows, the U.S. is rather selective as far as adhering to international human rights law (i.e. our backing of Saudi-led genocide in Yemen).
It’s not that San Francisco doesn’t already have measures in place to help those who are homeless. They do, and it’s clear that many in positions of power do want to help even more. The truth is: there simply aren’t enough resources to go around. The resources are all stuck at the top, in the pockets of the 1% of San Franciscans.
Prop C is an effort to change that through the ballot box on November 6th. According to ground zero for the bill, which is also called the “Our City, Our Home” initiative, Prop C would help San Francisco offer the most basic of human rights. Our City, Our Home says the measure will help create permanent housing, tackle a mental health crisis, increase the number of sanitary public bathrooms, create housing security, eliminate the shelter waitlist, keep the streets clean and sanitary, and have a built-in accountability measure.
It would do this by imposing a 0.5% increase on gross receipt taxes on businesses that have more than $50 million in revenue per year. This would raise around $300 million per year and create housing for thousands of people. The fund proposes 50% to permanent housing through the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development, 25% to mental health services, up to 15% toward homelessness prevention, and up to 10% toward short-term shelters.
There are around 7,000 homeless people in San Francisco (remember, many of which had homes in the city before the tech boom). Taxing businesses that have more than $50 million in revenue per year seems like an obvious “yes!” to many people. The easy “yes” for some is a definite “no” for others. And, shocker!, it’s Silicon Valley fat cats foreshadowing Armageddon if a slight tax increase passes.
Grizzly-bearded Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey has gone on several Twitter rants against Prop C.
I admit that while I come at this as a citizen first, there’s an unfairness I see in my role of CEO of Square (this does not apply to Twitter). Companies like Square and Stripe would be taxed at a significantly larger total contribution than much larger companies like Salesforce.— jack (@jack) October 19, 2018
Hypothetically Square could pay over $20m more in 2019, while Salesforce (4x bigger than Sq) pays less than $10m. Taxes would grow at rates multiple times our adj. revenue, which no company can sustain. Not an issue for Salesforce/Twitter, but unfair to Sq and fintech startups.— jack (@jack) October 19, 2018
Dorsey then links to Mayor London Breed’s Medium post on Prop C. In the post, Breed says she recognizes the problem, but she can’t support Prop C. She goes on to say that it lacks accountability, that it could make the homeless problem worse, and that it will make it harder to fund homelessness services.
This, of course, defies logic or common sense: the major reason the homeless problem has expanded to a crisis in San Francisco is due to intense gentrification that came with the herd of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and others—pushing working people out as prices and housing soared. The notion that those companies having to pay a little bit more in taxes to help the citizens their success displaced shouldn’t be controversial; it should be celebrated as corporate humanitarianism and responsibility.
When you look closer at what Prop C. actually proposes, and the economic impact report Breed, Dorsey, and the voters of San Francisco have access to, it’s a head-scratcher as to why they’ve taken this position. The report, released by chief economist Ted Egan says, it “will likely reduce homelessness in San Francisco, improving health outcomes and reducing the use of acute and emergency services in the city.”
It seems Dorsey, and others, are more focused on their bottom line than on what’s best for the people of San Francisco. Some business owners say they’ll have to move jobs out of the city, something the economic report acknowledges—0.1% of all jobs in the city and 0.1% of city GDP—calculated across 20 years. This, like companies across the country pushing this narrative is wrong: these companies make enormous profits, so they have to move jobs out: they simply are run by greedy executives who don’t want to lose one nickel of that profit.
One of the biggest proponents of Prop C. is also San Francisco’s largest employer—Salesforce, run by Marc Benioff. He’s such a big proponent of the ballot measure that he has a waterfall of tweets supporting it and gave $2 million in support. He’s also battled Dorsey on Twitter more than once.
One of Benioff’s educating tweets says:
7500 homeless people & 1200 homeless families are on San Francisco streets every night. Our government, business, & NGO leaders can end homelessness in our city. We need new funding to do it. Prop C is the answer. Big corporations like mine pay, but you don’t pay. pic.twitter.com/4GwNelb1id— Marc Benioff (@Benioff) October 21, 2018
Benioff told the San Francisco Chronicle, “Are you for the homeless or not for the homeless? For me, it’s binary.”
A tale of two billionaires. We have Jack Dorsey vehemently fighting against Prop C and Marc Benioff vehemently fighting for the measure. Benioff is putting his money where his mouth is. Of Dorsey, Benioff recently told The Guardian, “He just doesn’t want to give, that’s all. And he hasn’t given anything of consequence in the city.”
Who else supports Prop C? Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, rep. Jackie Speier, San Francisco Board of Education. San Francisco Police Commission, Black Lives Matter Co-Founder Alicia Garza, actor and activist Danny Glover, Chris Rock, San Francisco Democratic Party, Affordable Housing Alliance, and many more.
On November 6th, we’ll see if the homeless of San Francisco will get the help they need, or if the likes of Jack Dorsey will get to continue diving through their piles of gold like Scrooge McDuck while Americans don’t get the most basic of their needs met.
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