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2018-05-18 07:00 by Karl Denninger
in Corruption , 289 references Ignore this thread
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Seattle has an interesting take on the housing affordability problem -tax the people who caused it.

The Seattle City Council on Monday approved a new “head tax” on its largest businesses, and while being termed the “Amazon tax,” many other prominent U.S. corporations stand to take a hit as well.

The tax comes out to 14 cents per employee per hour, or $275 per employee annually, on for-profit companies that net at least $20 million annually. The rationale for the tax is to raise money to pay for housing for the city’s homeless.

It sounds like a dream -- companies hiring people, giving them crazy stock option awards and salaries, and everyone profits, right?

Well, no.  Those who don't work there don't profit.  And as that continues over time what happens to housing prices and availability?  It becomes impossible for anyone who doesn't have that million-dollar job!

Then you have a bunch of homeless people who got evicted from their apartments when they were torn down to make room for the next McMansion.  What do you do with them?

More to the point, where do the people who work at McDonalds or pulling your coffee at Starbucks live?

They don't, basically.  They can't possibly afford to to live in that area anymore.

Who vacuums the offices, who makes the pizzas, who drives the Ubers and Taxis, who cuts hair and who serves drinks at the tony bar across the street from Spamazon's office?  How about the cops -- and firefighters?

In short, where do all the people who you need in order to have a functioning city live -- and how, when your "median" house costs $700,000 and a one-bedroom apartment is $2,000/month -- more than someone makes even with a forced $15/hour minimum wage?

Seattle's answer was to lay a head tax on large companies.  It's not really an answer, because it won't raise enough money, given the scope of the problem there.  But Spamazon's response was to threaten to not hire any more people there.

Sounds like the developers around here -- they always claim if the county hits them with an impact fee for the infrastructure they are forcing the county to put in to serve their development they'll go somewhere else.

Reality in the case of a firm like Spamazon is that they won't go somewhere else.  The threat is empty.  But that's the American way, you know -- offshore your toxic waste to some other land, manufacture your crap in China where they dump into the water, on the land and spew it into the air, and then put nets around the buildings so people can't commit suicide.

Or send the labor to Mexico where a car factory worker makes $3/hour and of course there's no OSHA.

It's all good, right?  All in the name of so-called "capitalism."

Well, no.

Capitalism doesn't include raping people.  Indeed capitalism is supposed to include criminal prosecution for screwing people, because only when that is enforced do you have competition, and thus actual capitalism.

Otherwise what you have is grift, fraud, scam and theft.

That's all we have left in the United States folks, and it doesn't matter where you look -- that's what you see.

So now answer this question: Why don't the people who live in Seattle and aren't Microsoft, Starbucks or Amazon corporate employees leave?  **** 'em.  Close shop and leave.  See how well it works out for Spamazon when their employees can't buy gas, can't find a store to buy clothes in, can't get a coffee down the street, there are no bars or restaurants, there are no cops or firefighters, nobody takes care of the sewer and water plant, nobody picks up the trash and there is nobody to cut their hair.  Why?  Because nobody will work for $10/hour in a place where you have to have a $300,000+ income to afford a decent place to live!

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Redjack
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Iowa
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In your old neck of the woods (Chicago), I wondered that also.

The people working at Dark Matter don't live there. Neither do the people working at the pizza shop, or dang near anything on Belmont.

They can't afford to. I know what my Brother in law's Dad paid for the townhouse. It is nice, but not the nicest on the block. An apartment is north of $1,200 a month for an efficiency. The people working in those shops are either stacked 8 to an apartment, or riding in from the outer ring of suburbs to work at a low end job. I don't get it.

A coworker of mine and his wife left Chicago for Iowa for that reason. She has an MBA, he has a PhD. They realized that a bad house in Chicago was $500K, and for less money in Iowa you can get a McMansion. Heck, my little house with a massive yard would be more than $500K, and I paid much less than that (I got it for the garden space).

Quik49
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Yup...same goes for resort type towns.... Park City.... Jackson Hole... Etc etc....those "workers get pushed further away and have to commute...then that town has the same thing happen....aka driggs Idaho.... Then they try and build some bull**** affordable housing that just is a facade..... The beat goes on

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Bodhi
Posts: 417
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Georgia
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Hmmm. Rising urban costs driving away low cost workers might be part of the reason for automating jobs via robotics. Soon there won't be any minimum wage workers left within 50 miles to fill the menial jobs.
Mtdm
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NH
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If the lower-paid workers don't own housing (which is part of the premise here, that they're having to pay market rents etc.) ... then it seems to me they should up and move to somewhere else, either leaving no remaining workers to fill those jobs, or forcing pay increases (and corresponding price increases for the coffee, pizza, haircuts, whatever). There's plenty about Amazon, Microsoft, etc. not to like -- but it's hardly their fault if these people have too much inertia to get up off their butts and head for the exits.

IMO national chains need to consider structuring their prices to account for the differing location costs, I expect to pay more for a coffee in downtown San Francisco than I do in a small town in Nebraska, but a lot of these chains sure seem to like having one national price.
Tickerguy
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There problem is that there's no "market" @Mtdm -- this is akin to the "company town" writ large.

The "company town" thing "worked" (for the company) because they essentially had you in irons. Now today it's a bit different in that there ARE pushbacks available (get off your ass and leave!) to the public.

Quote:
IMO national chains need to consider structuring their prices to account for the differing location costs, I expect to pay more for a coffee in downtown San Francisco than I do in a small town in Nebraska, but a lot of these chains sure seem to like having one national price.

There is no "pay more" that works; we're talking about $10 coffees and $30 Starbucks Lattes to make the numbers work for the employees.

I think the entire premise is interesting but yes, there's a market answer -- right up until there is nowhere left to go as someone infiltrates every town one at a time until anyone who doesn't make $100 large is homeless.

THAT is the problem -- the micro-economic view of "just move" only works to a point.

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Captainkidd
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Houston, Texas
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Mtdm said:
Quote:
If the lower-paid workers don't own housing (which is part of the premise here, that they're having to pay market rents etc.) ... then it seems to me they should up and move to somewhere else, either leaving no remaining workers to fill those jobs, or forcing pay increases (and corresponding price increases for the coffee, pizza, haircuts, whatever).


That's one of the problems I've seen over and over in my life...
People STAY in ****holes, depressed areas, and places where they can't earn a living.... instead of going someplace better....
And these are the same people who see nothing wrong, and advocate for illegal aliens LEAVING depressed, poor, ****hole countries to come here and "Make a better life for themselves"....
The contradictions in the minds of Americans astounds me.

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Mangymutt
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Vancouver WA
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"But Spamazon's response was to threaten to not hire any more people there."

About a month ago, I happened to be in Olympia WA (A few miles south of Seattle) listening to the radio as I drove and they were talking about something very similar to Karl's above quote.

One of the council men made a statement to this effect: "If Amazon does not like this they are free to go find a city that wont have this type of tax"

For years we have known "Law" makers, do not care to listen to the voters as there have been plenty of initiatives put on the ballot and voted in by the voters only to have "law" makers undo it.

But now they have bled the population so dry they can not give anymore, so they are turning on their biggest campaign donors. I am not sure where this will end, but I am sure it won't be a happy ending.
Aquapura
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South of Canada
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Quote:
IMO national chains need to consider structuring their prices to account for the differing location costs, I expect to pay more for a coffee in downtown San Francisco than I do in a small town in Nebraska, but a lot of these chains sure seem to like having one national price.


While I agree services should cost more in Seattle vs. Nebraska just paying people more doesn't always fix the problem. A few years ago when the Bakken in ND was booming there was such a lack of labor that McDonalds was paying upwards of $25/hr just because they couldn't get anyone. Still, at $50k annual flipping burgers you couldn't afford housing because there was an acute shortage driving up the values overall. I'm told that is the general issue from LA all the way up to Seattle. Large cities need a good mix of housing for all income levels to function properly. That is not happening out west from what I've seen.

The other problem I see is that jobs like McDonalds and Starbucks were never intended to support a family. These service sector jobs were transition type jobs for students, or a part time gig for someone who had a spouse working a full time career with benefits. Nobody should be raising a family on a barista income.

What I think Karl is getting at is that major companies have offshored the labor jobs which used to support decent middle income families. All that's left now is high paying jobs at corporate HQ and the low paying/low benefit service sector jobs. Without other options people are stuck in those jobs as lifetime careers and you just can't make a go if it - especially in high cost of living places like the left coast.
Unknownsailor
Posts: 460
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Bremerton, WA
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Seattle's problem is the same one California has: Lots of social services attracts the homeless. Seattle hands out clean needles for heroin addicts, and expects everyone in the city to just accept the resulting used needles strewn all over the place.

The housing issue there has the same roots that the housing issue in San Francisco has: government interference in the building in new housing units. For example, Seattle has a first come, first served policy for landlords. They must rent to the first person who applies, regardless of their actual fitness as a renter. This includes Section 8 renters, who are notorious for utterly destroying the homes they live in.

I could rant for days about that city, and the people who run it. I mean, look up what that idiot Kshama Sawant says in public, and realize that she is just the extreme left leading edge of the types of people who run that town.
Nadavegan
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The South
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"Just move" is also difficult for people with 1 or 2 hour commutes to jobs that pay $10 or $15 per hour. In order to move and buy a home elsewhere, there needs to be money saved up for a time. But that money is getting eaten up by commuting costs, sky-high rents, and yes, health care costs. This is social engineering at its finest - keep the population generally immobile, with constant low level anxiety, and you create a learned helplessness that few will overcome.
Mangymutt
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Vancouver WA
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Company Towns: I agree 100%. Using WA state as an example, I moved from central WA where agriculture is king, most of the jobs in that area are tied in someway to agriculture. Wages for non government workers tends to be low, so you would think the price of things would be low too. No! A new vehicle is the same price there as in Virginia, electricity costs the same, so does gas, even houses are selling for more than 4-5x income levels.

Wages are held low in areas like that 1) Because people ARE willing to work for less (Never mind many of them are here illegally) 2) We have social net programs that allow welfare money to fill in the holes (Never mind many of the recipients are here illegally)

Now you have banks loaning money to people that cannot afford to purchase a house, a car or other luxury items and the price of these things start to go up.

Low wages, increasing prices.

Right now people are willing to sell their soul to the company store, one unnecessary loan at a time.

Jacksparrow
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4116 Libby Rd NE, Olympia WA 98506
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Yeah, Seattle sucks. Our commercial building property tax went up 43% for 2018. Chris Hanson was buying up all the property in our area, so we sold out as well. All things considered we didn't have a choice really. Seattle just expects a business to be able to pay what ever they throw at you. Small business owners don't stand a chance. It just works for the company town type huge businesses.
Tickerguy
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Well, except it doesn't.

What do you do when there are no gas stations, coffee shops, bars or restaurants? Why not? Because nobody can work at one of those and live there.

The answer to this is for the people who AREN'T Spamazon and Star****s corporate employees to abdicate AND LEAVE. **** 'em. No streets-n-san people, no ditch diggers, no stores, no gas stations, nothing EXCEPT Star****s and Spamazon. Then we'll see how that all works out.

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Stillhopeful
Posts: 13
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Seattle area
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I work in the sodo area of Seattle just south of the stadiums turning wrenches. It pays pretty well, but not well enough to purchses a house anywhere near the job site. The housing costs here have gone full bananas. The last time I checked, Sammamish (where all those Microsoft employees live), median house price was around 900k. My generation can't possibly buy into this market without bankrupting themselves with an insanely high mortgage. It can't go forever.
Mtdm
Posts: 427
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NH
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I dare say that the costs they are imposing on the citizens and the infrastructure are inadequately reflected in the local taxes they're paying, coupled with the fact that those taxes are being abated and/or squandered. My guess is that between the kickbacks and the "business development opportunities" and so forth, it is (unfairly/unreasonably) lucrative for the corporations to cosy up to the big cities. Another case of politicians serving their own ends not the people they represent? I'm shocked, I tell you.

At least with the company town, the company was responsible to its employees and their families all the way up and down the pay scale, and at least some few of those companies were actually benevolent and well-intentioned.

Quote:
right up until there is nowhere left to go as someone infiltrates every town one at a time

Yeah, to say the least I'm not a big fan of cities/towns, I'd rather work remotely or work in the suburbs, but one of the common refrains I hear from folks that don't want to move/work outside of cities is that being in the city gives them more flexibility to change jobs, find work, etc. On the smaller end I think that there *are* plenty of company towns where the market is limited, and you may have to move in order to make a change ... but as much as it may be hard, and moving is not a fun task for most folks, isn't this at least as achievable now as it's ever been?

There are some claimed advantages for the enterprises themselves to having physical presence/colocation in a small number of really large facilities, but in this day and age I think large enterprises could reap significant benefits by making greater use of numerous small facilities, teleworking centers, and work-from-home. We have the technology, and in at least some parts of the country we have the infrastructure, but the fact is it's not worth it to these companies to go down this avenue because they're still being offered sweet deals by the politicians.

I don't have a good solution, but I guess my conclusion is that this is a problem formed by government, and by extension by us, the voters. The corporations are acting in accordance with the framework we've set up for them.

aquapura wrote..
The other problem I see is that jobs like McDonalds and Starbucks were never intended to support a family. These service sector jobs were transition type jobs for students, or a part time gig for someone who had a spouse working a full time career with benefits. Nobody should be raising a family on a barista income.

What I think Karl is getting at is that major companies have offshored the labor jobs which used to support decent middle income families. All that's left now is high paying jobs at corporate HQ and the low paying/low benefit service sector jobs. Without other options people are stuck in those jobs as lifetime careers and you just can't make a go if it - especially in high cost of living places like the left coast.

Oh, that I agree with all day long. In spades. And it evidences something interesting ... the reason the population gravitated towards towns, and that most towns/cities came into being, was not because of high-paying jobs -- they were a side-effect -- but rather, was precisely because of the middle-income industrial/factory/corporate jobs which aquapura is describing ... we've outsourced most of these middle-income jobs, such as the "mill town" and "factory town" jobs, overseas, but we still think that cities and dense conurbations are the way to go.
Redjack
Posts: 54
Incept: 2018-01-29

Iowa
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Coffee in Nebraska vs Coffee in Seattle.

Since I frequent both places, I can speak to that.

About the same price at star$. Local places charge a bit less in Omaha, but the get pressure from investors to increase prices to match.

Wage at such places? Lower in Nebraska. But even in Omaha, most of the workers are coming from the outer ring of suburbs (Elkhorn, Fremont, etc). Now 30 miles of driving in Nebraska is MUCH different than 10 miles in Seattle, but the principle is the same.

I had family in North Dakota during the Boom time. One cousin stopped farming, fabbed up some man camps out in the pasture with water hook ups, and made a ton of money. Now he is back to farming with a lot of that money in the bank (and the new harvester).

Rufust445
Posts: 766
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Emerald City
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Quik49 wrote..
Yup...same goes for resort type towns.... Park City.... Jackson Hole... Etc etc....those "workers get pushed further away and have to commute...then that town has the same thing happen....aka driggs Idaho.... Then they try and build some bull**** affordable housing that just is a facade..... The beat goes on
Could see that starting to happen in Aspen, CO in 1979. Besides housing and lodging costs going up, the locals were griping about the cost of a lift ticket going up to $12.50/day. Today that same ticket is upwards of $100.00


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Vernonb
Posts: 2091
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East of Sheol
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Too bad this is not real. Problem solved.

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Quik49
Posts: 4587
Incept: 2007-12-11

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Rufust...seeing it right now where I live.... Alot of legacy families kids that cannot afford to stay...and their parents seeing increased prop taxes getting pushed out.... Seems like few places to run and hide....

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Wa9jml
Posts: 142
Incept: 2017-04-29

DeKalb, Illinois
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I was a city administrator in a town near Galesburg, Illinois, when their industrial base imploded. Galesburg lost about 4500 manufacturing and manufacturing related jobs in about a year and a half. This in a town that had about 12,000 residents at the time. Now, the Union Mentality had a lot to do with that job carnage, but so did NAFTA.

Maytag closed their factory and warehouse, and Butler Buildings was acquired by an Australian firm, and before the champagne corks were dry from the celebrating in the union local headquarters, the new owners announced that they were closing the plant, and moving production elsewhere. This caused a great economic disturbance that rippled out for more than 50 miles.

At that time, I was jousting with Bruce Bartlett on e-mail. He was trumpeting all about creative destruction in his columns. This was before he was purged out of the Bushie Cult by Karl Rove. I told him that I was well aware of the destruction from my viewpoint in Illinois, but I was not able to see the creation part, because that was all happening in Asia. Thing got pretty heated, and he told me that a person with my credentials needed to believe government statistics. Having been drafted into the Army, I knew full well that the main function of government statistics is to support lies. So, I sent him a full page of Illinois factory closings, and suggested that he might want to believe his lying eyes instead of bull**** government statistics.

As to moving to where the jobs are, most peoples' main asset are their houses. Then, contemplate what happens to the housing market in a town where most of the jobs have left. It isn't pretty. So, how are these recently unemployed people going to get the capital together to finance a move? One of my friends at a local restaurant, left and moved in with her son in Florida, but most others are not so fortunate.

When I left that city, despite my best efforts at improving the job prospects there, it took the best realtor in the area about a year and a half to sell the house I bought there to establish required residency, with a substantial loss. And, I had to provide the down payment through one of those bogus charities that were still allowed to operate then.
Crossthread
Posts: 6154
Incept: 2007-09-04

Wilmington, NC
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Well, I assume I've gotta post here as well, about MY community/city..
there ARE Jobs EVERYEHERE as in retail/service industries..
We are experiencing a "so-called" "building boom"...
AKA just like "South Florida/or Myrtle beach, sc...

There are NO middle-class Jobs, unless it's at GE, or the State Ports..
For example the OLD HOOD duplex home I rented for 500/month NOW is 1000.00 month, (they all are)...
Outside the "Hood" you better be prepared to pay 1500.00 to OMG for rent.. for a 2 or 3 bedroom.. NOTHING Fancy..
I know a couple folks, living with 3/4 room-mates ,, each working 2/3 jobs just to make ends meet..
Apartment/Townhomes are whats being built,, except for some MAJOR subdivisions... 500K+ homes..
Apartments, (1 bedroom) start at 900.00 month.
I'm BARELY hanging on where i'm at..
plenty of "service Jobs" if you want to work 2 or 3 in order to live here though..
Or have to speak Bi-lingual to get a decent construction Job..
IT HAS WENT CRAZY!
Let Me add working "homeless" has gone up 100% and "panhandlers" 200%
Lots of folks living outta thier cars.

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Tickerguy
Posts: 152887
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Yep.

Kid has the same issue. There are a LOT of jobs that will pay ~$10/hr in the service industry. As many as you'd like or are willing to work. They'll kill you over time, as even the best places to work in that business come with their fair share of ****, and the BAD ones (get a bad boss, for example) are soul-destroying hellholes.

BUT -- there's nothing between there and "Government Contractor" at $100k+. In many other areas its even worse; there's "industry" but what USED TO BE a decent job (like doing graphic art work, programming, etc) has either been sent overseas to India or just as bad, is full of H1bs.

So if you're in the top 5% or something you're fine even in that world, but if not there's NOTHING. The middle-range programmer (who's decent but not great), etc -- forget it. Setting up your own shop to do it is worthless too unless you're in that top 5% because the offered price will be $20/hr since they can get that price from Chindia, and the overhead of an office and such will destroy you.

May I remind you that Obamacare's subsidies phase out starting at about $25k and between there and ~$50k the effective tax rate is some 80%? I ran the numbers on this -- it's utterly insane, in that you work for the second $25,000 a year but you keep about $4,000 of it. THE REST GETS SUCKED OUT OF YOU IMMEDIATELY IN MANDATORY OBAMACARE PREMIUMS!

So tell me why anyone should "strive" as a new entrant in that marketplace? Go to college, come out with $100k of debt and try to make that work? You're going to get ****ing buried because the effective "I start to keep the money I make AND can keep my head above water" range starts north of $100k a year!

Now if you could get a one-bedroom apartment for $400 you could make things work. You could stay under the $25k threshold for Obamacare butrape and cover it. It would be tight, but it can be made to work, although again -- what's the incentive since you'll be living hand-to-mouth. At $1,000/mo? Not a prayer in Hell.

IMHO you're WAY ahead to work the $10/hour part time job and find a way to make it work WITHOUT putting down roots, WITHOUT being permanently connected anywhere, and living damn cheap. Yeah, you won't have much, but you're also not instantly ****ed when you get fired because your boss had a bad day, you get tired of the **** and walk out, or the place closes because it simply doesn't do enough business.

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Emg
Posts: 203
Incept: 2012-11-20

Canada
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"What do you do when there are no gas stations, coffee shops, bars or restaurants? Why not? Because nobody can work at one of those and live there."

The tech companies expect all those jobs will be replaced by robots.

And that none of the displaced unemployables will decide to burn the tech companies down.
Stillhopeful
Posts: 13
Incept: 2012-12-26

Seattle area
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The low wage jobs are plentiful here as well. I spent 3 years working overnight at a major retailer (10PM to 8AM) and then working operations at a catering company (9AM to 3PM) just to be able to afford the $1,300 rent. Anyone can do anything for a short time, but years of that will break your body and mind. Work your ass off, then hand it all over for living expenses and be left with zero to put in savings. **** that.
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