The left and jobs

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Don't worry -- tax breaks are on the way!

Wow, there's a new coalition in town! It's called "The Bay Guardian Left." And it's so influential -- and so misguided -- that it's destroyed progressive hope of winning the mayor's office. This from Randy Shaw at BeyondChron, who is sounding more and more like someone who thinks the private sector is going to pull us out of this recession:

In the real world of San Francisco in 2011, voters care most about jobs. Yet many on what I call the “Bay Guardian left” oppose private sector projects that create jobs. ...

Unlike the Left nationally, the Bay Guardian progressives have no viable local job creation strategy. And promoting jobs through public sector expansion and the building of affordable housing does not resonate when voters know there is no money to fulfill these plans, while jobs are needed now.

This has been a mantra of the Ed Lee supporters for months. Only Lee has a "job creation" strategy. The progressives have none. What a bunch of horsepucky.

For starters, the largest employers in San Francisco are not in the private sector. This city's employment base, and its economy, are extraordinarily dependent on government. The City of San Francisco, the State of California, the University of California and the federal goverment all provide more jobs in San Francisco -- most of them good, union jobs with benefits -- than any single private company. Add in all the nonprofits that get city and federal funding (Randy Shaw runs one of them, so he should know) and you get thousands more jobs.

The greatest threat to the job market here is cutbacks in the public sector (which get worse, of course, when you cut taxes). And to say that "voters know there is no money" for public-sector jobs is to ignore everything that OccupySF has been talking about all these weeks -- something that most voters know very well. This is a very rich city, full of very rich residents and very rich corporations. Even a modest effort to increase local revenues (by, say, 15 percent) through progressive taxes would create more jobs than all of the Twitter tax break policies that Lee and his allies have been promoting. And those jobs can be created quickly and reliably, without waiting to see whether the private sector will decide to use its tax break money for more hiring or for more profits.

Besides, tax breaks are a dumb way to try to create jobs. For the most part, that strategy doesn't work, any more than tax breaks for the rich stimulate the economy. There's no shortage of hard evidence -- we've been trying that for years now. Look where it's gotten us.

In the private sector, the new jobs in San Francisco come overwhelmingly from small locally owned businesses. And for most of those businesses (trust me, I help run one) the single greatest obstacle to job creation isn't taxes. It's lack of access to capital. And that's something that the left, particularly John Avalos, is talking about constantly.

Then there's the question of what type of jobs are being created, and who gets them. Frankly, Twitter and other tech firms that Lee is touting will indeed hire some people -- but most of them will be college graduates with a very specific skill set. Yes, we can train more people in tech skills (but wait -- that takes (gasp) the Public Sector! Schools and colleges, which also create jobs). But the population with the highest unemployment rates isn't young white software engineers. And the policies that Ed Lee (and Gavin Newsom before him) have promoted are driving blue-collar jobs out of town.

Why? Because those employers need space. Just Desserts didn't move to Oakland because of taxes; the company moved because it couldn't find adequate space at an affordable price for a 65,000-square-foot bakery. Market-rate housing in the Eastern Neighborhoods will absolutely, quantifiably destroy jobs; even the City Planning Department admits this.

No, Randy, the Bay Guardian Left talks constantly about jobs. But some of us don't trust that "incentives" and tax breaks for the private sector are the answer.