Last week I spent a little time with the Marketing Nation, and reconnecting with former colleagues! One of the highlights of Marketo’s Summit was the Hilary Clinton keynote. I had no idea what to expect, but she was engaging and hilarious. I probably won’t be able to do her speech justice, but luckily the NYT beat me to it.
She spent considerable time on the increasing gap between the upper and middle classes, which has become a big issue in Silicon Valley because even teachers and police officers in the area find it difficult to find affordable housing.
“Inequality of the kind we are experiencing is bad for individuals, bad for society, bad for democracy,” she said. “If you look around the world, this is becoming a bigger issue everywhere.” Mrs. Clinton suggested possible fixes like changes in taxation, compensation and efforts by both government and business to subsidize housing.
“It’s particularly important for the trust that holds democracy together,” she said of the yawning income gulf, adding that the effect of failing to address it for many Americans mean “you dampen their ambition, you limit consumption, and you undermine trust in our society.”
Clinton spent a good amount of time talking about income inequality, which is particularly acute here in the Bay Area. Housing is so expensive, even people with six-figure household incomes can’t find a place. It is both a supply and a policy issue. Techcrunch did an excellent, but out of character long piece covering the housing crisis.
The crisis we’re seeing is the result of decades of choices, and while the tech industry is a sexy, attention-grabbing target, it cannot shoulder blame for this alone.
Unless a new direction emerges, this will keep getting worse until the next economic crash, and then it will re-surface again eight years later. Or it will keep spilling over into Oakland, which is a whole other Pandora’s box of gentrification issues.
The high housing costs aren’t healthy for the city, nor are they healthy for the industry. Both thrive on a constant flow of ideas and people.
After the Occupy movement, and dozens of conversations about income inequality, I am just wondering when we will have the political will to solve the problem. At the moment, our politicians are too focused on being mortal enemies instead of the good of the country. And we are all too busy worrying about the next paycheck, and paying for life, we don’t have time to focus on the big picture.
No light at the end of the tunnel yet.