City of L.A.



Google, Greed and Political Complicity
By Mark Lipman

Let’s get right to the root of the matter … it’s greed.

For the most part, we all want the same things in life … a clean, safe environment, good food, stable housing, education, healthcare … community … the basic things in life that sustain us so we can lead happy, productive lives … it really is that simple.
As a society, we can organize it this way. The main function of our government, which by the way is supposed to be participatory, is to ensure that our collective revenue is budgeted to provide the needed public services, so that no one falls below a basic standard of living.
Theoretically, that is how our government is supposed to function, but it doesn’t. It doesn’t because Democracy and Capitalism are fundamentally opposite and opposing forces. Democracy is for, by and of the People, while Capitalism is all about myself.
Some people, no matter how much they have just never have enough. Their unborn grandchildren can already retire in comfort and they still want more. Greed is an illness with cascading repercussions which detrimentally effect our entire society … and precisely for that reason not only do we have the right – but moreover an obligation to establish the proper checks and balances and affix the necessary restrictions and regulations for the benefit and well being of us all.

Just as breaking up the Big Trusts a hundred years ago and the Monopolies back in the 70’s was necessary for the public welfare, so too today – on the heels of the Great Recession, which has left this country with the largest wealth and poverty gap in history – we must, by force of legislation and public outcry, break up the land and resource grabs by wealthy individuals and big corporations.

For the well being of our very society, we must put limits on to just how much one person, family or entity can own and control. There comes a point where we must put the needs of our people and communities ahead of the profit of a privileged few.

Amassing money, wealth, property and power simply for the sake of having more is an endless unquenchable path towards ruin.

When budget shortfalls lead to mass inequity and the only Department properly funded is the police, we must look long and hard in the mirror to question the direction in which we are being led.

Who really benefits from spiraling homelessness, defunded schools and overcrowded jail cells? Cos guess what, someone does … someone makes a whole lot of money off of things like that and that just ain’t right.

Let’s take this conversation out of the philosophical and put it into the real world, here, today. Let us name some names and talk about the factual numbers.

Here in Venice (and across the entire Los Angeles region) we are facing a major housing and displacement crisis. Homelessness has skyrocketed and it’s only getting worse. Our Councilman, Mike Bonin says there’s a plan for ending homelessness and it will cost $1.8 Billion over the next ten years. (Currently, he’s looking at putting some sort of regressive measure on the ballot to pay for it.)

Watch out though, because this is standard practice across the political spectrum … right before cutting a public service, or squeezing poor people to pay more for what they should already have, they first give a big tax rebate to their rich friends – and it usually just so happens to be right about the exact same amount as what they’re trying to stick us for … we see it all the time.

Case in point, in 2011, when Google fled Santa Monica for Venice (Santa Monica wanted Google to pay their taxes … hint, hint), our late Councilman, Bill Rosendahl pushed through an 80% Tax Break (“incentive”) – which current Councilman Mike Bonin “championed” a 5-year renewal for in 2014.

This Tax Break for “all internet-based companies” (physically-based in Los Angeles) however lopsidedly benefitted a handful of companies – like Google and Snapchat – the most.

To put this into perspective, last quarter Google earned $20 Billion in profits. On that they will (hopefully) pay the City of Los Angeles $20 Million in Business Tax ($1.01 on every $1,000 gross) … which sounds like a lot … but then consider that they should be paying $101 Million ($5.07 on every $1,000 gross). That’s a huge difference and every dime of it – our money – taken out of our budget – not coming back to Venice – not going to pay for our much needed public services.

Now consider that that is only 1 quarter (3 months) out of the year, so that for a full year Google should be paying in the ballpark of $400 Million a year in taxes and that has been going on for the last 5 years, so that by simple math we can see that we’ve been screwed out of at least $1.6 Billion — from one company alone. That could practically pay to end homelessness for the entire city all by itself — but it won’t – because greed knows no bounds.