For a time, about 35 years ago, the region that dubbed itself "Silicon Valley" - the greater southern end of the San Francisco Bay Area - had an ethos different from the rest of the country. Various attempts to describe it populated with "entrepreneurial libertarianism", "garage millionaires”, “visionaries” and other snappy tags intended to dazzle and bewilder were thrown out there by the media to offer some way for the outside public to get their heads wrapped around what this place was about. To be sure, the legacies of people like Mssrs. Hewlitt and Packard, Mr. Jobs and Drs. Warnock and Geschke are well known and what they did pretty much touched the lives of every modern human being in some way. Back then, even corporations could be fallible: most of the technology we rely on today had its genesis in the halls of Xerox Palo Alto Research Center by the graces of C. Peter McCulloch, a visionary who saw the value of turning creative minds loose in an environment free of distractions to dream and create a few blocks south of Page Mill Road - and instead of having the vision to understand, commercially develop and market their genius, they essentially ignored it or gave it away in favor of a conservative decision to continue the pursuit of their tried and true business model: copiers. That conservative decision cost them billions, if not trillions of dollars. Since then, business has managed to manipulate America’s laws into privatizing profit while making the public absorb their losses. Below the fold, I explain what this has to do with why it’s so important that Congressman Mike Honda is reelected and his opponent needs to be defeated in a very big, convincing way.
The world of Hewlett and Packard, Steve Jobs and their contemporaries was a much different place from today, and because of the then unique mindset of the South Bay - isolated from the glitz and complicated, noisy and fractious San Francisco / Marin end of the Peninsula, the laid-back, bucolic atmosphere nestled in those semi- rural orchards of Mountain View, Los Altos Hills, Cupertino and Santa Clara were ideal for educated, intellectually curious and industrious people to escape from the complications and distractions of city life and pursue their creative interests in new directions.
Anyone living here who’s old enough can remember when HP was the South Bay's second largest employer (next to the Dole packing plant - and the Libby packing plant was just down the road). And for good reason: if you had any solid technical skills, that was the place to work. Why? They paid living wages, had good medical and dental coverage, other desirable benefits, a retirement package... in other words, the company valued its employees and they wanted to retain them. More than placing tangible value on the products of their labor and offering them a comfortable living in exchange for their work, they also valued them as human beings - because it was good business.
And so that mindset continued for awhile as other small startups began, some becoming big startups and continuing on to be world class corporations while others died on the vine or were purchased for their intellectual property... but almost everyone knows about this so I won't belabor the point.
However in recent years - especially those subsequent to the heavily documented "dot-com bust", a curious exchange happened: as some of the technical and entrepreneurial techniques that were created here have migrated east, in exchange for those lucrative gifts, the methodology that drives the east coast business methods of getting things done with people steadily infected The Valley. Human beings, resources and intellectual curiosity have now turned into disposable commodities upon which Yale-trained MBAs placed dollar values as the needs of business dictate. The trans-national mindset that was the genesis of the multitudes of "free trade" agreements sent board stuffers, packaging techs and breadboard wiring work overseas to eventually be made obsolete through mechanization. The remaining employees who have survived the most recent cullings of the herd have since been put in the position of having to watch their working conditions and benefits steadily whittled down to eventual parity with those of their employer’s communist business partners: 30 hour weeks to legally avoid on-boarding with benefits, no 401K retirement plans (because in this framework, you will NEVER retire your employment from any corporation anymore) - and that favorite sword of Damocles corporations now use to keep their staff in line: “at-will” employment.
So is it any wonder that the absolute last vestige of what this place used to represent would be put to rest with the introduction of the disease that has plagued every other aspect of American life? I speak of course of the upcoming House of Representatives election in which Representative Mike Honda’s seat is being challenged by a Mr. Ro Khanna, another “Democrat”. This upcoming contest was recently mentioned in a New York Times article:
Mr. Khanna appears to have raised almost 3 times the amount of campaign money that Rep. Honda has in his war chest. How is that possible? I’ve lived here for 30 years and I’ve never heard of the guy.
Well it turns out there’s a reason why a working guy like me has never heard of him before now: Mr. Khanna has the endorsement of some extremely wealthy, powerful contributors here in the Valley. In what appears to be a rerun of the Meg Whitman story in which trans-national corporations continue their attempts to buy more political offices like cheap real estate, it would seem that Rep. Honda has spent far too much time in the pursuit of helping the people who live in his district instead of focussing his efforts on passing corporate-friendly tax legislation and helping to kill organized labor. 14 years of serving our community by supporting immigration changes, science education, nanotechnology and other issues that Silicon Valley used to care about evidently haven’t been sufficient for the local greedheads, banksters and other Third Way DINOs who own the big buildings on North First Street, Great America Parkway, Montague Expressway, Tasman Drive and Murphy Ranch Road. Among Mr. Khanna’s ideas are lowering tax liability on corporations who offshore their work to entice them to return to America… a worn out argument used by blue dog democrats and republicans who just can’t get enough of Reaganomics, no matter how much evidence there’s been over the last 30 years to prove it to be a sham. Fabulous - let’s REWARD the wealthy elite by cutting their tax liability even more more so they can pay poverty wages HERE instead of some communist Asian country with no employee protections or safety protocols.
According to the NYT article, “…In the latest filing, of the 220 individual donors to Mr. Khanna’s campaign, 27 listed their occupation as “C.E.O.,” four as “chief financial officers” and about 40 as being involved in investments.” That alone should be a red flag for anyone who actually works for a living. But the notion that the business mentality which originally made Silicon Valley the gold mine it had become should finally be exterminated in favor of the latest corporate buyout - this time of the local government - is a disgusting example of just how morally bankrupt American Business has become; for while it has become obvious that supply side economics has been a rigged scheme all along to enrich and empower the wealthy elite at the expense of the Middle Class, the money mavens of Sand Hill Road may eventually find in the future that they would have been better served to have embraced “demand side” economics instead. You see, if there’s nobody left to buy iPhones, Droids and BMWs except the residents of Atherton and the gated homes of Los Altos Hills, they won’t sell very many.
And that is why Mike Honda needs to defeat Ro Khanna - and not by just a few votes: by a landslide. Business here in Northern California needs to hear a clear message: we do not intend to be victims of this vulgar power grab, as what has happened in Atlanta, Houston or San Diego - we refuse to end up like Detroit, New York or Boston: our people are creative, educated, work hard and deserve a living wage in a safe, robust community as well as does the rest of this country. The Third Way and neocon ditto heads who front these shallow corporate shills as political candidates can ply their intellectual snake oil somewhere else - Somalia comes to mind....