On Friday, veteran journalist Bill Moyers did a segment on Silicon Valley that gives a very different perspective than we get from most mainstream media coverage of the world-renowned tech industry hub, and it’s been fueling some good conversations this weekend.
Called “Homeless in High Tech’s Shadow,” it’s a very interesting look at the growing homeless problem in the South Bay of San Francisco that’s happening in stark contrast to the growing wealth in the same area. Instead of another breathless look at the Google cafeteria that offers free gourmet food for all employees, we meet a former worker in that same cafeteria who was laid off as the company tightened its hiring policies and is now living in a tent. Instead of gleaming footage of the high-tech machinery that produces silicon wafers, we meet a former National Semiconductor employee who is now homeless at the age of 54 with “nothing” to her name.
It’s a visual look at what the Associated Press reported last month in an article about Silicon Valley’s wealth disparity:
“Food stamp participation just hit a 10-year high, homelessness rose 20 percent in two years, and the average income for Hispanics, who make up one in four Silicon Valley residents, fell to a new low of about $19,000 a year— capping a steady 14 percent drop over the past five years”
The Moyers piece argues that the offshoring of tech manufacturing has played a big part in this current situation. While the issue of homelessness and wealth disparity is very complex, and the people profiled here may have more issues at play than the losing of their jobs, it’s hard to deny that the loss of middle-class type manufacturing jobs has an impact on the US. It’s interesting to see how Silicon Valley is no exception, despite how sunny the general economic outlook here is.
Again, it’s hard to get a comprehensive picture of all that’s happening in a six minute video — for instance, a small but significant light at the end of the tunnel could be the growing “Maker movement” taking hold in tech and beyond, and that’s one key thing that Moyers’ segment does not mention. But in all it’s a very well done look at an issue that often goes unseen.
Either way, it’s something you should watch — it’s all in the video embedded above.