Leave it to PBS to take a local controversy and turn it into a symbol of the class war that is supposedly plaguing this country. On Tuesday’s NewsHour, the taxpayer-subsidized network raised a stink over so-called Google buses that carry San Francisco residents to their jobs at high-tech companies 30 or 40 miles south of the city. [Video below. MP3 audio here.]
Anchor Judy Woodruff drew the battle lines as she introduced the story:
The national battle over inequality, the rich vs. the rest of the population, has taken a curious turn in the San Francisco Bay Area, where buses carrying high-tech workers have become a symbol of the divide.
So we’ve reached the point where PBS is openly pushing a national class war between the “rich” and everybody else, even when said "rich" are taking a politically-correct form of transportation -- a bus -- over electing to drive their own vehicles to work every day.
PBS special correspondent Spencer Michels narrated the package and began by describing the “dozens of big, sleek buses” that roll through San Francisco every weekday morning, using city bus stops to pick up the tech workers. But bus stop congestion was not the main problem. Michels soon arrived at the real issue:
[Critics] say the buses are symbols of the disparity in wealth between the new tech workers and the longtime working-class residents of neighborhoods like the Mission [District].
There you go. Critics are attacking “symbols” of income inequality, and PBS is only too happy to give them a platform. The story featured one critic, writer Rebecca Solnit, complaining of the Google buses, “They’re unmarked, and with tinted windows, so you don’t know who’s inside. They’re like a cross between a limousine and an armored personnel carrier, cruising around the central city.”
It’s important to note that these tech workers in question are not exactly part of “the 1 percent” that we always hear about. According to a recent survey, the average salary of a technology professional in the Silicon Valley area was $108,603. They are certainly wealthier than the working classes of San Francisco, but they are a long way from the wealthiest members of society.
The whole idea of protesting a shuttle bus because its passengers happen to earn a higher-than-average income seems silly. PBS should not have dignified this protest movement with a story on their nightly news broadcast.
Below is a partial transcript of the story:
JUDY WOODRUFF: The national battle over inequality, the rich vs. the rest of the population, has taken a curious turn in the San Francisco Bay Area, where buses carrying high-tech workers have become a symbol of the divide.
NewsHour special correspondent Spencer Michels has our story.
SPENCER MICHELS: Every weekday morning, between 7:30 and 10:00, dozens of big, sleek buses roll down Valencia Street in the heart of San Francisco’s traditionally Latino Mission District and other city thoroughfares.
Using bus stops created for city buses, the private coaches pick up a cargo of workers who for the most part have moved into the city and work 30 or 40 miles south of it at places like Google, Facebook, Apple, eBay and Yahoo! The free buses, generally referred to as Google Buses, are one of the perks for high-tech workers in high demand in Silicon Valley.
When they began rolling six or seven years ago, they were generally praised as an alternative to crowded highways and carbon emissions from cars. But that’s not the issue, says writer Rebecca Solnit, one of the first to charge that the buses were more than a way to get to work.
REBECCA SOLNIT, Writer: They’re unmarked, and with tinted windows, so you don’t know who’s inside. They’re like a cross between a limousine and an armored personnel carrier, cruising around the central city.
SPENCER MICHELS: Critics say the buses are clogging city bus stops. And while the tech companies have recently agreed to pay the city a dollar per bus per stop for their use, the critics say it isn’t enough to make up for the congestion they cause. So feelings are raw.
The buses have sparked a nasty debate that has found its way onto YouTube, with the satirical “Google Bus Song.”
SPENCER MICHELS: Solnit and others say the buses are symbols of the disparity in wealth between the new tech workers and the longtime working-class residents of neighborhoods like the Mission. And, she adds, the influx of techies is gentrifying the city.
REBECCA SOLNIT: Joe Google moves into the apartment from which Jose auto mechanic has been evicted, Jose auto mechanic is now going to move to Vallejo, and have a hellacious commute to the auto body shop in San Francisco. And no luxury bus with tinted windows and Wi-Fi on board is going to pull up at his new home in Vallejo to bring him to the office.
So, what you’re really doing is displacing the more vulnerable people.