Amazon in DC-area is bad… for America

ecuador-amazon-jungle-river.jpg
I’m not a NIMBY.
I don’t want Amazon to come to the DC area. But this isn’t
personal. It will probably make traffic worse and it will drive up real estate prices – but I already own a home, so I can cash out. (And I don’t have a particular problem with Amazon or any of the technorati – they aren’t as smart as they think they are, but really, who is?)
My issue is that if Amazon comes to the DC area (three of the final twenty locations for its new second HQ are in the Capital Region) it will have ripple effects on the U.S. government and the country.
Amazon could turn DC into a jungle!
DC area real estate prices are high, not as high as the Bay
Area, but high. Amazon, with its infusion of high-paying jobs, both from direct
hires and the attendant businesses that will start or expand in its wake, will
push real estate prices much higher. The backbone of the greater DC area is
civil servants, government workers. They are compensated well, but not
extravagantly. Even the very, very top-level government salaries (with some specific exceptions)are well below $200,000 – certainly enough to be comfortable, but not remarkable by
tech world standards. A steep rise in real estate prices will make it difficult
for government professionals – civil servants who have valuable skills and
could find alternative employment – to get by. They will find more lucrative
professions, exacerbating the existing brain drain of experienced civil servants. Of course, these rising real
estate prices will also be bad for the less well-compensated – mid and lower
level civil servants, teachers, and, well, everyone else. This broader effect
will be bad for the region, but for the nation as a whole, losing talented civil servants
could be devastating. Further, young people may be further dissuaded from entering public service.
At the same time, one area where the U.S. government faces ongoing and severe challenges is attracting tech talent. Having
Amazon in the neighborhood will create extremely lucrative opportunities that
talented tech workers will find difficult to ignore. But government needs for
computer science talent, from programming to theory to data science are
significant. National security is one particular field that will suffer, but
they are not alone. Managing and processing complex networks and enormous amounts of data is
critical for agencies to serve the American people. But anyone who shows much
talent – particularly if real estate prices are rising – will find the siren
song of Amazon tough to resist.
Finally, the DC area, on the whole is already wealthy. The stability
of government work insulated the region from some of the worst fallout of the
great recession. This isn’t to say there aren’t wealth gaps and problems, but frankly Amazon might make them worse – not better. Anyway, the DC area does not need this – lots of other places in
America do.


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I don't blame local politicians for pursuing Amazon, and the online shopping behemoth will probably not factor the good of the country in its decision. But here's hoping...

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