Originally publish on July 16, 2021
by Fabian Augustus
Have you seen the little rental scooters offered in so many urban settings these days? If you haven’t that simply means that whatever studies were conducted around this service indicated that it would most likely NOT be a profitable endeavor… At least not one that profitable enough to warrant the risk. Return on Investment (ROI) set aside, in those cities with such scooter services, who have you noticed as the primary customer? While this may be anecdotal, it has been my experience that the majority of patrons for such modes of transportation have black teenage boys.
They treat what are usually green and white scooters the way that black, white, brown, and all manner of teenage boys of my generation treated cars. You had car clubs that either specialized in making fast cars with massive motors, headers, and add-ons like turbos and Nitros, or loud cars with stereo systems that literally caused girls hair to fly up in the air or they modified cars to be both fast and loud (either with insanely expensive stereos or insanely expensive parts.
Despite not being able to claim ownership, the scooter generation also modifies their wheels. Though a temporary mod, these young usually black male teens incorporate a bucket like the five-gallon variety you’d find at any Home Depot or Lowe’s which is used as a seat as standing for the few block through which they traverse must be too cumbersome. Perhaps that last sentence sounded too condescending because I couldn’t imagine standing up in my car for the few miles I drove at that or any age, but neither could I imagine taking pride in riding a rented scooter at that age. Now, I not denying the guilty pleasure of owning a vehicle I would now consider lame (moped, instead of a dirt bike) or nerdy (a Chevette instead of a Corvette), my point is to highlight ownership or the lack thereof in the case of the scooter generation. These kids pay to ride around on vehicles that they will never be able to call their own. They are enhancing the bottom line of some corporations while going into debt or at the very least reducing any future savings they may need to purchase their own vehicle. They are renting something that they will never own and never have anything to show for in return. Their ROI on those scooters can only be measured in the time in which they could afford to rent them.
While renting scooters may not seem to be that big of an issue, it speaks to the level at which the American Dream has sunken. Something that becomes much more apparent when you look beyond the scooter kids… literally in the case of the scooter kids I have seen in Tampa Florida. While visiting Ybor City in Tampa, I couldn't help noticing the gentrification that was taking place. The historic district looks to me to be a cross between New York City with its plethora of New York-style pizza parlors and the fire escapes which seem to be purely decorative and New Orleans, where shallow balconies allow visitors to toss beads out to the passengers of Mardi Gras floats. The transformation is really nice because the area seems to have retained a historical character while increasing functionality through modernization. Just don’t look too closely at who is benefiting and who will benefit from the throngs of people flocking to this revitalized social center and you won’t see the degradation of communities that existed before the change. Just ignore the signs that indicate that one development group represents the majority of properties for sale in the ever-changing Ybor city and the surrounding neighborhoods. Avert your eyes from the people (though nothing compared to the number of homeless in my city of Miami) sleeping under bridges or begging for money at intersections and you will have a great time. Dispute comparisons to any other neighborhood where gentrification made housing unaffordable to a large percentage of it generational inhabitants and I will beg you to answer the following questions “Why are so many Silicon Valley tech giants abandoning the cities in which they made their fortunes and turning to cities, like Miami, Houston, and others?” “Why wouldn’t they maintain residence in cities where their business models leave the locals homeless and addled by legal and illegal drugs?” and finally “Why would the residents of those neighborhoods blessed by such big tech firms choose homelessness or the escapism of drug use over the prosperity high dollar salaries that must surely have been offered to the residents first?”
You can and you should try to answer these questions fully and truthfully for yourself, but let me save you some time: The big tech corporations don’t care about the local communities in which they exist. Those corporations open shop, take root, and bring in the most skilled people to do whatever task they need done. Those employees brought in to buy homes and because they make much greater salaries than the local residents, they pay a premium for those houses… Houses, because they leave when the big tech firm for which they work leaves or fires them. As the homes become priced further and further out of the reach of those residents whose families have lived in the neighborhood for one, two or more generations find themselves lacking in the amount of savings necessary to secure a loan on a house they can no longer afford, they seek shelter in the car, or a mission or the streets. And, once the streets are paved with hypodermic needles, corporations find it difficult to attract talented programmers, marketing professionals, PR professionals at that most productive and ambitious age. It is difficult to attract individuals to a company that is located in the heart of despair, especially when those employees are also at the age at which most people want to start a family. But, by all means, don’t take my word for it, look into my allegations for yourself.
So, how does this all relate to the new American Feudalism? Well, those issues I mentioned earlier are dominoes that fall when so few have so much. Black teens spend their savings on useless scooters that prepare them for the cycles of debt to which they will become accustomed. Soon they’ll be driving cars off of those “Buy here. Pay here” lots where lojacks are installed to make reposition that much easier. Corporations move across the country like locusts, destroying one community after another, leaving nothing salvageable in their wake. Walmart opens stores in every city and small town, putting the local mom and pop stores out of business, only to shutter those stores because the majority of the townsfolk can’t even afford Walmart’s low prices. The irony being that Walmart being the biggest employer in some towns caused the majority of poverty and priced itself out of a viable consumer base. And thus the cycle goes in a system such as Capitalism until the masses have no wealth for which the rich can pilfer. What can be done then? What do the masses have to offer when they seemed to have nothing to offer at all? Nothing, but their labor.
So, in America, our leadership has allowed the rich to siphon off everyone else’s wealth. Even during a pandemic, America’s supposed best and brightest saw fit to allow the rich to get richer while the rest of us got poorer. The government of the United States of America, through the CDC saw fit to provide relief through a mortgage moratorium but did not see fit to require forbearance on all back-rent or delinquent mortgage payments, which will allow corporations like Blackstone to beat out actual homeowners by out-pricing them on the homes that will surely be going into foreclosure in the next few months. That same government has seen fit to ignore the ever-growing possibility of monopolies in far too many sectors on the stock market. This list is too large to go through, but I will site one of the most egregious: Amazon, not only kills its competitors by losing profits to undercut them, it has similar practices with those who sell products on Amazon’s own platform. It does this when it sees a product selling well on Amazon.com by duplicating the product and selling it cheaper. And, when the people of a nation can no longer create, manufacture, and distribute their products in a profitable manner, this not only stifles ingenuity, innovation, and entrepreneurship it leads to fewer people owning a home, running a business, or doing anything without the rich putting their thumbs on the scale, which would be fine if all of the rich were benevolent.
When even those who provide food, a necessity for life must rent farmland from Bill and Melinda Gates (the largest owners of farmland in America) what else could one foresee as the coming economic system in America? When you own nothing and must rent everything from the smallest minority in society to whom you are also indebted for life, you are an indentured servant and you must answer to whatever Lord or Lady controls every aspect of your life. If you doubt that we are heading in that direction, I suggest you look at Forbe’s annual richest individuals issues for the past few decades. The percentage of all of the American income has been growing for the rich and shrinking for the rest of us.
For the reasons listed above and many more, I wrote my book “Solutions: Enough complaining. Let’s fix America.”, which is as necessary today as it is relevant. Get yours today and see why, even in these times, I am optimistic about the future.
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