The Gall of Galles

The San Francisco Chronicle is offering a soapbox to Koch-affiliated libertarians on rent control and affordable housing. Wait, what?

On July 20th the SF Chronicle ran an op-ed arguing against rent control. In an extreme case of headline abuse, they slammed rent control and inclusionary housing as “self-interested and harmful.” In a city that is majority renter, with more than 60% of renters protected by rent-control, aren’t the real self-interested parties the corporate developers and predatory property speculators who keep trying to eliminate rent control? And isn’t the real harm done to families and communities when tenants are evicted or displaced through rising rents?

The Chronicle cultivates an image of themselves as good liberal resisters, but their editorial stance is too often pro-business, anti-worker, and anti-tenant — which is a damned shame for our purported paper of record.

With that in mind, it’s unremarkable that the Chron would be pushing this fatuous fairy tale about rent control before November’s vote on repealing Costa-Hawkins, a repeal that is vitally important in addressing California’s housing affordability crisis. What is remarkable is the person the Chron chose to publish on this issue.

Gary Galles, the author of this piece, is a research fellow at a think tank called The Independent Institute. According to the tax filings on their website, the vast majority of their funding comes from grants and donations from unnamed sources. SourceWatch has identified some of them, though, and historically they have included big tobacco (Philip Morris), big oil (Exxon), and David Koch. Seems that the institute Galles works with is “independent” in the same way that Fox News is “fair and balanced.”

Galles is also affiliated with The Heartland Institute, the Mises Institute, and the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). Heartland and FEE have also been funded by Koch money, and while Mises isn’t, a large number of their “scholars” have been.

What does it tell us about San Francisco’s primary newspaper that they turned to someone like Galles — an “independent” thinker who seems to be deep in the pockets of our era’s most notorious capitalists — to argue against a policy that helps our most vulnerable residents? Why is our city’s paper running op-eds from Koch-associated ideologues?

One could go through Galles’ piece line-by-line and debunk its claims but that would be giving these arguments more credit than they deserve. We already know rent control works. See, for example, this excellent piece from the renters’ organization Tenants Together.

Evictions and displacement are a real problem for our city. Until we can transition away from housing as a center of profit-seeking speculation to something more humane, rent control will remain a vital protection for San Francisco tenants.

The Chronicle should be ashamed of their behavior. Not only for running this piece, but for how they treated Jane Kim, for opposing Prop. F, and for using their platform to promote further immiseration of our most vulnerable residents.

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