The Great Amazon Stickup

Here is the handout (corporate welfare) Amazon (and, by extension, Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, who is history’s richest man) is receiving in exchange for siting new offices in New York, Virginia, and Nashville:

Incentives from New York state: $1.525 billion:

$1.2 billion in refundable tax credits over 10 years.
$325 million from Empire State Development.

Incentives from New York City:

Property-tax abatements for up to 25 years.
$900 million in job-creation tax credits, plus other unspecified tax credits.

Incentives from Virginia:

$550 million cash grant over 12 years, plus potentially an additional $200 million based on future job creation.

Incentives from Arlington:

$23 million in cash over 15 years.

Incentives from the Tennessee:

$65 million cash grant.
$21.7 million in state tax credits.

Incentives from Nashville:

$15 million cash payment based on job creation.

Add them up and you will see the biggest  corporate giveaway in our history. Corporate welfare and crony capitalism are indeed alive and well in the good old U.S.A.

Of course, it’s not news to anyone that capitalism has no ethics or morals. The only question is, will such a system override every other value and principle this country professes to hold dear? Will the rich and powerful demonstrate some ethics and morality on their own?

More to the point (since I have little faith Mr. Bezos will change his stripes), will the people eventually have their fill? By people, I mean those who can’t afford to buy a house or send their kids to college without going deeply into debt, the people who live paycheck to paycheck with no prospect for a secure retirement, and the people who can’t afford health care. Will they eventually get to the point of realizing that the system is being gamed by the wealthy and powerful and monopolists?

In essence, Mr. Bezos held America for ransom; it was a modern-day stickup. He dangled in front of these communities the prospect of good jobs — economic prosperity. It was his to bestow, it seems, and he was intent on extracting maximum concessions from state and local governments as his ransom payment. Frankly, there is no evidence Mr. Bezos gives a damn about the taxpayers in these states and communities who will be subsidizing Amazon (to the benefit of Mr. Bezos and his stockholders). He cares about only one thing: more. For Amazon and for himself. More money. More power. More prestige. More.

The fact that these communities desperately need tax revenue to fund public schools, build and maintain roads, and provide basic services to their populace is of no concern to a pure breed capitalist like Mr. Bezos. That’s somebody else’s concern. His concern was to extract the biggest ransom payment he can. That’s what good crony capitalists do.

Grab as much as you can for yourself. It seems to be the dominant ethos in America today. Will the people ever wake up from their deep sleep and realize how they’re being used?

Perhaps. Perhaps crony capitalism will not survive for the long haul. But I’m not sure, for once entrenched power goes unchecked long enough, its roots run deep and becomes incredibly hard to dislodge.

UPDATE: In a rare criticism of corporate greed, the Wall Street Journal says the Amazon handouts are “crony capitalism at its worst,” although it adds that “[i]t’s hard to blame Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos for accepting what politicians give him.” In other words, if politicians don’t have the good sense to protect their citizens’ interests, then it’s OK for the world’s richest man to take advantage of the little people. As I said earlier, capitalism has no ethics or morality.


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