Amazon pulled out, because it could. Its plan to build a campus and corporate headquarter in Queens was hardly perfect, but no plan could be. Still, the benefits to New York exceeded the $3 billion in tax incentives and New Yorkers supported it.
There were all sorts of problems with the deal New York cut to bring Amazon to the city, and Amazon is no paragon, but its abrupt withdrawal was a blow to New York, which stood to gain 25,000 jobs and an estimated $27 billion in tax revenue over the next two decades. This embarrassment to the city presents a painful lesson in how bumper-sticker slogans and the hubris of elected — and corporate — officials can create losers on all sides.
Lucky for them they were saved from suffering the burdens of employment by a dedicated minority of progressives.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), whose district abuts Amazon’s planned site and had organized local resistance to the project: “Anything is possible: today was the day a group of dedicated, everyday New Yorkers & their neighbors defeated Amazon’s corporate greed, its worker exploitation, and the power of the richest man in the world.”
Cynthia Nixon, actress, activist and 2018 New York gubernatorial candidate: “Amen. The fight against Amazon laid bare their union-busting, corporate welfare, ICE-abetting practices and shows why we need to break up monopolies like Amazon.”
This lays out a fundamental problem between the forces of social justice and the needs of real people, and these darlings of progressive purity have just made sure that 25,000 people will not get jobs with Amazon. They can feel smugly self-righteous as they drive their Ubers or deliver takeout, both of which will be valued since the subways suck.
But what’s a job compared to lofty platitudes?
“We have the best talent in the world, and every day we are growing a stronger and fairer economy for everyone,” the mayor said. “If Amazon can’t recognize what that’s worth, its competitors will.” Because, you know, Amazon’s competitors have a great track record of seeing the future more clearly than Jeff Bezos.
Not even the New York Times can stomach that crap without snark. Of course there are issues, such as the anticipated rise in rents in Queens, and the gentrification of neighborhoods that will push poorer people out in favor of new people making Amazon incomes. Of course, some of the poor people won’t be poor anymore, because they’ll be making Amazon incomes, but that doesn’t change Amazon’s “corporate greed,” as AOC reminds us, because corporations exist to serve the marginalized of society rather than to profit.
How did nobody see that the attacks, not on issues but on the company, on Bezos, might kill the deal?
Mssrs. Cuomo and de Blasio should have better prepared for what was in store, since their constituents are maybe more worried about housing, subways and the cost of living than in job creation alone. In fact, it’s partly thanks to the failure of these elected leaders to seriously address the subway and housing crises that Amazon was met by some with such visceral anger and anxiety.
In the hierarchy of needs, the basics come first, before the self-actualization of the privileged on behalf of the poor starving masses. For all their deeply sensitive educational feelings, the privileged woke never really grasped what Abe Maslow was telling them, that hungry people need food more the euphemisms. And indeed, the hubris showed up quickly.
In the end, Amazon did not behave like a good corporate citizen. First, their contest pitting city against city was ridiculous and unnecessary. Second, their need to extract huge tax breaks from whichever city was crowned the “winner” was mean and cruel. Third, their need to build a huge corporate campus in a dense urban area with abundant mass transit was wasteful and disruptive. Fourth, their anti union history in a city and state where well established union gives workers protection was tone deaf and inappropriate. Fifth, their unwillingness to negotiate a better deal was arrogant and childish.
That’s a lot of negative adjectives from someone who doesn’t have 25,000 jobs to fill. If only you could eat sad feelings, the woke would never go hungry again. Unfortunately for the unduly passionate, their feelings about what’s “ridiculous” don’t feed the marginalized, who were overwhelmingly in favor of this deal, because the net effect was overwhelmingly good for them and for New York City. Amazon doesn’t have to be a progressive’s version of “good corporate citizen.”
Things quickly got out of hand, though, and reasonable criticism of the deal was overwhelmed by opposition to the company itself, even as polls showed wide support for Amazon’s move to Queens. Elected officials who identify as progressive painted Amazon as a rapacious engine of inequality. It seemed that few were interested in having a constructive conversation about how to improve the deal and make it work for the tech giant and the city.
What happened here puts the lie to so many of the talking points, from the “we need to have a conversation,” meaning shut up and do as we tell you, to castigating those upon whom we rely for sustenance for untenable feelings of equity. It’s not that we should pray at the altar of Amazon, but that Amazon doesn’t serve the fantasies of social justice. They sell stuff. They make money. They hire and pay employees to do so.
Is this the future should the woke get their way? Will we be able to bask in the glory of ideological purity while sitting on a couch in the basement, unemployed, smug in our knowledge that we beat back the “rapacious engine of inequality”? Does it even matter what we think, as the progressive minority managed to thwart the will of the majority that supported Amazon?
Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and Cynthia Nixon are proud of this accomplishment, that a minority of the woke prevailed over Amazon’s corporate greed, and crushed the desires of the majority of New Yorkers to do so. Thankfully, the woke are there to save the rest from their folly of employment. Chew on that, as you’ll have no food bought with Amazon incomes to eat.