Punishing Amazon, The Bad Corporate Citizen

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.

Overall, support was 56% for Amazon. Notably approval increased to 70% for Blacks and 81% for Latino.

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.

34 thoughts on “Punishing Amazon, The Bad Corporate Citizen

  1. Turk

    And in tomorrow’s news, Amazon reverses course again and comes back to New York.

    For a sweetened pot with more tax incentives.

  2. Turk

    And de Blasio / Cuomo team up (!) to marginalize AOC and Nixon in the process.

    What’s another few hundred mill among friends.

  3. wilbur

    AOC and her crew’s argument seems to be “We can’t afford to give $3 billion to Amazon when we could take that 3 billion and fix our crumbling infrastructure”.

    This calls for the double face palm.

    1. SHG Post author

      People who never held a real job or paid taxes are frequently unaware of public finances work. It tends to color their opinion.

      1. That James Guy

        Except she’s an ECON major, graduated cum laude.

        But then, our last president was a constitutional law professor, and look how that worked out.

  4. Black Bellamy

    The Amazon deal was killed by Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Sen. Michael Gianaris. With Gianaris on the Public Authorities Control Board, he would be able to block and delay Amazon at every step. You’re giving way way too much credit to AOC and CN. Just because they’re vocal and claim that credit, it doesn’t mean it’s true. Stewart-Cousins has clashed with Cuomo before and she didn’t appreciate that Cuomo and DeBlasio tried to negotiate the Amazon deal by themselves. So she used her power to screw over the deal and make Cuomo look like a fool.

    1. SHG Post author

      On the contrary, nowhere did I say that AOC or CN did it, but that they, as representatives of progressives, applaud it.

      1. B. McLeod

        Because they think Amazon was “defeated,” but the reality is it will just get comparable incentives and everything else its management wants to select some competing location.

  5. Jake

    What’s the big deal about jobs? You don’t need to be an econ major to see that unemployment is currently 4.3% in New York City and 25,000 more jobs would change this less than .001%. Meanwhile soaring costs of living and crumbling infrastructure impact all New Yorkers. (As is the case in cities all over the country)

    1. SHG Post author

      An econ major might look deeper into that unemployment number to realize that there are a ton of really low-paying shit jobs, and then a huge gap, and a far smaller bunch of very high paying jobs, such that there is a huge dearth of decent paying jobs in the middle, such as the jobs Amazon would have offered. That’s what an econ major might have considered. But you’re not an econ major. You know who was?

      1. Jake

        You don’t need to be an econ major to know most jobs are shit either. On this, we agree 100%. If only the average Trump enabler would acknowledge the same.

        25,000 more Amazon jobs are still a drop in the bucket and only served to give a tiny fraction of the population qualified for such work (and who already have too many job opportunities) one more option, while the rest of New York continues to suffer the burdens of higher order problems previously mentioned.

        1. RedditLaw

          Didn’t that econ major, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, state a few months ago that the only reason that unemployment was low under the Bad Orange Man was because the lumpen-proletariat were compelled to work two shitty jobs to keep the proverbial leaking tenement roof over their heads?

          And now the new, shitty jobs that would not require double employment to keep the proverbial leaking tenement roof over the heads of the lumpen-proletariat are only a drop in the bucket?

          It is almost as if the woke, such as Jake and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, can’t be bothered to remember which accusations they have hurled at Darth Cheeto from month to month.

          1. Jake

            “Didn’t that econ major, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, state a few months ago that the only reason that unemployment was low under the Bad Orange Man was because the lumpen-proletariat were compelled to work two shitty jobs to keep the proverbial leaking tenement roof over their heads?”

            Yes, and I do remember my bad orange man criticisms. I also know most jobs at an Amazon HQ aren’t going to help the lumpen-proletariat. They will help people qualified like me, but we already have too many opportunities and we’re willing to move around the country for the right ones so, again, no help to NYC really.

            1. Charles

              So 25,000 people making an average of $150,000 per year spending a third of their net income on groceries, restaurants, entertainment, dry cleaning, and other activities won’t benefit anyone working in … grocery stores, restaurants, movie theaters, dry cleaners, etc.? And several hundred million per year in state income taxes wouldn’t have helped, either?

              NYC gave up the opportunity (1) not to collect tax from Amazon for 10 years (2) in exchange for 25,000 jobs so that it could have the opportunity (1) to not collect tax from Amazon and (2) NOT get 25,000 jobs from Amazon.

            2. Jake

              Again, a reasonable argument, upon which I have reflected carefully and agree is a big loss to the community.

              But at the end of the day both parties in this negotiation lose the prospect of gaining something they ostensibly wanted, were they able to come to a mutually acceptable agreement. Labor markets and access to transportation infrastructure are likely very high on the list of things Jeff Bezos worries about when he’s not thinking about his Pecker problem.

            3. SHG Post author

              You realize that your utility here is as a foil for bad ideas, but it’s not really about you personally, right?

            4. Jake

              “You realize that your utility here is as a foil for bad ideas, but it’s not really about you personally, right?”

              For whose sake are you asking?

      2. Anthony Kehoe

        You hear this a lot from one side where they denigrate the jobs that were potentially on offer as being either meaningless or of such low quality that they’re not wanted. One would have thought that’s what the market would have easily flushed out as the expansion to NYC would stall, fail and be rolled back. Or, perhaps, the people who live there really do know more about their own lives and actually wanted a job from Amazon? Either way, the $3b “sweetener” would easily be repaid by the time the success of the project was known.

      3. Charles

        An econ major also might look at the fact that unemployment is not calculated on the basis of the total population of New York City but on the group of people actively looking for work. Your numbers are just wrong. Also, one of the best solutions when facing the cost of living is … wait for it … a job.

    2. Jeffrey Hall

      “You don’t need to be an econ major to see that unemployment is currently 4.3% in New York City and 25,000 more jobs would change this less than .001%.”

      You are off by a factor of 600. There are about 4.5 million New York City residents in the labor pool, and 25,000/4,500,000 is 0.6%, not .001%. An economics major would also point out that creating 25,000 new jobs creates thousands of other jobs, because employed people don’t throw their money into the ocean, the spend it elsewhere; and that the billions of dollars in new taxes that Amazon and their employees would have paid would also have created thousands of public-sector and construction jobs.

      “What’s the big deal about jobs? ” I take it you aren’t a struggling member of the hoi polloi, let’s say some single working mother, or a vet with PTSD, or someone with autism. I don’t want to suggest that such people are as valuable as you are, or that their concerns matter as much as your precious sense of moral indignation does. In fact, since they’re the sort of people who shop at Walmart or even vote for Trump, you might think that their suffering is what they deserve. But do you like Kipling?

      The toad beneath the harrow knows
      Exactly where each tooth-point goes.
      The butterfly upon the road
      Preaches contentment to that toad.

  6. RedditLaw

    Speaking of Maslow, I developed RedditLaw’s Hierarchy of Criminogenic Needs for Public Defender Clients some time ago.

    If you start being nice to Jake, I might post it in an appropriate thread as some future date.

  7. Pedantic Grammar Police

    I’m not qualified to argue whether Amazon was helping or hurting NYC, but I have to smile when I see the “world’s richest man” hitting a speed bump in his “destroy all the other companies” monopoly steamroller.

    1. SHG Post author

      Barely a speedbump. He will be loved and showered with largesse. Just elsewhere, where they will enjoy his beneficence.

  8. Matthew Scott Wideman

    The sad thing is AOC is the equal and opposite reaction to DJT. The country and it’s citizens are going to suffer for the increased stupidity of the new elected officials that are going to get elected after the age of Trump. The stupid is think in the air and on Twitter.

    Hopefully people in the future are going to ask does this LGBTQ, intersectional unicorn, who self identifies as a lobster actually know what they are doing?

    1. SHG Post author

      She’s far more adorable and still has a ways to go to achieve any real power, but she is very much Trump’s bookend, a populist dolt.

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