There is no shortage of reasons for the average American not to feel the love for corporations like Amazon.
We can begin with acknowledging that Amazon earned a pre-tax profit in 2018 of $10.8 billion dollars yet paid zero dollars in federal taxes.
But it gets even worse.
Because Amazon received a federal income tax rebate of $129 billion, the company had an effective 2018 tax rate of -1.2%.
That’s right. Amazon not only did not have to kick into the nation’s treasury like most of us are required to do, they actually made money in the calculation.
That sort of reality is hardly going to endear a company to the millions of middle-class Americans who paid, or will pay, more in federal income taxes than Amazon did for 2018.
Adding to anger reasonably expressed towards Amazon, is the enmity the company has earned through its reputation for providing poor working conditions for their employees and, prior to their recent agreement to pay a minimum $15.00 per hour to workers, significantly under-paying its work force.
Given these realities, it is perfectly understandable that few would have a ‘gut’ inclination to shed a tear for the company’s loss of approximately $3 billion in tax incentives scheduled to go on their books had they gone forward with opening up a new campus in the Queens Borough of New York City. This expansion of Amazon’s presence in New York was estimated to create 25,000 new jobs resulting from people going to work directly for the company and up to 150,000 new jobs in businesses that would benefit from servicing and supplying the new operation.
However, at a time when progressives should be focused, first and foremost, on moving the needle in the battle to return the nation to an economic system where working class Americans get fair payment and fair benefits in return for a solid day’s work, there is a critical question that must be asked:
Can we really afford to satisfy and satiate our anger at corporations who don’t play fair at the expense of the very people who need the decent paying jobs that would result from private-public partnerships like the New York-Amazon agreement?
And when a Member of Congress, such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, rejects the interests of her own constituency to give voice to her personal, albeit justifiable, anger, is something seriously out of whack?
As Andrew Ross Sorkin-hardly a mouthpiece for conservative America-put it when describing the New York-Amazon schematic:
“[The state] would have effectively been paying out $3 billion in incentives for what would have likely been the equivalent of $27 billion over 25 years. You can play with the math, and you can tell me that there were going to be additional costs, and there likely would have been, but if I handed you $3 billion and you gave me $25 billion back, or you gave me $15 billion back, or $10 billion back, that could have been used for roads, schools, police, and subways, I think that’s a good deal.”
According to every analysis I have seen, put out by both supporters and opponents of the deal, Ross-Sorkin’s numbers appear to be pretty right on.
Setting aside, for the moment, the fiscal impact of the plan on the City and the State of New York governments, there is the matter of what the people of New York wanted to see happen and what their leader’s responsibility should be when it comes to taking into account the wishes of the people they represent.
According to a Siena College poll, taken between Feb 4th and Feb 7th, we learn that those who opposed this deal, like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, are not only out of step with the wide majority of New Yorkers, but out of step with the very constituents whom they are supposed to represent in their respective districts.
The poll asked the following question; “Do you approve or disapprove of the recently announced deal between Amazon and New York, which grants up to $3 billion in state and city incentives to Amazon in return for Amazon locating its corporate offices in Queens, where it is projected to generate 25,000 jobs?”
Here is the response:
• 56 percent of voters statewide approved, while 36 percent didn’t.
• In New York City, 58 percent of registered voters supported while 35 percent were opposed.
• Among black voters, 70 percent supported while 25 percent objected.
• Among Latinos, 81 percent supported while only 17 percent were opposed.
• Whites were in favor, 51 percent to 40 percent.
• 53 person of voters in union households supported while 40 percent opposed (despite Amazon’s history of being unfriendly to unions)
Applying those numbers to AOC’s own district, where fully half of the population is of Hispanic or Latino heritage (making it one of the more Latino districts in New York), and noting that the Latino community in New York City was, by far, the largest supporter of the deal, how does one rationally avoid asking, “What gives?”
Making this all the more confusing is recognizing that objection to government subsidies provided to stoke job growth is typically the province of American conservatives, not avowed Democratic Socialists.
While I appreciate the presence of Rep. Ocasio-Cortez in the House of Representatives as I believe she brings a point of view to the debate which represents a segment of the American populace who must be heard, I also think that Members of Congress should not act against the interests of their constituents because of their overriding anger at any particular person or entity-including a corporate entity.
Is that not precisely the behavior of President Trump that so frequently upsets so many of us?
While AOC no doubt bolstered her national profile as a champion of the put-upon and the enemy of the rich who get ahead through crony-capitalism and taking advantage of working class Americans, all important fights that I believe need to be fought, she did so at the expense of the many people she represents that would have benefitted from this deal.
That is not okay.
If AOC wants to fight the battle against the practices of corporations like Amazon who serve to greatly enrich the owners and management at the expense of their workers, I support her 100 percent.
But you fight that battle by raising the question, forcing the debate and introducing legislation that ends tax laws that permit a company like Amazon to actually pocket $129 million when they file their tax return, never having to pay a penny to the federal government. Fighting and winning that fight will inure to the benefit of the people AOC is charged to represent.
If AOC wants to fight the battle against corporations like Amazon, introduce legislation that requires them to meet federal safety regulations that adequately protect those who work at the company from being unfairly treated. Fighting and winning that fight will inure to the benefit of the people AOC is charged to represent.
And if AOC wants to fight this battle, introduce legislation that improves the condition of the American worker when it comes to getting that fair day’s pay and benefits for their labor. That too will inure to the benefit of the people AOC is charged to represent.
Killing off deals that would serve to better the lives of people in one’s Congressional district is not the way to benefit the lives of people she represents. Killing off deals that would ultimately bring in lots of money to her home town so that it can be put to good use helping those who need help is not the way to benefit the lives of the people she represents.
Talking positions against the interests of constituents because of anger and pique-even when that anger is righteous-is not exercising good judgment to the benefit of working class Americans.
Life is about priorities and choices and knowing when to press and when to lay off.
The interests of working class Americans are furthered when the people they elect and count upon to fight their fights keep that in mind.
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