The world’s richest man just pulled a con job on several hundred US cities, which tells us a lot about the (mostly) Democrats that run these towns.
Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos is the richest man in the world. That means he is by definition the biggest thief in the world. He proved it by pulling off a reported $2.1 billion heist against the people of New York and Virginia who will subsidize two new Amazon regional offices. Critics claim the subsidy amount is closer to $4.6 billion .
But the man whose net worth is more than $120 billion didn’t have to twist any arms to get his hands on public money, regardless of the true amount of his haul. More than 200 localities entered a sweepstakes for chumps, competing with one another to offer up the fastest race to the bottom when only two of them were ever in the running. There is a sucker born every minute and they’re all in government.
It is no surprise that Bezos chose the capitals of governance and finance as the locations of his two new offices. Bezos is sole owner of the Washington Post, a move that put him in the driver seat of U.S. politics when he made the purchase in 2013. The Washington Postis also the vehicle for his Propaganda or Not project, which targeted Black Agenda Report and other outlets for 21stcentury McCarthyite censorship. Amazon also has a $600 million contract with the CIA and plays an integral role in the surveillance state.
New York City is the money capital and an obvious choice for hauling in more loot and he faced no obstacles doing it. Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio temporarily suspended their enmity in order to give a billionaire the keys to public coffers. Cuomo is a mean and petty putative Democrat who loves to make deals with Republicans. de Blasio is a phony liberal who came to office under the pretense of protecting the people from the billionaires he now assists so openly.
Cities from Toronto to Denver to Milwaukee threw their hats in the ring knowing that the winner would be a loser. They spent money and time making the case that their town was the one most worthy of being robbed.They gave Bezos proprietary information, told him their future plans for development and transportation and gave him valuable demographic information. The sad spectacle was akin to giving house keys to a burglar.
In New York, the highway robbery totals $1.7 billion in “incentives.” It equals $65,000 for every resident. Giving $65,000 to every person would be just and democratic and a true economic boon. But public officials no longer exist to help the public. They are the errand boys and girls for the billionaire rulers. Cuomo and de Blasio agreed to side step the New York City Council oversight ordinarily needed for projects of this type. But it should be pointed out that those legislators have likewise never met a rich man they didn’t like.
When sports teams want new arenas and stadiums in New York they get them without spending any of their own money. Other corporate interests threaten to move if they don’t get the giveaways they demand. City Council Members are probably relieved that they don’t have to go on record. Some will go through the motions of protest, but most have said nothing and hope that no one will ever ask them to comment.
Negotiations, such as they were, were kept secret. Neither residents of the nearby Queensbridge public housing development nor any other neighbors were consulted. The state presented rosy assumptions of 40,000 jobs but Amazon is only committed to providing 10,000. Most of the jobs will pay $150,000 per year, which means that well educated out of towers will be the employees. Wealth and income inequality will only be exacerbated.
Paradoxically, Cuomo’s thin-skinned defense of the deal reveals ugly truths. He is correct that the state of Maryland offered up $8 billion and Louisiana, always ranked among the poorest, was willing to give $6 billion, far more than New York. He also points out that corporations like the New York Times also survive on public subsidies.
The crime is multifaceted, with corporate welfare accelerating, and the inevitable lies to the public along with it. There is a bigger lie about the efficacy of these dubious dealings and how public dollars should be spent. These swindles are proof of a damaged democracy in which the people never get what they want.
The cities and states that groveled to Bezos can begin to make things right by revealing what they offered. The people should demand at least as much as that from the people they put into office. This particular con job can be a teachable moment and an opportunity to stop the pickpocket tactics of the 1%. Let this be the last time that a billionaire gets his way without effective opposition.
Margaret Kimberley is an Editor and Senior Columnist at Black Agenda Report.
Her Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere.