Amazon shocked the Big Apple yesterday by announcing that it was cancelling plans for a corporate “campus,” aka.headquarters, in Queens. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio had promoted the deal, which would have given Amazon $3 billion in tax breaks in exchange for bringing Big Tech to the city and creating an estimated 25,000 jobs, among other benefits. Anti-corporate and neighborhood activists, however, including elected officials like Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, led opposition to the arrangement, based substantially on the objection to “corporate welfare” to one of the richest companies on Earth. Now Democrats are pointing fingers at each other, and everyone’s mad at Amazon.
At its core, this fiasco is an ethics conflict, with the absolutist ideals of rigid ideology opposing the ethics of the real world.
Amazon: The company is both popular and flush. It can literally take its business anywhere, and many communities will pay for the privilege. The company did nothing unethical in seeking the most advantageous deal it could get. Large employers help a community’s economy. Because they have many choices, it makes sense for them to shop around. It is not unethical to ask for a tax break to choose a city like New York, and it is not even unethical to demand such a break. It is certainly not unethical to accept one, and similarly, not unethical to reject such a deal because, as an Amazon spokesperson said yesterday, “Looking at the opposition and the timeline we decided we don’t want to work in this environment in the long term.” Amazon “became increasingly concerned that the backlash in New York showed no sign of abating and was tarnishing its image beyond the city,” J. David Goodman wrote in the New York Times.
It’s their money, their business, their decision. Amazon is not a public charity, nor is it obligated to behave like one.
New York: Nor is there anything unethical about cities and states offering tax breaks and deals to bring business, tax revenue and jobs into their communities. It had been estimated that Amazon would ultimately create almost 30 billion in additional revenue, a nice pay-off for just 3 billion dollars of investment by New York.
The Opposition: The opposition was based on pure anti-corporate ideology posed in the most infantile and realism-free manner, just desserts, perhaps, for a state that has pandered to socialists and a city with a mayor who is one. The anti-Amazon message was as simple as, and simple-minded as, this: It is immoral to give money to rich people and rich corporations. The money should be given to poor people instead. Financial writer Andrew Sorkin tweeted,
“There is a financial literacy epidemic in America. Quick lesson: NYC wasn’t handing cash to Amazon. It was an incentive program based on job creation, producing tax revenue. There isn’t a $3 billion pile of money that can now be spent on subways or education.”
Correct, correct, correct, and correct.
The Left’s conduct in opposing the deal was irresponsible and based on absolutist ethical theory over utilitarianism. But governing is always utilitarian, as is business. This is why ideologies like socialism destroy both.
Tyranny of the minority. An overwhelming majority of New Yorkers wanted Amazon, but a vocal minority was able to drive them away. This is why terrorism works; it is why extremists get their way; it is why democracy doesn’t work better than it does. The only course for the majority is to punish the minority that uses threats and slogans to defeat democracy. That means punishing their leaders, like Ocasio-Cortez and outrageous demagogue Elizabeth Warren, who said, “One of the wealthiest companies on the planet – just walked away from billions in taxpayer bribes, all because some elected officials in New York aren’t sucking up to them enough. How long will we allow giant corporations to hold our democracy hostage?”
I’d like to know how long substantial numbers of the public will continue to be conned by Warren who, unlike Ocasio-Cortez, knows she is spouting dishonest nonsense designed for idiots. What does her statement even mean? Is Amazon good to walk away from taxpayer “bribes,” or bad? Are the officials right to refuse to suck up “enough,” or wrong? This is a Harvard Law professor who is falsely, and she knows it’s a lie, calling it a bribe when a city offers financial benefits in exchange for benefits to its citizens, and the offers are transparent and legal.
God she’s terrible!
Corporate spine. Yes, I suppose this is another example of a corporation choosing to avoid conflict rather than to stand for principle and prevent creating a damaging precedent. But the criticism of Amazon for simply leaving one battlefield for a more peaceful environment shows the growing irrational anti-corporate bias in the country. The company “sought billions of dollars in tax incentives it didn’t need,” wrote one Times analyst, suggesting that Amazon should have happily opened shop in New York for nothing more than a laurel and hardy handshake. It is not Amazon’s ethical or civic responsibility to invigorate a community’s economy while seeking nothing in return. In fact, the opposite is true. Being pro business doesn’t and mustn’t require accepting corporate wrongdoing, but communities that allow a hostile business atmosphere and anti-capitalist demagogues to drive companies away deserve what they get. Why should Amazon stay and fight, when more welcoming territory beckons?