Ethics Observations On The Amazon-NYC Blow-Up

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. Continue reading

Note To Conservatives On The “Hamilton” Cast’s Harassment Of Mike Pence: I’ve Got This. You’re Not Helping.


The problem is that, as you might guess, Trump-supporting Republican and conservatives are as ethically clueless as the Democrats attacking them.

Now there is a backlash against the “Hamilton” actors who singled out an audience member (who happened to be the Vice-President Elect) for specific abuse last week, because, the theory goes, elected officials who a cast doesn’t like shouldn’t be able to attend live theater without entailing the risk of being harassed. Ethics Alarms has been very clear about why this is wrong in every way, and all rebuttals have boiled down to “But we don’t like Mike Pence or Donald Trump, so we should be able to suspend ethics!”

Keep telling yourselves that.

Now it has been discovered that some of the “Hamilton” grandstanders probably didn’t vote in the election, and the actor whose mouth was used to issue the lecture to Pence had himself authored some Trump-like misogynist  rhetoric in a tweet or two. This is supposed to prove hypocrisy, and undermine the legitimacy of the cast’s ambush.

It doesn’t do this, because the cast’s stunt had no legitimacy at all, votes or not, hypocrisy or not.

Is the whole Trump term going to be like this? I fear so, since the incoming President literally is bewildered by all concepts ethical, and his defenders appear to be similarly disabled.

Look: if it is per se unethical and wrong for a theatrical production to turn on audience members without consent or warning to humiliate, threaten or accost them, the qualifications of the cast members engaging in this harassment can’t make the unethical act more or less so. Continue reading

Integrity Failure: Rubio and Obama Show How Unserious Our Leaders Are About Taxes

“The Hopeless Dawn” by Frank Bramley (1888) This is what this story makes me feel like….

If you pay attention, and most American won’t, the evidence that our elected leaders are not serious about being consistent, responsible, or even governing competently is delivered every day in packages large and small. The most recent depressing example was the bi-partisan tag-team of Sen. Marco Rubio and President Obama backing tax-exempt status for medal-winners on the U.S. Olympic team.

Sen. Rubio concocted his Olympic Tax Elimination Act on the theory that “athletes representing our nation overseas in the Olympics shouldn’t have to worry about an extra tax bill waiting for them back at home.” This is spin and nonsense. There is no “extra tax bill,” any more than there is an “extra tax bill” when your boss gives you a bonus for job well done. It’s just a regular, old-fashioned,  tax bill for income, that’s all. Medal-winning Olympic athletes get bonus payments from the U.S. Olympic team. Is their income—that’s what it is, just income—-somehow less fair to tax than your income? No, of course not. Rubio’s  “representing our nation overseas” justification for special treatment is naked and offensive pandering. How about people who represent our nation here, in the United States? They don’t get to travel to London, all expenses paid, like the pampered athletes—why are they less deserving of a tax break? Or why isn’t Rubio arguing, then, that all federal employees who work abroad shouldn’t be taxed? What is his logic, exactly? Continue reading