Congratulations to all the working people in New York City who defeated a $3 billion corporate handout to Amazon, showing that grassroots movements can win powerful victories against big business! Shoutout also to the Tax Amazon movement in Seattle, which despite the shameful betrayal of Democratic politicians in City Hall, showed that working people in cities across the country should get organized and build a united fightback!
Just today, it was also revealed that Amazon, the world’s fastest growing corporation led by the world’s richest billionaire CEO Jeff Bezos, didn’t pay a cent in federal taxes last year, just like it didn’t in 2017! Amazon nearly doubled its profits to an eye-popping $11.2 billion last year, from $5.6 billion in 2017. It’s the second year in a row the corporation completely dodged the 21% tax rate corporations are supposed to pay (which is already outrageously low thanks to Trump’s corporate tax cuts). In fact, Amazon reported a federal income tax rebate of $129 million, meaning their 2018 tax rate was negative 1%. In other words, our taxes as working people subsidized Amazon’s billionaires.
That’s on top of the fact that, under the most regressive tax structure in the entire country, Amazon has been free from any Washington state income tax. In fact, before the HQ2 announcement, Amazon had already received a staggering $1.61 billion in subsidies from state and local governments to build its empire.
Nowhere is the failure and rottenness of neoliberal, “trickle down” economics more apparent than right here in Amazon’s home city, Seattle. The world’s two richest billionaires live here in King County, yet Seattle’s homeless population is one of the highest per capita in the nation. The crisis gets worse every year, despite the fact Seattle has been the national leader in the number of construction cranes three years running. Seattle now has more unsheltered people than New York City, a city 12 times our size, while at the same time, nearly one in ten apartments sit vacant.
Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos makes enough money every day to pay all the back rent owed by every Seattle resident who faced eviction in 2017!
We can’t have a genuine conversation about building the society working families need without talking about taxing corporations and the rich. But we know that big business will spend big to defend their corporate handouts, and try to defeat our movement and kick me out - a councilmember who can’t be bought. In fact, Amazon alone spend an unbelievable $350,000 in 2017 to buy their mayor, Jenny Durkan, who then led the shameful charge to repeal the Amazon Tax last year that would have funded hundreds of affordable homes every year.
Over the last six years as your city councilmember, I’ve seen firsthand the corrosive effects of corporate power and lobbyists in the back rooms of City Hall. Never had this been more clear than last summer, when 7 of the 9 councilmembers caved to the pressure of massive corporations like Amazon, who opposed even the most modest tax to help address the affordable housing and homelessness crisis. Jeff Bezos threatened 7,000 construction jobs to try to defeat the Amazon Tax, then applied intensive backroom pressure to force its repeal a month after it was unanimously passed by the City Council.
Last year’s Tax Amazon struggle showed how far Amazon and big business are prepared to go when their lavish profits are under threat. We need more, not fewer, working-class representatives who will stand up to corporate bullying, and boldly use their position to fight alongside movements to tax corporations and the rich, even if that means making powerful enemies among Seattle’s billionaire elites.
We need to Tax Amazon and big business for a massive expansion of social housing - tens of thousands of units of social housing to bring down sky-high rents and provide a public alternative to the broken private market. Taxing big business will also allow for a Green New Deal in Seattle - a green public works program which can create thousands of family-wage union jobs for workers, expand public transit and make it free at the point of use and fully electric, and make Seattle a real leader on climate by becoming 100% renewable by 2030.