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Amazon Battles Seattle—and Loses


Amazon Battles Seattle—and Loses

Sonali Kolhatkar
Sen. Bernie Sanders excoriated Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos in a damning video tweet this week that zeroed in on Bezos’ personal wealth and his company’s unfair economic advantages.


D-Party apologists, here’s your chance: Tell us how kissing corporate ass is the most important thing your party can do.


What would help poor people in Seattle and Washington State in general would be for the state to adopt a steeply graduated income tax with low income exemptions to replace its obscene sales tax (9.6% in Seattle). Washington is rated having the most unjust regressive tax system in the US due to its reliance on high sales taxes.

But regarding Amazon, the way my city an others are groveling and giving the city away to Amazon then Amazon stands to win big-big-big - and the city’s residents lose big time - wherever they decide to locate their “Headquarters 2.0”. If Amazon comes to Pittsburgh, it’s all over for its livability and especially its culture and ethnic traditions, as these rich, highly transient, plastic tech-geeks turn Pittsburgh into the equivalent of a huge, cultureless upscale extended stay hotel for The Rich only.

Maybe I’ll have to move to Steubenville. Eh, Justaman?

Amazon can go to hell.


I guess Seattle won’t have to put up with Amazon for much longer. That headquarter #2. It was always a corporate change of address. Everybody is kinda in denial about it tho.


yay Seattle!


A few remarks.
The people won in Detroit too. What has happened to the world-beating industries once located in Detroit, and what has happened to the people and their neighborhoods in Detroit? (Just curious: What has happened to Windsor Ontario across the river from Detroit?)

By the deliberate parallel drawn to Wal-Mart, it is worth asking advocates like Ms. Sawant, and ourselves, do you want Wal-Mart and Amazon to not-exist? An economy of mom-and-pop retail stores, and a smaller selection of goods, harder to find the goods you want, and higher prices?

Public $400 million. Elsewhere I have seen skepticism that government, with that or any other amount of money, can solve the housing problem. As one example from a few years ago, San Francisco spent a lot of money to build pitifully few “affordable” units, and by a rigged lottery those units went to friends of the mayor and councilmembers.

About gentrification. The less often seen flip side: More than a year ago I saw a news piece out of Silicon Valley. An engineer, let’s arbitrarily call him a Google Engineer, was paying a high amount that I forget, let’s arbitrarily say $1500/month, for a closet. He wanted a closet for privacy. He had housemates who were paying to sleep in bunk beds in the adjoining bedroom. A more recent article said that it is the landlords who are making out on the economic arrangement. (Rent control won’t change the crowding of engineers into bedrooms like that.) An even more recent article says that Amazon uses & exploits its software engineers, either for several months until it dismisses them, or until the engineers wise up, quit and use their experience to get better jobs with someone else. Out of that, I do not seek work in Bay Area California. Let the people there have it and its aggravations. And I’ve flunked Amazon’s qualifying test. Though it is a pity to be so judged, it is just as well, I guess, to not work for them.


Under rent control landlords can’t charge more than $7 a month for a closet. Besides Bay Area engineers aren’t into closets anymore. While money is not always well spent on certain housing projects certainly no housing will be built without money.


I found the article,

Separate current Google hits reminded me of a story told to me 8 years ago, that some engineers in the Bay Area sleep in their cars and wash up in gyms. The more current hits concerned a Google engineer who owns a box truck, parks it in the Google parking lot for $500+/month and lives in, and out of, that.

The problem is heavily influenced by growth-control thought: That if you don’t build housing, and attack that sort of job-creators, then people won’t come. It looks like, instead of Google and Facebook, the Bay Area needs work that will employ the unemployed already living there. Same statements about Seattle. They don’t need the influx of people attracted by Amazon. They don’t need or want more people. Instead they want employers who will employ the unemployed that the area already has.

The same regarding homelessness: Wall Street Journal Weekend May 12,13 2018 page A11 ‘Why California Leaves Its Homeless Out in the Sun’ Big text = “Residents don’t like encampments, but neither do they want shelters built in their backyards.”

Oh, well. I don’t live there. I spectate and watch how the people there solve (props!) or don’t solve their problems. And they sure have a big one right now.

More generally, you’all might like the book 'The Other Path’by Hernando de Soto, about the failure of the government to provide in Lima Peru, and what the people have done instead to provide for themselves.


Kolhatkar seems not so up-to-date on events: Amazon, Starbucks, Vulcan and other “businesses have pledged more than $350,000 - so far - to support ‘No Tax on Jobs’” (the misleading name of the campaign as it is a tax on corporations not workers, employees) to place a referendum on the ballot to repeal the brand spanking new law.


The housing problem is/was caused by government. Homelessness is a direct result of “public” policy. It started under Reagan when he slashed the HUD bugdet by 2/3 and de-institutionalized thousands of previously housed mental patients. Funding for public housing and public health has continued to be reduced over subsequent Republican and Democratic administrations and brought us to crisis levels that have been ongoing for decades. Meanwhile big coporations who used to pay much more in taxes, now pay little, nothing or are often subsidized by local and state taxpayers.


You should have cited a source.
Here is information, from differing sources.

Figure 3.11, which I can’t copy / paste from. The figure shows budget of $12.7 billion in 1980, $20.2 billion in 1990, and increasing values for the subsequent rows.

which again I can’t copy / paste from. Typed “1979 to 1983: HUD budget authority shrank from $83 billion to little more than $18 billion (in 2004 constant dollars) and shelters opened throughout the United States.”
Note that the first source gave the 2005 HUD budget as $42.5 billion.

I salute the statement for 2008 that the homeowner tax break ‘costs’ the US Treasury $144 billion, with 75% benefiting homeowners who earn more than $100,000/year.

Many people like to blame Reagan for

That predates him, and much of it can be traced to legal victories won by the ACLU that the mentally ill can’t be confined against their will. Following that advocates wanted group homes and community mental health provision. Instead the states gave up on servicing the issue.

But see, from recently,
Wall Street Journal Weekend 5-19,20-2018 page C3 ‘Bring Back the Asylum / A new generation of institutions would help reduce the vast numbers of mentally ill adults in jails and prisons’ Big text “37% of all prison inmates are mentally ill.”

Nice sentiment. … Although, in ‘bell the cat’ terms, who would have been willing to lock up Nikolas Cruz (Parkland FL) in a mental hospital or given him a legal system record before his shooting up a high school required it of the authorities?


Thanks for doing the homework. It seems to me that you largely confirm what I said in my brief comment. Yes, I was aware that de-institutionalization started before Reagan was elected president. (He pushed it as governor of California…) Yet Reagan federalized de-institutionalization, so in many cities, across the country the problems started with his policies. I remember: In Seattle there was not really a homeless problem in Seattle, by 1983, the problem was in your face, in the city, you couldn’t help but see it. And it’s only gotten worse since, that was 35 years ago… What we are talking about here is just another of the consequences of neoliberalism.


Kohatkar: “The tax, which was originally proposed as $500 per employee for
corporations making more than $20 million a year, was downgraded to $275
per employee when the vote finally took place.”

The author omits some important information. The reason the tax was cut almost in half was that the Mayor Jenny Durkan threatened a veto and crucially important is that Durkan received a $350k campaign contribution from Amazon. Durkan is Seattle’s Hillary Clinton, an Identity-politics corporate shill all the way. If anything, rather than a “victory”, the series of events around the “head Tax” law shows us what we are really up against. And moving on, with a lavishly funded referendum petition drive Big Business may get rid of the head tax altogether.

With these companies, they have such power, it’s not about the money - pocket change for them - it’s that they don’t want to be taxed at all.


You are welcome. Out of fairness I put up two contrasting statements, two sources. Given what I have seen so many times about Federal spending I am skeptical of claims, such as seen in the second source, WRAP at weap.org, that spending has been cut by so large a %.

I think the blame game, as far as the issue goes, is a waste of time. If Reagan did it, as blamed, he was not leading it. Liberals were opposed to institutions as they existed at the time, and they wanted those institutions ended. See 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey, made into a film. Going back further, Nellie Bly wrote against the institutions that existed in her day back in the late 19th century.

About solving the problem, and taking the restraints liberals put on themselves, they want to raise money to solve the problem. Will the problem get solved? Or will it become another sink of government fecklessness and waste?

Eight years ago Seattle opened a ‘wet house’, to house the homeless without a requirement that residents stay ‘clean’ to live there. What purpose are they trying to fill with that house? How is that working out?

Or is the purpose simply to impose higher taxes on big businesses?

When I first the news report about this my reaction was that Amazon, sited in a very liberal city and professing to be liberal itself, should have said “This is something that you should do. BTW, we will move operations, and the jobs to work them, to somewhere else. That should free up some housing space to solve the problem.”

I believe that a very progressive place like Seattle should have the authority to do all the liberal things they want, including authority to enact a progressive income tax that can, in total, go as high as 91% of a rich person’s income, etc.

As I’ve said, I am a spectator, and haven’t lived there in more than 7 years.