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What Amazon Wants

Nigel Clarke

Driving through some 20-odd states, along 10,000 miles of open road, I listened to each local news radio station ask the same question—where is Amazon going to put their new headquarters?

It’s interesting to follow a story across different presenters, with each station prognosticating what their state might offer to ‘win’ the ostensible bidding process, envisioning what exactly it was that Amazon wanted.

Curiously, or perhaps not so much, each station failed to discuss why their state might not want Amazon to locate there — their exploitation and mistreatment of workers, their destruction of local businesses, their damage to the environment, their quest for monopoly, the billions of dollars of corporate welfare they receive and would be receiving which could be better spent elsewhere, and so on.

Regardless, the consensus was clear: Amazon was looking for more than money, something they already have quite a bit of, instead, examining other factors like available land, the expediency of the process, or, as some wishfully believed, an access to skilled workers.

There was, however, one factor not covered, likely the most important factor of all.

See, huge monopolistic companies like Amazon, of course, want to increase their profits, but what they want even more than that is to increase their power. For example: when Google, or Apple, or General Electric, or Verizon, or Boeing, don’t pay taxes, it not only means they take home more money, it also acts like a beacon to the rest of the world signalling the power they hold over the legislative and taxation system, power so great that they have, in effect, exempted themselves from these things.

A few weeks ago, Amazon chose New York as the location for their second headquarters, coincidentally, one of, if not the, most politically important states in the country, and, also crucially, one of the most purportedly liberal, with the deal being struck between Amazon, New York Governor and proclaimed liberal Andrew Cuomo, and New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio, a man so supposedly progressive that his opponents call him a socialist.

New York endeavored to give Amazon much of what was expected — billions of dollars in taxpayer money, prime land on the East River, construction and property tax subsidies, and so on.

However, New York did not necessarily offer as much of these things as some other states did; rather, the most important thing they gave Amazon, the thing the company really wanted, was the right to opt out of laws, to subvert the democratic process.

For the riverfront land on which the headquarters will be built, Amazon was given the right to bypass normal and legally mandated land-use review procedures; they were given land previously set aside for public housing; the process of negotiation itself excluded New York city council and state senate. Plus, they avoided any requirements to hire local, meaning all those jobs the deal is said to be creating is sort of a moot and irrelevant point for the people of New York … sorry ‘local talent’ advocates.

In other words, what finally swayed Amazon to a final decision, the ‘deal breaker,’ if you will, was not cash or land—they were going to get those things one way or another—it was control over the political and legal system of one of the most important states in the union.

Certainly, for the power-grubbing, domination of a state as influential as New York is better than say, North Dakota. On top of that, if a state as liberal as New York is willing to hand over the reigns, and even a so-called “socialist” is not going to try to stop Amazon’s hyper-capitalistic quest for world domination, then, who the heck is?

This is the point Amazon wanted to make with their choice, the point it appears they did make and are making.


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Written by Nigel Clarke

Writer and notorious vagabond. From the frozen north. Follow Nigel on Twitter @Nig_Clarke.

Nigel Clarke is a Writer for Progressive Army.

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What Amazon Wants