The decision by Amazon to stop pursuing $3 billion in financial incentives from New York to locate it’s “HQ2” in the state was one of most startling corporate about-faces in recent memory, and biggest shows of grassroots power over a massive corporation, a plethora of industry lobbyists and government officials.
Why did it come to this? In short, people are mad as hell and they aren’t going to take it any more.
As a society, we are at an inflection point when it comes to both corporate welfare and monopoly power. Decades of the race to the bottom and corporate subsidies failing to deliver well-paying jobs — just look at the failed FoxxConn deal in Wisconsin or the constant shuffle of low-wage temp jobs in Ellwood, Ill. — have made the typical promises of a corporate welfare deal feel less real. The sheer scope of the Amazon incentive package felt abusive and obscene, especially when the state is facing a $2.3 billion budget shortfall.
Mom and pop shops paying taxes while Amazon got billions just to come to town didn’t seem right, and, post-FoxxConn, people are less likely to fall for the promised jobs numbers. Corporate welfare is finally getting the black eye it always deserved.
Meanwhile, the outsized subsidies offered without New Yorkers’ knowledge or input put Amazon into a situation in which they were suddenly getting daily scrutiny not just into the deal, but into all their business practices. People who never heard that Amazon pursued a contract with ICE for facial recognition software were suddenly hearing about it at work. Workers who use Amazon Prime, but hadn’t realized how anti-union Amazon is suddenly didn’t like what they were hearing. And millions of people who never heard the word monopolies before were suddenly hearing about how Amazon abuses and squeezes its sellers, because the sellers feel have few other options than to use Amazon’s service, or that it takes their customers’ ideas to compete against them. This once much-loved company (last year, it was one of the most loved companies by Democrats) was suddenly being revealed for what it was.