BAILEY T. STEEN | SATURDAY, APRIL 7, 2018
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP has waged a war of words against Amazon, the multi-billion dollar retail-tech corporation whose CEO happens to also own the scandal-ridden national newspaper The Washington Post.
Through a series of unexpected tweets, the president unleashed a critical tirade against the company that resulted in plummeting stocks and some brief economic turmoil — before the West Wing finally calmed down and the company price rebounded the following Tuesday.
As Vanity Fair put it, the whole affair seemed rather fitting for a former reality TV star the likes of Trump, known for controversy and conflict. Every main character has their supporting cast, which span from trusted son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner to the supposed voice-of-reason in White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. And they have their villain — taking the form of neoliberal media mogul and tax-dodging Amazon founder Jeff Bezos — who the president is justified in criticising.
What’s The President’s Case?
On March 29th, a tweet was published by the president accusing the corporation of “putting many thousands of retailers out of business.”
Shortly, on March 31st, the president published a chain of tweets blasting the tech giant for reasons he believes they undermine American prosperity:
We can break these down into three concrete accusations:
1. Amazon Avoid Paying Their Taxes:
Remember how we warned you to hold back on the tax cut celebrations? Well, perhaps Trump should have heeded our warning as well. While this may give the president the appearance of a Bernie Sanders figure, railing against the millionaires and billionaires, it was the GOP tax bill that slashed corporate taxes for mega-corporations like Amazon from 35% to 21%, leaving in all the loopholes he swore to close, giving fellow business folk everything they wanted because it’s /their guy/ taking the reigns of office. The same applies to the Trump motto of deregulation, which can be better framed as being lax on employee protections, that hurt workers as Amazon who are expected to pee in bottles just to keep schedule — while saying at his inauguration that quote “the forgotten man will never be forgotten again”.
According to Vox, current laws dictate that a state can only serve internet retailers a sales tax if that retailer maintains some form of physical store or manufacturing presence within their state lines. If you’re just a standard retail store, you can’t exactly compete with some entity in cyberspace and postal delivery who are closer to the libertarian dream. Even corporate media like The New York Times show evidence that, since the company’s vast expansion of warehouses over the years, the company does pay their sales taxes in every state that has a sales tax — meaning states who don’t have a sales tax are the ones really missing out on that Amazon money.
What’s the catch, however?
Amazon love loopholes — and who doesn’t under capitalism?
While corporate media call it a day that NYT factoid, they neglect that Amazon exploit third-party marketplaces where, should Amazon shoppers go through online companies where they don’t have a store in the state, Amazon essentially sell their products and both parties reap all the rewards — leaving the state and local governments closer to deficits. This gives Trump a little more credence to his tax criticisms, even if he helped perpetuate the problem in the first place.
2. The U.S. Postal Service Is Getting Screwed:
This has been the president’s most frequent line of attack against Amazon and Bezos — mostly because he’s not a hypocrite on this issue.
Scan over the likes of Snopes or Politfact and they dismiss the president’s comments quite solidly — despite the postal service’s increasing accounting losses since 2011. Since last November, it’s believed the postal service resulted in a a net loss of $2.7 billion, which is easily a fortune loss compared to previous years. Fox Business estimates that’s more than a $63 billion loss since 2007.
But is this simply a case of “fuck you, Amazon”?
Well, delivering so many Amazon packages does make the service money, with packages accounting for $2.1 billion increase in revenue seen by the USPS. First-class mail, however, which generate much of the USPS’s profit, is on the decline with the rise of the tech industry that will undoubtedly be surpassed by drones that work for the Amazon company and the like themselves. At this rate, Trump seems to be trying to make the best out of a future automation eventuality — suggesting the USPS could charge Amazon more to secure these demands that could easily be outcompeted by the likes of FedEx who cost cheaper, deliver faster and will probably play ball with Bezos.
It’s simple free market economics — and the post office just isn’t competitive.
3. Bezos and The Deep State Post:
While it may be simple fun to see the president attack newspaper rags, particularly ones that have continually misrepresent the Russia scandals and helped facilitate the 2003 Iraq invasion, we can ignore the sad fate that has befallen the Washington Post — owned by the highest billionaire in the land with a vested interest in protecting his overblown corporate baby, Amazon.
After all, how can we trust a news organisation owned by a man with a pending multi-billion dollar Amazon-Pentagon contract to give you the straight dope on Amazon, The Pentagon and their boss? Of course, the Post deny that Bezos has any part in newsroom decisions, but how do they explain the punishment of Fredrick Kunkle? According to The Huffington Post, a decidedly left-wing publication, Kunkle is a freelance writer who writes for Metro, HuffPost and the Bezos owned Washington Post. Of course, Kunkle can never question dear leader in his own paper, so he published a HuffPo op-ed critical of “one of the wealthiest men in the world… thinking of ways to give back” who he later says is “still taking from the very people who helped him build his fortune.” The article, published September 1st, highlighted the many ways the billionaire tried to pinch every nickel and dime out from the newspaper’s union, where Kunkle was the co-chair with insider knowledge.
What happened to Kunkle? While the Amazon mobsters didn’t brake his legs, the Post issues a strongly worded disciplinary letter alleging that, through his Huffington Post op-ed, a paper that Bezos has no ownership of, Kunkle had somehow committed an “egregious violation of the Post’s ethics policy on freelancing” — before the Washington-Baltimore News Guild filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board, accusing the Bezos owned newspaper of violating the man’s first amendment right and his protected right to engage in “concerted activities” to further the union’s interests.
This simple case highlights the Amazonian nature Bezos has waged upon the Post, expecting his reporters to either play ball or punish writers for the work they do across other newspapers they’re free to associate with. It does ring like political lobbying, which gives the president unfortunate credence to his tired use of “fake news” Sources for Vanity Fair say the president has “no respect” for a paper he alleges is on the level of The National Enquirer, telling journalists: “When Bezos says he has no involvement, Trump doesn’t believe him. His experience is with the David Peckers of the world. Whether it’s right or wrong, he knows it can be done.”
With all these claims in the proper context, we must ask ourselves this:
Will Trump Actually Do Anything?
To steal the Twitter bio of right-wing commentator Dave Rubin, “Twitter is not real life”. Given that the company has continually stored money overseas through the Orwellian sounding “tax havens” and loopholes that could have been driven out in a revised GOP tax bill, the president simply talks of cold war with Amazon without any political missiles fired.
With the frequent reports of the mistreatment of warehouse workers, no word on whether Trump will pull Amazon’s Pentagon contract, with the country facing millions in tariffs in a pending trade war with China, I wouldn’t hold my breath on the man using his big red button to end the deal anytime soon.
Thanks for reading!
Bailey T. Steen is a journalist, editor, artist and film critic based in Victoria, Australia, but is also Putin’s Puppet™ on occasion.
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