The search was largely a success for CEO Jeff Bezos, who can use valuable data from the losing cities to inform Amazon’s business and future expansion. But in at least one respect, Amazon’s Hunger Games-style civic competition backfired: It’s shined a spotlight on how Amazon and companies like it have benefitted enormously from taxpayer funds.
Each year, local politicians spend up to an estimated $90 billion to lure corporations like Amazon to their states, which The Atlantic points out is “more than the federal government spends on housing, education, or infrastructure.” Most companies broker these deals in private.
In the end, Amazon says it will collectively receive $2.2 billion from the three cities where it plans to open offices. In an unusual move, the company disclosed that figure in its own press release. Information about incentives typically comes from government, not the corporations awarded the funds. Others have noted that Amazon might also benefit from existing tax credits, like a New York City program worth up to an additional $900 million, which were not part of the deal.
Over the course of Amazon’s year-long pursuit of new offices, researchers and journalists intensified their examination of not just the money Amazon might receive, but also what it has collected already. The company regularly receives public incentives to open facilities like warehouses and data centers, which Good Jobs First estimates have totaled $1.6 billion. An investigation from the nonprofit New Food Economy found that some Amazon warehouse workers are paid so little that they often qualify for another type of public benefit: food stamps. In some cases, taxpayers may even be subsidizing Amazon’s electricity costs, according to a Bloomberg report from August.
(click here to continue reading Why Amazon’s HQ2 Search Backfired | WIRED.)
Corporate welfare is certainly a drag on the US economy, but I’m not so sanguine as to think it will end anytime soon. Sad. I would guess that the $90 billion number cited above is a bit low.
Not to mention that $3,100,000,000 is a lot of money for a government to shower on to a rich, successful corporation like Amazon. Money that won’t be spent to improve roads, infrastructure, help with college debt, pay salary of teachers, police, EMT, etc. A lot of taxpayer money thrown at Jeff Bezos so he can have a helipad…
I’m so glad Amazon didn’t choose my city.