I am a capitalist, though some have been changing the meaning of the word. I believe in free enterprise and a free market. The economy that performs best is the economy in which the government does not intervene but instead lets the market, and indeed the people do what people do best. A free market means the government doesn’t pick winners and loser.
In that vein, I am diametrically opposed to corporate tax subsidies and other forms of government interference. In light of Three Mile Island facing a shutdown the state government here in PA has responded by implementing subsidization in the form of forcing energy suppliers to purchase nuclear energy, a measure that would not be necessary if the government weren’t ironically subsidizing its competition and crushing industries with overregulation.
Now we hear that Amazon is busy making a decision on where to set up its new headquarters. The lucky city is likely to receive tremendous economic benefits from the company setting up shop. The benefits are bounteous and range from increased tax revenue and of course the creation of an estimated 50,000 jobs. One NYC official remarked that this was the largest economic and job-creating opportunity the city had seen and would see in years. Because of this, I suppose, Jeff Bezos seems to believe that Amazon deserves something in return.
After receiving substantial tax breaks from the city in return for setting up shop, it drew criticism from some for the inequality. Perhaps one of the most notable politicians to speak out was none other than the rising star Democrat, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Due to her sharp criticisms, Amazon announced that it would be pulling out.
The question is, is she wrong? Many on my side of the political spectrum on economics are hesitant to agree with her on anything for obvious reasons. She is big government all the way. Many of her proposals are radical, unrealistic. and I believe will do great harm. However, that doesn’t mean she is wrong about everything. Such thinking is ad hominem fallacy. On this she is right, but it’s not just Amazon. Businesses and indeed entire industries have been doing it for years. In Donald Trump’s book, the Art of the Deal, he does it all the time as real estate developer. Heck, he flaunts it. That doesn’t make it right.
If a business is successful it should be because they are competitive, innovative, and provide high-quality service to their customers, not because they are propped up by a corrupt government where political favors control the markets. Amazon has all of these things, everything it takes to be competitive and successful. There is no need to take cheap shortcuts and garner corrupt tax favors. Not only is this wrong, but I submit to you that it is not allowed under the constitution.
In what is commonly known as the “equal protection clause” the 14th Amendment states:
“Nor shall any state deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
In other words, you don’t get to make one set of laws for one group or one person and another set of laws for another group or person. Businesses are required by law to pay taxes, and they are required by law to pay certain rates. If one business is required to pay a certain tax rate all businesses are required to do so. No double standards.
Jeff Bezos and Amazon should not, and do not need to resort to these kinds of tactics. They should stand on their own merit as a competitive, innovative, and efficiently-operating company. If they want to set up in New York it should be because New York is a good place to do business. Amazon is wrong to extort the people of New York City, and I don’t say this often, but Alexandria Ocasio-Cortex is right to call them out on it.