Sunday, May 6, 2018

The New Robber Barons

Amazon has done more than any other company to contribute to Seattle's affordable housing crisis.  Now the city is coming to collect Amazon's share, and as a result Amazon is now openly threatening to leave its new downtown building unfinished and take 7,000 jobs elsewhere if Seattle makes the company pay a dime.

On Wednesday, Amazon announced the company would halt the construction of a new building in downtown Seattle it was planning to build, jeopardizing some 7,000 jobs.

Why? Because the company opposes a tax being considered by the City Council.

The tax targets 500-600 businesses in the city that gross at least $20 million a year. The companies would be charged a “head tax” at $500 per employee. In 2021, the head tax would be replaced by a 0.7 percent payroll tax. The payroll tax would windup costing Amazon more than the initial head tax, considering Seattle Amazon employees are paid about an average of $110,000 per year, according to data from job-reviews site Glassdoor.

“I can confirm that pending the outcome of the head-tax vote by City Council, Amazon has paused all construction planning on our Block 18 project in downtown Seattle and is evaluating options to sub-lease all space in our recently leased Rainer Square building,” a spokesperson for Amazon told The Seattle Times.

The city council is expected to vote on the tax on May 14.

The city estimates the tax would raise an estimated $75 million annually, with Amazon paying roughly $20 million in 2019 and 2020. One might think for a company that pulled in $1.6 billion last quarter, they could afford to help out the city of Seattle and its most vulnerable residents, especially considering the extent to which Amazon’s presence in the city has exacerbated the housing crisis there.

Since 2010, when Amazon opened its first headquarters in the South Lake Union area of Seattle, housing costs have skyrocketed.

The median cost of a single-family home has more than doubled to $820,000, and rents have increased 64 percent, according to the Seattle Times. The average two-bedroom home in Seattle costs more than $2,000 per month. Only a third of condominiums in Seattle are priced below $500,000.

Amazon is willing to wreck everything over $20 million a year, and why shouldn't it be this obnoxious when dozens of cities are willing to destroy their local economies just to get Amazon's second corporate HQ?

Here's an idea.

Maybe stop shopping at Amazon?  Maybe cancel your Prime subscription?  Maybe let them know they already have more money than Walmart or Target ever had and that that they're too big to be allowed to continue?

Just a thought here in the feudal tech era.

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