Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has a net worth of $105 billion and is the richest man in the world. But he is not just the richest man at this moment in history. He is the richest person who has ever lived. As of 2017 he and seven other billionaires had a collective net worth equal to that of the poorest 3.6 billion people on earth.
These figures have been in the news of late but without much useful analysis. The corporate media refuse to state what is obvious. Namely that inequality is worse around the world precisely because these super rich people demand it.
While pundits and politicians go on breathlessly about oligarchs in Russia, they seldom take a look at the wealthiest in their own backyard and the control they exert over the lives of millions of people. When Amazon announced it would choose a site for its new headquarters, cities across the country began a furious race to the bottom. Amazon is not alone in the thievery department. Major corporations like Walmart always request and receive public property and public funds in order to do business.
Some 235 cities have put themselves in the running for this dubious venture. Chicago is willing to give Amazon $1.3 billion in payroll taxes that prospective employees would ordinarily pay that city. If Chicago wins this booby prize, Amazon employees would pay taxes to their employer and not to the government. This is truly cutting out the middle man and makes real the rule of, by, and for the wealthiest.
The potential for public outrage isn’t lost on unprincipled politicians. Some cities now refuse to reveal how much they plan to give away. But the news to date is disheartening with Boston offering $75 million while Houston is willing to part with $268 million. Amazon says it will hire 50,000 people but their business model already pays employees so little that many of them qualify for public assistance, despite being employed.
The United States is as much of an oligarchy as countries it usually disparages but it is far more dishonest about its true nature. All talk of democracy is a lie as the rich get richer, by an additional $1 trillion in 2017, and wield more and more power over the lives of everyone else.
The Bezos juggernaut is not restricted to theft of public money. He is also the sole owner of the Washington Post, one of the most influential newspapers in the country. Bezos owns a newspaper that is an organ of the ruling elite and he also has a $600 million contract to provide the Central Intelligence Agency with cloud computing services.
The Washington Post was the force behind Propaganda or Not, an effort to destroy left wing voices like those at Black Agenda Report. Under the guise of fighting Russia and so-called fake news, the Bezos owned Post began the censorship campaign that has put the left’s presence on the Internet in such jeopardy.
Politicians outdo one another giving away public resources to the richest man on the planet who also owns a major newspaper and services the surveillance state. If it can be said that any one person rules the world, Bezos would be obvious choice. No one in Chicago, Boston, Houston or any of the other cities giving away the store ever voted for Jeff Bezos. All talk of democracy is a sham as long as the richest people take from the rest of humanity.
The effort to make government an irrelevance is thoroughly bipartisan. Republicans and Democrats alike are willing to turn over government coffers to Bezos and his ilk and the rights of the people be damned.
Whoever wins this tarnished brass ring ought to be consigned to political defeat. The mayor, aldermen, city council members or whoever else brings disaster to their locality should be punished for aiding and abetting the theft. If these cities can give to the richest man who ever lived, they can surely use public money to help their residents right now. But they will never do that because they are all bought off and compromised. They are either cynical or afraid to go against the real rulers of the country.
Bezos may look like the villain in a James Bond movie but there is nothing funny about him. He is deadly serious and so are his intentions. In a Bezos run world, every worker will be impoverished, every level of government will subsidize corporations, and anyone who speaks out will be discredited and under surveillance.
The last thing any city needs is a new Amazon headquarters. We need an end to billionaire rule in this country and around the world. That will be the salvation of the people, not more sweatshops run by wealthy people who steal from everyone else.
Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as at freedomrider.blogspot.com. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.