Amazon Extorting American Cities is Business as Usual

It’s uncertain where Amazon will land but politicians and media are eagerly placing bets.

They’re too busy to realize we’re all losers.

After Amazon announced its plan to build a new corporate headquarters in September, the online retailer has received more than 200 applications from cities across the United States. The allure of hosting Amazon is obvious. Besides the prestige of association with a powerhouse company, it promises an influx of young transplants and jobs.

Applicants are falling over themselves to lure Amazon. Newark, N.J. tempted the company with $7 billion in tax breaks. Incredibly, Chicago offered Amazon the $1.32 billion the city would receive from the company’s collective income taxes—basically an offer of direct wage theft.

While the media grades potential suitors, a simple fact gets lost in the shuffle. Amazon and its owner, Jeff Bezos, are extorting cities thirsty enough to let Amazon employees pay their bosses. But the extortion only works if cities are pitted against each other. If they worked together, they’d have the advantage.

There won’t be any articles outlining the sheer desperation of America’s cities or Amazon’s corporate greed. That’s just the price of doing business in America. Letting one of the largest companies in the world take control of your city’s infrastructure and finances is supposed to be an honor. Never mind that if all 238 proposing mayors banded together, they could force Amazon to choose the most realistic bid. Or that if the media—controlled by billionaires like Washington Post owner Bezos—framed Amazon’s “contest” as the extortion it really is, it might change some people’s minds.

Amazon got the bidding war it wanted. The company, like the rest of us, knows politicians run on value and jobs creation. That makes for cities willing to fork over an absurd bounty without any guarantee of return.

Business as usual.