Editor’s Note: as I mentioned during my last few articles, I’m still desperately trying to catch up on several essays about the ongoing “Russiagate” scandal and as a result, I’ve been working on a number of shorter pieces about current events to effectively “bank” the time I need to wrap up those longer efforts.
Unfortunately, I began tossing this article around in my head almost immediately after Black Friday sent Amazon’s stock soaring and it’s taken me quite a while to get around to finishing it; in the meantime various reactionary conservative media figures have launched attacks on Jeff Bezos and the Washington Post in apparent retaliation for the paper’s work exposing Roy Moore as a child molester and James O’Keefe as an assclown fraud. Please let me emphatically state that this article is not related in any way to the Post’s coverage of Roy Moore; as you’ll see below, I have a lot of problems with Jeff Bezos as a politically influential figure in America but the fact that he doesn’t like swine emperor Trump very much certainly isn’t one of them.
In today’s Brief Thought, we’ll take a quick look at how Amazon carnivore-in-chief Jeff Bezos became the richest man in the world by exploiting American labor, plundering the retail economy and fundamentally altering local politics everywhere his company goes, or even considers going. How much political influence is too much influence for a man who has never run for any public office and answers to absolutely no one?
Note: if you’re having trouble reading the above info-graphic, just right click on it and select “view this image” to pop out a larger version; the image should be ideal for sharing on forums and message boards but sometimes the text gets shrunk down a little more than I consider ideal here on this website.
Ultimately, the key to understanding the dangerous rise of Jeff Bezos to the status of “apex predator” in American (and indeed, world) politics is understanding the ruthless, seemingly unstoppable rise of Amazon to the same position in retail economics. Bezos brutalized workers to create a competitive market advantage for Amazon, which in turn made the company very wealthy; while plundering market share from competitors who treated their workers more humanely. As the company captured more and more of the market, Bezos was able to leverage Amazon’s economic influence in the political sphere to generate even greater competitive advantages by affecting government policy in the corporation’s favor. In recent years and as Amazon has grown into the behemoth it now is today, Bezos has turned his sights towards national politics; buying the preeminent political newspaper in the country and entering into a $600M business partnership with the CIA. While some might be tempted to call it good fortune, the truth is Jeff Bezos has never made even the slightest attempt to hide his intentions; as far back as 1999 he was articulating a vision for Amazon that would forge the company into an economic force that would literally change the world.
This change however, has not come without a price. Like a swarm of locusts, Amazon and Bezos have grown powerful by consuming everything in their path; leaving behind empty, dysfunctional husks where workers, competitors and even entire towns used to thrive. Many communities have been seduced into suicide by the offer of new jobs only to discovered that Bezos was simply returning jobs he’d already taken away as Amazon cannibalized other retailers, and at lower pay. From corporate welfare, to wage theft to crushing even potential competitors into submission, at every step of the way Bezos has done whatever it takes, no matter how morally questionable, to make Amazon (and thus himself) more powerful and more competitive.
Now, Bezos and Amazon have grown so powerful that they can openly force hundreds of municipalities to publicly dance like puppets on a string for the right to bribe Lord Bezos to build a second Amazon headquarters in their city; even as it becomes increasingly clear that this would almost certainly be a losing proposition for local taxpayers. What does it say about the state of both capitalism and democracy in America when major metropolitan areas like Chicago and Boston are volunteering to essentially let Amazon collect taxes from their own employees and to all but “gift” city employees to the company? Is it really necessary to call this “neo-feudalism” when just plain old feudalism would suffice? And what of the richest man on earth’s own politics and long term aspirations? Shouldn’t we be worried when a guy who practically owns his own online country and who has done absolutely nothing except act in his own interests time and time again, starts working with the Central Intelligence Agency on cloud data storage? What about when the national paper owned by Jeff Bezos does something that clearly benefits the CIA and clearly does not benefit the American public; is it time to worry then?
Of course, the simple truth is that Jeff Bezos isn’t the only billionaire to marry economic clout, political power and an in-pocket media brand together as a tool to subvert democracy, but when you’re the fattest carnivore sitting on the largest goddamn pile of gold, you tend to draw a little more attention than other, lesser “Vaders.” It’s well past time for reasonable people to take a long, hard look at the damage Bezos and Amazon have done to workers rights, democracy and the American tax base. It’s time to end corporate welfare for giant mega-firms that simply do not need our tax dollars. It’s time to start talking about the wages, jobs and protections lost to Amazon, instead of only focusing on the low-paying McJobs heartless corporations use to hold our municipalities hostage (while they leverage our labor rights against our need to eat.) It’s time for the proletariat to remind Jeff Bezos that supporting same-sex marriage and preferring millionaire Democrats who hate poor people over bigoted Republicans who hate visible minorities, isn’t a life-time pass to live out your billionaire libertarian power fantasies at the expense of the common people.
- Nina Illingworth