Amazon subsidies and sports stadium subsidies are each terrible in their own special way

If you didn’t already get enough links to read from today’s weekly news roundup, and didn’t hear enough of my thoughts on Amazon’s $4 billion payday as it compares to sports subsidies, I’ve elaborated on my thoughts at length in an article that just went up this morning at Deadspin. Some sample takeaways:

  • Jeff Bezos will be getting more public cash than any single sports venue, but at least he’ll be employing actual full-time workers, so the cost-per-job ratio won’t be as dismal as in sports deals (though it’s still probably pretty bad).
  • Just like we’ve seen in sports deals, here are tons of hidden costs to the Amazon agreements, from infrastructure slush funds paid for with public tax dollars to federal tax shelters set up by Donald Trump that will cover Amazon’s New York headquarters, even though they were supposed to be for impoverished areas and Long Island City is decidedly not.
  • As in many sports deals, Amazon’s subsidies will evade most public oversight (in New York, anyway), and were arguably unnecessary at this level given that the company, like sports teams, undoubtedly ended up locating in the market that it wanted to anyway.

Or if you want to skip to the ending: “The Amazon deal is ultimately another step in the legitimization of government by extortion, where the nation’s richest men can withhold ‘job creation’ as a condition of not having to pay taxes, or commute without a helicopter.” But go read the whole thing, it’s way more entertaining than the bullet-point summary above, or at least way more packed with pop-culture references.

6 comments on “Amazon subsidies and sports stadium subsidies are each terrible in their own special way

  1. What you are seeing with Amazon is an opposition to this deal BOTH from the Left and the Right. The question becomes will you see a Bill come out of Congress to curtail those tax breaks for the wealthy? Gut feeling is something will be passed next year.

    • As much as I’m surprised to see anything unite Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the New York Times editorial board, and the New York Post, I will be shocked if Congress comes up with any bills anytime soon. The last time they tried, it couldn’t even get a committee hearing.

  2. The crux of the Amazon deal to me was summed up nicely in a comment on Deadspin from somebody living near the New York location: As the commenter noted, that area is already doing great economically and the chief change he/she was anticipating was a major increase in the rent they were paying. And I imagine everything from parking to prices at local restaurants will be going up, as well.

    Yes, even in good times you always want to do even better, and Amazon being there will likely help stabilize things when the economy eventually turns south, but they still end up paying through the nose for something that really wasn’t a NEED. If Amazon had chosen Gary, Indiana then you could make the argument that it was probably worth almost any amount the locals had to pay. But, of course, Amazon didn’t want to go to Gary. Instead, as noted in the article, Amazon chose the spots they probably were going to pick all along. They just played those choice locations off against a bunch of other destinations they truly weren’t interested in to get a sweeter deal.

    • Just like the Yankees threatening to leave New York if they didn’t get a massive stadium subsidy.

      Bezos isn’t very original…

  3. Amazon probably ended up where they wanted to be all along, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t swayed by the subsidies. In this case, everyone played the game. I wonder how it would have gone if NY had offered zero – how would that compare to, say, Dallas putting up a barrel-o-cash? (I personally think NY would be better off to offer zero, win or lose)

  4. Do we really think Bezos cares about the $4Bn (or $5bn or whatever it turns out to be)?

    After all, his net worth increased by something like $35bn in the first three months of the year… somewhere around $200k per minute, if I remember the story correctly.

    He’s just extracting these horrific subsidies because he can. Just like the Yankees, Giants, Penguins, Bucks, Dolans… In this country we’ve given more tax dollars to billionaires than it would cost to provide healthcare and school lunches (good ones, not the Ronald Reagan kind that declared ketchup a vegetable) for all children.

    Think about that.

    And the current gov’t is already bell ringing for medicare and social security cuts in order to pay for the tax cut they awarded themselves…

    Really, as bad as he is here, is Bezos the biggest bad guy we have to worry about?