Linky Friday: Adventures in Amazon

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Andrew Donaldson

Born and raised in West Virginia, Andrew has since lived and traveled around the world several times over. Though frequently writing about politics out of a sense of duty and love of country, most of the time he would prefer discussions on history, culture, occasionally nerding on aviation, and his amateur foodie tendencies. He can usually be found misspelling/misusing words on Twitter @four4thefire.

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117 Responses

  1. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    Corporations not paying taxes has been a thing for a long time now. Not that it’s a good thing, necessarily, but it’s not like it’s some new form of fuckery that Amazon only just invented.Report

  2. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    My gut tells me that the Amazon deal would not have helped NY longterm. There is a long list of other companies that have gotten similar deals and not delivered the jobs they promised. At the same time, companies can radically change local economies. UPS has brought a lot of other businesses to Louisville and consistently creates tens of thousands of jobs. I’m sure there are lots of other companies that have done the same thing in their cities. It just feels like Amazon was not going to deliver in NY.

    I will also say Amazon is a terrible employer based on a lot of unsavory stories from many different locations.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck says:

      I also feel like NYC has enough going on that they can absorb the hit of not getting Amazon.Report

    • Avatar James K says:

      These types of special tax deals never work out – there’s enough competition between cities to ensure that the company captures all of the benefits. The only winning move is not to play.

      Naturally, taxes have some negative effect on economic activity – higher taxes mean lower returns to investors, and there will always be some business at the margin that would become viable if taxes were a little lower. But government has no expertise in determining what businesses should or should be operating, and giving breaks to specific businesses gives them an unreasonable competitive advantage. The money spent on tax breaks could be better spent slightly lowering taxes on everyone.Report

  3. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    Overall I think this is a good victory for democracy and the people. For whatever reason lots of politicians seem devoted to job growth above all. It doesn’t matter how bad the jobs pay or the brutality of the conditions. As long as they can talk about jobs jobs jobs. Lots of politicians are cowards too and choose to avoid contentious social issues to talk about jobs.

    But huge corporations and/or sports teams should not be getting huge tax breaks in order to entice them to move to an area. This practice is illegal under European Union anti-Trust law and it should be illegal here.Report

    • Avatar InMD says:

      I see a lot of this issue as arising out of our horrendously outdated model where most people are reliant on private employers for benefits. It’s a huge distortion that I don’t think works well for anyone anymore, including the employers themselves in many cases.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        Maybe. Note I said it often does not matter how bad the jobs are in terms of pay and benefit. I am still skeptical of the Bullshit jobs thesis but one thing that does give it credence is that politicians go crazy for jobs, jobs, jobs.

        The benefits thing might be true but we also have the problem that most Americans with employment based health insurance like it a lot. Another problem is that the right-wingers and libertarians want to get rid of it and replace it with the “free market” free for all, free all and do it in a rip off the banadage manner. The left wants to replace it with some kind of government backed healthcare.

        I am on the left side but this is a quagmire.Report

        • Avatar InMD says:

          Well count me as on the government backed benefit side to this as well (or at least government created market). Yes people need income as well as benefits but taking the latter out of the equation takes a lot of the leverage away from employers. It means all workers need to be concerned about is whether the pay rate is worth the job conditions. Setting the policy right can also be a win for business since it eliminates a huge amount of overhead.

          Of course failing to do the policy right fucks the whole thing like you hear about with Wal-Mart exploiting people on Medicaid, etc.Report

          • Avatar J_A says:

            Yes people need income as well as benefits but taking the latter out of the equation takes a lot of the leverage away from employers. It means all workers need to be concerned about is whether the pay rate is worth the job conditions. Setting the policy right can also be a win for business since it eliminates a huge amount of overhead.

            Sometime in the 90s or early 2000s one of the Big Three car manufacturers, after lots of cities competition, decided to open their next large manufacturing facility in Canada. One of the reasons they gave was that Canada’s universal health care meant they didn’t have to pay for health insurance, and the savings alone tipped the scale.Report

        • Avatar Dave says:

          Another problem is that the right-wingers and libertarians want to get rid of it and replace it with the “free market” free for all, free all and do it in a rip off the banadage manner.

          Get rid of employer-based healthcare? Says who?

          The left wants to replace it with some kind of government backed healthcare.

          You are a lawyer aren’t you?Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

      “Lots of politicians are cowards too and choose to avoid contentious social issues to talk about jobs.”

      I agree with this. It’s time to start talking about skills training instead of job creation. The jobs are already out there, we just need to stop pushing college and start giving people the basic skills they need to pursue them. Trades and other fields do not require a 4 year degree but pay well. Often times a few basic certificates can get someone started. Honestly, at my company if you give me someone with Master-level Excel skills and some basic intelligence, they are a huge value to our business. A few really good administrative assistants can really help an operation succeed but they are increasingly hard to find.Report

  4. Avatar Aaron David says:

    LF- you choose; I think some NYC politicians are going to be primaried come the next election:

    And the polls back it up. According to a recent Sienna College poll, a majority of New Yorkers supported the deal, an even bigger majority in Queens, the very borough where the HQ would have been located. Moreover, 70 percent of black New Yorkers and 81 percent of Hispanic New Yorkers wanted Amazon in Gotham. Both demographic groups suffer from higher unemployment than the rest of the city. As Daily News Columnist Rob George put it in Twitter, it was “AOC vs. POC.”

    Locales need to create jobs, period. If you have a growing population, they need work. Getting those jobs is a primary factor for gov’t, and one the is very important to the working class. Does working for Amazon suck? Yeah, probably. But it beats unemployment by most metrics.

    LF- some of the rest; As someone who has been on both sides of the union line – CWA9415 and bossed Teamsters -companies should push back on the union. They have a seat at the table and should use it. Indeed, they are every bit as important as workers.Report

    • Avatar Jesse says:

      In reality, what will happen, is nobody will get primaried because the vast majority of people didn’t care, but those who did and would be affected (aka, actual residents of Long Island City and other neighborhoods as opposed to people on the other side of Queens or in the Bronx) opposed it, and many of the people basically just have a generic positive opinion of Amazon.

      Also, since the vast majority of jobs would be six figure STEM jobs, I highly doubt that much employment would be available for your average working class POC. In all reality, the most likely result for working class POC is their job in LIC has to move farther away due to increased rents.Report

    • Avatar InMD says:

      I think some NYC politicians are going to be primaried come the next election

      I’m very curious to see how that plays out. There’s a blawg I follow written by an NYC attorney suggesting that local politicians and activists may have overplayed their hand on this. Obviously many factors go into a successful challenge, not the least of which being whether or not people will even remember this when the time comes.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        not the least of which being whether or not people will even remember this when the time comes.

        The average Jane/Joe on the street? Prolly not.

        The realtors? Oh, the realtors will have their long knives out.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck says:

          Yes, anyone with property for sale within 200 miles of the city is probably pretty steamed right now.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            Sure, but we’re approximately one jillion news cycles away from the election.

            99% of the property owners will have forgotten this by next November.

            The realtors, though… they’re the ones who will be donating to opponents in the primary. They’re the ones who have lobbyists with one single sole purpose and will not be distracted by the latest/greatest/shiniest new news story to come down the pike.Report

        • Avatar Jesse says:

          Yes, I’m sure AOC is very scared about having to say, “the people who openly talked about looking forward to jacking your rent up are upset at me.”Report

        • Avatar InMD says:

          Yea, I can see that. I found this whole process kind of unseemly. But, speaking as a homeowner, if the MD DC suburbs won this little contest instead of the VA side… and something like this happened… ooooh man would I be livid.Report

      • Avatar Aaron David says:

        Politicians have long memories. I have the feeling that she really upset the apple cart for the Democratic Machine there, so they could move heaven and earth to get this sorted. Not unlike how Dennis Kucinich was handled, or a big primary challenge would work also. I know she has a slot outside NYC politicians purview, but the party there is big with deep ties.Report

        • Avatar Jesse says:

          Joe Crowley was literally the leader of the Queen Democratic Machine and she took care of him.

          All it would take is one tweet about her primary challenge for her to raise millions, if not tens of millions of dollars from around the country.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      FWIW, I have a hard time believing the purported rationale for Amazon withdrawing from the NY HQ2 deal. I don’t think a small collection of anti-Amazon activists have that kind of pull. My guess is that Amazon folks already built that opposition into their decision calculus no matter which city they chose and that the public support in the communities directly impacted by the deal you reference adds to my skepticism of why the deal when south.Report

      • Avatar InMD says:

        That’s another interesting thread to pull. It does seem kind of weird for Amazon to be the one to blink, even if the blinking was done in a ‘whatever you need us more than we want you’ sort of way.

        I guess it isn’t totally impossible that they didn’t want their brand to become politicized. A gentrification battle in NYC would certainly be more visible to the rest of the country than one virtually anywhere else.Report

        • Avatar greginak says:

          I think Amazon can be picky enough to only go someplace where the locals and local pols will really want them and stay in love with them. Why go someplace where their will be any noticeable push back. They can pick from a dozen cities that will be forever beholden to them. I hear Wisconsin can really be suckered big time, though without Walker that might be a bit harder.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          If Amazon is having second thoughts based on negative public perception, I don’t think it’s driven by a sudden realization of the potency of anti-gentrification activism but instead the public’s negative perception of the process by which they opened up HQ2 to a public bidding war then took a sweatheart deal worth (apparently) $3 billion in tax breaks and incentives. Which smacks of corruption and predatory capitalism (but not gentrifcation!).

          So I wouldn’t rule out public perception as a driver in their reneging on the deal. I just don’t think any of the street level activism played a role.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            Add: and even that account seems pretty thin to me. The assumption in play here is that Bezos and Amazon management were somehow *unaware* that huge subsidies would piss their customer base off, which strikes me as exceedingly unlikely.Report

            • Avatar Dark Matter says:

              The problem wasn’t just the street level protests. Politicians, up and down the line (with the exceptions of the Mayor and the Gov) were against this. Perhaps some of that was they weren’t involved/paid off and wanted to be.

              I seriously doubt Amazon, or most people, understand just how hostile to business New York is, nor just how entrenched the rules are. Creating jobs there is viewed as a privilege that you need to pay for.

              So for example if you want to salvage some left over furniture which will be thrown out, but need to use the freight elevator, you need to hire a four man union crew for a minimum of four hours. If you dare press the buttons yourself the police can/will be summoned to arrest you.

              One of the things that stands out when you talk to New Yorkers is how everyone has RL stories like that.

              Amazon’s culture wasn’t going to interact well with this. They think that others should welcome them for creating jobs/money.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I seriously doubt Amazon, or most people, understand just how hostile to business New York is, nor just how entrenched the rules are.

                Speaking for myself here, I am *quite* sure Bezos and his management team absolutely understand how the game is played in NY. It’s not like they don’t do business there already. I’m also not sure why you think Bezos would be unwilling to grease a few (more) palms to make the deal go through.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter says:

                Speaking for myself here, I am *quite* sure Bezos and his management team absolutely understand how the game is played in NY. It’s not like they don’t do business there already. I’m also not sure why you think Bezos would be unwilling to grease a few (more) palms to make the deal go through.

                Bezos worked there 25+ years ago, so there’s that.

                However the big complaint in NY in a “how Amazon mishandled this” sort of way is they didn’t do what they needed to get the local politicians on board. The local papers aren’t going to phrase it as “didn’t get permission to create jobs” much less “grease palms” but that seems to have been the problem.

                I think 25+ years ago when B was there he didn’t need to deal with that sort of thing and/or he’d forgotten just how bad it is.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                However the big complaint in NY in a “how Amazon mishandled this” sort of way is they didn’t do what they needed to get the local politicians on board.

                That wasn’t Amazon’s responsibility.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter says:

                That wasn’t Amazon’s responsibility.

                That’s what Amazon thought too. The unbribed local politicians and other actors with their hands out? They felt differently.

                Amazon has serious money and doesn’t have local connections. Why shouldn’t I be shaking them down?

                Welcome to New York.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Dark, I have no idea what you’re talking about and I think you don’t either. Amazon talked to the representative who apparently blocked the deal. They tried, she said no. De Blasio screwed up,Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

            This. A lot of cities spent a lot of money trying to convince Amazon to go there and instead they chose…Brooklyn. My problem is that this was not going to have lateral effects on the economy. It was just going to drive the demand for service jobs, which isn’t really helpful. Jane Jacobs would not have been impressed.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          From the NYT:

          A senior executive from Amazon, one of the world’s biggest companies, led by the world’s richest person, found himself last weekend in a showdown with a suburban state senator.

          The executive, Brian Huseman, who is based in Washington, D.C., was trying to find out whether the New York state senator, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, would exert more control over an obscure state board that had the authority to block Amazon’s ambitious plans to expand in New York City.

          It was the second phone call in two days between Mr. Huseman and Ms. Stewart-Cousins, who had just risen to power as Democratic majority leader.

          And once again, Ms. Stewart-Cousins told Mr. Huseman that state lawmakers would use their power to assess the deal.

          Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            You can almost understand why Bezos would just say “heck with it” and not move there.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            Supposing that this story is accurate and that Stewart Cousins’ unwillingness to guarantee the deal as constructed is what motivated Amazon to break the agreement, I wonder why De Blasio went off on Bezos today as the deal breaker rather than focusing his wrath at the elected Dem Rep who signaled she might block it. Hmmm.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              What’s the upside of attacking the Dem Rep?

              What’s the upside of attacking Bezos?

              What’s the downside of attacking the Dem rep?

              What’s the downside of attacking Bezos?

              Gaming these out for myself, attacking Bezos is all upside, no downside. Attacking the Dem rep? Little upside, more than a little downside.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Not if he’s trying to get Amazon to open HQ2 in NY.

                I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt on this by assuming he didn’t know about Huseman’s conversations with Stewart-Cousins, or, if he did, that he viewed her lack of commitment to the deal as pro-forma politicking rather than a serious impediment to the deal going thru. Amazon obvs thought otherwise.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                He probably knows that if Bezos walked away, he wouldn’t be willing to come back for a mere “aw, c’mon… she was just kidding and we’ll make sure that she was just kidding”.

                The deal would have to be sweetened. That entails a loss of face.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Thinking about it a bit more, I think there’s probably an element of Stewart-Cousins potentially *humiliating* de Blasio in a pretty public way, too. Turns out *she* controls the policy levers to make the deal happen, not him, so he redirects his wrath from her to Bezos to make it look like he had it right all along, everyone was on board with this magnificent deal he orchestrated except for flaky, stupid, unpredictable Jeff Bezos….

                And maybe she *was* on board. But she signaled otherwise, so …Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Oh, yeah. (I also suspect that a fundamental assumption is that the deal was unrecoverable.)

                One particular election to watch come 2020 is Stewart-Cousins’s’s’s.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I’d add that another thing to watch for is de Blasio retaliating against Bezos for publicly humiliating him.* I mean, no one believes that some sign-carriers are the reason Amazon abandoned a deal worth billions of dollars, do they? So that means de Blasio and his machine weren’t up to the challenge of making the deal happen. Humiliations galore.

                If I were de Blasio I’d be criticizing S-C (with grace and tact, of course) rather than Bezos. But then, I’m not a pathologically corrupt and dishonest celebrity politician. (yet!)

                * Most likely something petty and small, consistent with the man’s character.Report

  5. Avatar George Turner says:

    I think it’s great because that’s 25,000 jobs (and $2.5 billion in construction) that will now go to Republicans in a red city. It’s good that she, and other New York progressives, are there to make sure their constituents stay dependent on government hand outs paid for by the $3 billion they didn’t not get from Amazon. New York should’ve offered Amazon $10 billion in tax breaks so that they’d not have even more non-existent tax savings to redirect towards welfare programs.

    Now she can focus on getting all the currently employed New Yorkers fired en masse so she can go on camera and show us her Snoopy dance as she celebrates another victory over capitalist wage slavery, putting another notch in her belt in the Democrats’ war on the working class.

    She is the gift that keeps on giving.Report

  6. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    The Amazon HQ2 just struck enough people in the wrong way to create a massive backlash. In addition to the usual antics with corporate tax breaks, you had the concerns over gentrification and the degeneration of public services. Since Amazon is a juicy target, it was going to be taken down.Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

      I guess the question of gentrification is how many actual locals were going to get jobs and how many carpetbaggers were going to be hired.Report

      • That’s an argument for putting it in someplace like Atlanta, Austin, or Denver where everyone knows most of the jobs will go to carpetbaggers. In the 31 years I’ve lived here, Colorado’s population has gone from 3.3 million to 5.6 million. The next million is projected to take about 12 years. Given the ramp-up rate that Amazon talked about, they’d only cut that to about 11.Report

        • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

          I don’t know how much these 25,000 jobs would have been a net gain for NYC. In a city like Buffalo or Cleveland, they would have been much more of a net gain but this creates the paradox of jobs. I don’t think Amazon would attract the kind of workers they want to attract by locating to Buffalo or Cleveland.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

        Anti-gentrification activists are the build-the-wall-ers of the left.Report

    • Avatar Aaron David says:

      you had the concerns over gentrification and the degeneration of public services

      Sounds very… Trumpist.Report

  7. Avatar Jaybird says:

    One of the great things about big employers is the whole employees getting paid and spending money thing.

    Maybe Amazon wouldn’t pay appreciable taxes, but the Engineer IV and his team of Engineer IIIs sure would get taxed. Then, on top of that, they’d go out to dinner at the little local Italian/Korean fusion restaurant. They’d get a membership at the Theravada Buddhism Meditation center. Their significant others would buy stuff at the bodega on the corner and maybe even at the local Target (not Wal-Mart) from time to time to time when they didn’t want to buy laundry detergent or whatever from Amazon.

    That’s money that will no longer be spent there.

    That said, there are a lot of tweets that say something to the effect of this:

    I also would like to see evidence about it being popular locally. A journalist friend said he saw it was unpopular locally bc locals assumed they would be pushed out of the neighborhood & never see any benefits. It would just be displacement, no jobs or perks.— Naunihal Singh (@naunihalpublic) February 15, 2019

    (These arguments show up in the weirdest places…)Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

      Trickle-down economics?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        The authentic community members know that trickle-down doesn’t work. Everybody knows that.

        These interlopers will come in and reap all of the benefits of Amazon being there while authentic members of the community will only see the costs.Report

    • Avatar Jesse says:

      In reality, what happens is the local restaurant gets forced out of business because of increased rental costs and is replaced by a generic restaurant owned by the ‘hot’ TV chef of the moment that can afford the new levels of rent in the area.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        I never know if I should see the local restaurant the same way that I see the coal miners in West Virginia (hey, times change and your skills obviously weren’t up to the task in the new economy) or if I should see them the same way that bad people see the coal miners in West Virginia (EVERYTHING SHOULD STAY THE SAME FOREVER AND EVER AMEN).

        Report

        • Avatar Jesse says:

          The coal miners lost their job because times changed.

          The restaurant will close down because a giant corporation would’ve flexed it’s muscle to get tax breaks to completely change a whole area of a city.

          In both cases though, I support a job guarantee, universal health care, and free college and/or free job retraining.Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

            Someone needs to explain this jobs guarantee to me such that it doesn’t involve massive negative downstream effects, or a whole host of magical thinking.Report

            • Avatar pillsy says:

              I’m ambivalent about it, but it’s not clear why it would necessarily have worse downstream effects than UBI, which I tend to support. The main drawback in each case is expense.

              On the one hand you may end up paying people to do stuff that isn’t terribly important, which is not great, but it’s not clear it’s worse than paying them to do nothing.

              And one political challenge with UBI is people just tend to seriously hate the idea of sending cash to people who are unwilling to work.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                It’s never been clear to me how we could find a job for everyone. There are only so many simple labor jobs and jobs aren’t distributed evenly around the country. Sure there are some WPA trail work jobs, at some times of the year and some places, but that doesn’t cover that much. Then there are parents and people with medical issues. It’s not like anybody can be plugged in to any job easily. A UBI seems possible though from what i gather the experiments haven’t gone all that well not that anybody really cares about evidence.

                I’d love to see what a jobs guarantee is supposed to look like but i’m pretty skeptical.Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:

                It’s not clear to me either, but…

                …will enough of the jobs be useful to offset the administration costs of actually having them?

                It’s possible.

                I would much rather have something along the lines of what @veronica-d describes, but this seems like an area compromising on policy in order to build a broader coalition would be justified.

                Especially since I think the coalition for UBI is depressingly small. In part because of that whole, “He who does not work shall not eat thing.”Report

              • Avatar InMD says:

                And one political challenge with UBI is people just tend to seriously hate the idea of sending cash to people who are unwilling to work.

                It’s funny because the more I thought about the issue the more UBI appealed to me over any alternative. Whenever I think ‘guaranteed job’ I envision giant roads and bridges to nowhere and entrenched interests in environmentally destructive boondoggles no one wants or needs. It’d be like the military-industrial complex but even worse.Report

              • Avatar veronica d says:

                To me the advantages of a UBI are:

                1. No paternalism

                2. People don’t starve.

                The obvious disadvantage is the problem of idle hands — namely I mean never ending drudgery of a meaningless life. To feel useless is soul crushing.

                The hope is, with freedom from extreme material want, people might step up do cool shit.

                They might. They might not. In any case, the government can meet people’s material needs. Their spiritual needs — that’s really on them, I guess. Do we care about other people, like as whole people with hearts and minds?

                It’s almost as if people thrive best when the live in a community where they matter.Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:

                Yeah this is where I come down too in an ideal world. But bridges to nowhere are not necessarily the worst thing in the world.

                I’m actually pretty optimistic about people who just opt to cash their UBI checks will mostly do OK in terms of making themselves worthwhile, and really dislike the way other forms of welfare program end up interfering and intruding in people’s lives (paternalism, like Veronica said, but also just meddling like drug tests and the like).

                I’ve half-joked on Twitter that I’m getting to the point that I think the only legitimate state function is redistributing wealth.Report

              • Avatar InMD says:

                Like you and Veronica I dislike the paternalistic aspects of how the welfare state is currently run. Where I may differ is that I doubt any plausible near future UBI implementation would result in large numbers of able bodied people exiting the work force to live on the bare minimum. I would certainly expect removing the precariousness of our current system to change the way people work but I think most would still get jobs, and the ones who don’t wouldn’t be that different from the people who for whatever reason don’t now. They’d just be cheaper on the system.

                Now I agree that in a truly post-work world you’d need to find an outlet for people but that’s for our great-grandchildren to figure out. I don’t think it’d be that hard. I know exactly what I’d do if I had all the time in the world.Report

              • Avatar veronica d says:

                Well, I’m suggesting not only UBI, but UBI + healthcare + magical educational/credentialism/signalling reform.

                It’s not really quite possible, of course, which is why no sane person would vote for me. But still, my goal is bigger than just precarity (although that matters). It about the next step. How does one thrive?

                So you don’t have to panic about starvation or homelessness. Getting sick won’t bankrupt you. Great. Now what?Report

              • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

                I’m generally UBI sympathetic but I think the American work culture/protestant work ethic means makes a jobs guarantee politically easier than UBI.

                The people I know who support UBI are generally misfits who have passions that they would love to do but there is not a high-demand for these passions. So they work the corporate world. UBI represents liberation for them.

                But that is not most people.Report

            • Avatar veronica d says:

              It’s what I call a “damn near unsolvable problem” (thanks Capitalism, although I do enjoy the indoor plumbing).

              I tend toward UBI + single payer + pretty-much-free education (also, since I’m now dreaming of the impossible, let’s eliminate grade inflation and “credentialism” so people learn how to do things instead of sending empty signals).

              World peace would be nice too. And free beer.

              Anyone wanna live on an island with me?Report

              • Avatar InMD says:

                I endorse your island. Unfortunately all of my capital is spoken for by my various creditors and I have no means of investing.Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq says:

                Getting rid of grade inflationism and credentialism would be an interesting challenge. The big reason for credentialism is that employers impose it as a way to ensure they don’t hire a dud. They see it as useful shorthand. Credentialism is also a very nice way to protect the incumbents at the expense of newcomers. Lots of people are going to opt-to of particular jobs because of the task of getting a license. Great for gatekeeping but not dynamism.Report

              • Avatar veronica d says:

                I assume it would be an easy problem to fix if we could use magic.Report

              • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

                Funny thing about magic is that it does not exist.Report

              • Avatar veronica d says:

                That’s the joke.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                “Credentialism is also a very nice way to protect the incumbents at the expense of newcomers. Lots of people are going to opt-to of particular jobs because of the task of getting a license. Great for gatekeeping but not dynamism.”

                Agreed. One of the positive side-effects of me taking so long with my two degrees is that I had time to see credentialism play out. When I started my anthropology degree I was told I could run an archaeological site with a Masers. Right around the time I was finishing my second BA I was told, “Well, a PhD would be even better.” I realized then that they were raising the bar to filter. And it worked because I left the field for more money.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Yeah I like UBI way more than Jobs guarantee because UBI is pretty simple and straight forward whereas jobs guarantee very likely would be a sprawling bureaucratic in-egalitarian corrupt nightmare.Report

              • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

                Simple and straight-forward except for the fact that it does not do well polling wise for a wide-variety of reasons and currently mainly attracts wonks, the farther reaches of the Democratic Party, and hardcore libertarians who think they can institute a de minimis UBI and gut the welfare state.

                I think any policy proposal needs to include a “Can it pass democratically” conservation.Report

              • Avatar James K says:

                At a certain point we need to decide if we’d rather go with popular solutions, or ones that will actually work. Persuading people to think differently is very hard, persuading the universe to work differently is even harder.Report

              • Avatar j r says:

                We decided that a long time ago. Now we’re just dealing with the fallout.

                And I don’t say that to be too hard on us. This is just the natural lifecycle.Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. says:

                Ontario started a pilot program to try out UBI with a sample group of low-income families. It lasted until Doug Ford got elected and cancelled the trial, claiming it was obviously a failure and discouraged people from seeking employment, even though it hadn’t been going a year yet.

                I don’t know that their decision had to do with opinion polls about UBI as much as just being opposed to it because the opposition party passed it. They seem to be trying to sell the public on their decision to cancel the program after the fact.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                And “guaranteed employment” polls better? Actually, it probably does, because no one has a fecking clue as to how it would work in real life.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

        I am curious about how micro you think the effects of a big corporate office like this would be? Would it be a few city blocks? The entire downtown area? The entire metro area? And non-corporate restaurants do really, really well here in Louisville, but we also have a pretty kick-ass food scene. Honestly, if the people of Brooklyn would rather eat at Applebee’s and Guy Ferrari’s latest offering, that’s a cultural defect, not Amazon’s fault.Report

      • Avatar Pinky says:

        The good local restaurant expands because of the higher rent and revenue. The bad local restaurant gets forced out because of the higher rent, and gets replaced by something better. At least, that’s the hope.

        But it does sort of suggest that a city less built-up than NYC would see more economic benefits from a corporate giant.Report

  8. Avatar Jesse says:

    Also, here’s a good thread from a YIMBY pro-housing guy who was opposed to Amazon, largely because of tax breaks and the inherent issues in NYC at the moment.

    https://twitter.com/mtsw/status/1096089443293892610

    “NYC has a lot of problems right now, but one of the problems is not “there aren’t enough jobs for well-heeled professionals and tech people,” many of whom likely would’ve been recruited non-locally.

    To bring it back to housing for a second – creating new units even at the high end causes older units to filter down because housing is non-portable. Everyone moving into a new fancy unit would otherwise be in an older, shittier unit at the same price.

    Jobs don’t work like this.

    If you create a bunch of high-end, high-skill jobs in a metro area that doesn’t have enough workers, they don’t filter down to less qualified applicants. They just hire from outside the metro area and get new people to move to the city because people are portable.

    And in a city that’s building very little new housing, and is constrained by zoning, not by lack of capital, moving a bunch of new rich people to the city just displaces people down the line (reverse filtering!). It’s an insane thing to throw subsidies at even more than usual.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      They just hire from outside the metro area and get new people to move to the city because people are portable.

      New people are good.

      I don’t know why this is so difficult to understand.Report

      • Avatar Jesse says:

        Then Amazon and their supporters should’ve made the argument that, “we’re going to import 25,000 people into the city with six figure salaries who will massively increase the rent in this neighborhood and that’s a good thing,” as opposed to “jobs are coming! Why do you oppose jobs for this neighborhood,” when in reality, most of the jobs aren’t for this neighborhood, but people currently living in Seattle, San Francisco, and Austin.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          Probably because the people in NYC are reactionary and hate the idea of “their” culture changing.Report

        • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

          Jane Jacobs always said that cities should be full of strangers. They are supposed to be engines of wealth creation and self-improvement and then you move somewhere else. My great-great grandfather landed in NY when he came over from Ireland. A year later he was in Louisville. For most, cities should be a stopover, not the place you stay.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        There is a general small-c conservatism that a large chunk of humanity seems to exhibit that amounts to “I don’t like change.” Let’s call this IDC.

        The trick thing about IDC is that the changes people like or dislike are different in kind and degree but can also strangely overlap.

        A nearly 100 year old Italian grocery announced they were winding down operations in SF. This is not a story of evil landlords. The business is still doing quite well and the family that has owned it since day one also owns their building and a lot of other property nearby. The owner wants to retire though and no one wanted to take over seemingly. So they are selling their lots to developers. Most of what will be built is probably condos.

        But a 93-year old Italian grocery is a lot more interesting than a bunch of yuppie condos even if those condos help relieve the housing crisis.

        I still think there is powerful symbolism behind a lot of reaction to yuppie condos. There are still strong elements of the city as a refuge for misfits and outcasts in the United States. Yuppie condos strike people as “you aren’t building for people like me….”Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      People will always move to New York so this isn’t an issue like it is elsewhere but I otherwise agree.Report

    • Avatar Aaron David says:

      They just hire from outside the metro area and get new people to move to the city because people are portable.

      Build That Wall!Report

  9. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Given that Denver was on one of the lists for being a good city for Amazon HQ2, I admit to feeling some mixture of weird and contradictory feelings when it was announced they were going East.

    Since they’d probably build something in the part of Denver that is close (or close enough) to Colorado Springs, I knew that my property values would go up overnight. I also knew that Colorado Springs would have another large number of people moving into it. Since we live downtownish, I knew that it’d be even tougher to get parking spaces by the nice pizza place, good spots at the library, all sorts of stuff. I mean, jeez, the Californication of Colorado has been irritating enough. Amazonification would compound it.

    So it was something like regret mixed in with relief. Regretlief.

    I imagine that Queens is feeling similar (but I know that I’m projecting when I say that). As such, I imagine that all of the news stories that focus on the one and exclude the other are doing so deliberately. They’re trying to push the regret and cover up the relief (or vice-versa).Report

    • The rumors up here were that the state showed them seven or eight locations, each with pluses and minuses, but the actual candidates have never been revealed. My bet was that if Amazon chose Denver, they would choose something along the A line so they had a straight shot to/from the airport or downtown without changing trains. Maybe along the Blake Street redevelopment if they wanted to build tall, or the Stapleton business park if they wanted to spread a bit.Report

  10. Avatar Pinky says:

    LF5 – I have not, to my knowledge, had a single financial transaction with Amazon in at least 5 years. It’s hard to be sure, given that they are involved in energy and cloud computing. I frequent imdb and boxofficemojo, but I’ve never clicked on an ad. So it’s not hard to avoid Amazon. And I’m not trying to avoid them.

    There are plenty of people who avoid certain large companies (or all large companies) deliberately. It’s maybe a little tough, but if it’s based on a principle, so what? I’m not anti-tech, at least in theory. I just choose to not spend much money online. I think it’s kind of odd that Amazon is in so many unrelated markets, and if I cared more, I could understand avoiding them. I neither begrudge large companies their success nor fully trust them. I have very high product loyalty, but no brand loyalty: I wouldn’t buy a Chevy soda or a Coca-Cola car. I am somewhat marketing-proof.

    If you don’t like Amazon, don’t buy their products. But it’s hard for me to think of them as a threat. I still think of them as a bookseller (which I also don’t buy from).Report

  11. Avatar Chip Daniels says:

    What I think it interesting is the common thread running between this post and the No Cuts post, which is that there is an implied admission that the economy just isn’t producing enough gainful employment to meet the demand.

    Whether it is the claim that people have to choose between standing in line for cash- or nothing; or showering the world’s richest man with even more money in a vain effort to bribe him to bring operations to the city, the unstated assumption is that there are otherwise no jobs that pay enough to support a family.

    I think it was Oscar who asked about downstream affects of things like UBI and guaranteed employment, which is a good question.

    But we should also ask, what are the long term affects of having a massive population of people who understand that the future is one of insecurity and underemployment?Report

    • Avatar Dark Matter says:

      …showering the world’s richest man with even more money in a vain effort to bribe him to bring operations to the city

      That $3 Billion dollar “gift” was Amazon’s money which NY wouldn’t collect in taxes if they came.

      I’m not sure what that was out of, the only number I heard was $11 Billion but that might be apples and oranges. Presumably that’s just NY corporate property taxes and a few other corporate type taxes/fees. The 25k people with a min wage of $100k and an average wage of more than $150k wouldn’t be included, etc.Report

      • Avatar George Turner says:

        Oh come on. That $3 billion is sitting in De Blasio’s desk drawer. AOC just has to convince him to spend it on her constituents, who need it because they didn’t get a job with Amazon or on any of the construction jobs from the $2.5 billion Amazon was going to spend building their new campus.

        Keep capitalist oppressors and their wage-slavery out of New Caracas!Report

        • Avatar Dark Matter says:

          That $3 billion is sitting in De Blasio’s desk drawer. AOC just has to convince him to spend it on her constituents

          The seriously weird part is AOC seems to believe this, and it’s not the first economic howler we’ve seen from her.

          She graduated cum laude from Boston University’s College of Arts and Sciences in 2011, majoring in international relations and economics.(wiki)

          Did she study nothing but socialism-will-work and manage to technically fulfill econ degree requirements while learning nothing about real money?Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

        If Amazon were to receive police/ fire/ emergency protection, access to courts and legal system and infrastructure, all without paying for them, isn’t that a gift?Report

        • Avatar George Turner says:

          New York gives $420 million a year in tax breaks to the film and TV industry to keep them in New York. Isn’t that just as wrong? What does NYC get in return? Entertainment jobs and massively oversize social influence, and lots of tax revenues from all the A-listers who live in New York.

          Anyway, here are two views on the situation.

          The Atlantic on the progressive groups that celebrated Amazon’s exit, and why.

          It didn’t talked about what’s happened in San Francisco and Seattle as a result of high-wage tech sector workers taking up every available rental unit, and basically pricing most others out of the housing market in cities that have tight restrictions on construction and sprawl, but I’m sure that topic is much discussed by the activists.

          The progressives have a point, but should also realize that without highly productive jobs, and lots of them, New York could become the next Detroit. Staying a world-class city requires a constant set of choices, and deciding to decay into quaint irrelevance and even squalor is one of those possible choices. If being New York was easy, all our cities would do it.

          City Journal discusses the cancellation somewhat briefly, but has another interesting article on the tensions between the tech titans and the progressive left, an alliance which may be collapsing under its own contradictions.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          If Queens is better off for Amazon having walked away, Queens is better off for Amazon having walked away.

          It now can reserve the use of police/fire/emergency protection for people who are actually there and have paid for their use. Or, I suppose, are too poor to pay taxes and it’d be monstrous to even imply that they shouldn’t get such protections.Report

        • Avatar Dark Matter says:

          That logic suggests the homeless shouldn’t have access to the police or legal system.

          Further, these tax rebates last for a very limited number of years, and I expect that those 25k jobs will have positive tax implications. Still further that also ignores positive effects from construction, the multiplier effect, etc.

          Roughly 3.75 Billion dollars in worker pay, a year, with a multiplier effect of 4 is 15 Billion dollars added to the NY economy every year and laughably assumes Amazon itself never pays any taxes builds or buys anything.

          My expectation is this was a 50 Billion dollar present to the NY economy. The way NY taxes work, NY would make way more than $3B every year.

          $3B was cheap as far as these things go, the Mayor and Governor did a great job negotiating this. I’m not at all shocked at New Jersey’s $8.5B bid.Report

          • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

            When homeless people receive services, we call it charity.
            If Amazon is begging for charity, lets be honest and call it that. If they want to just get something they could easily afford but not pay for it, lets be honest about what that is called, too.

            This “stimulus” logic suggests that we could simply have the government pump 3.75 billion in some sort of makework project, to the same effect.

            The logic also demolishes Milton Friedman’s theory that corporations have no higher purpose than to provide return to their shareholders.

            What links these together is the idea that the economy, absent Amazon, is incapable of sustaining itself. It imagines Amazon as sort of the coal mine or steel mill in a small town which otherwise has no economic reason for being.

            If that is true, that is a lot more disturbing even than Amazon swindling billions out of taxpayers.Report

            • Avatar Dark Matter says:

              If they want to just get something they could easily afford but not pay for it, lets be honest about what that is called, too.

              If we’re going to be honest about what it’s called, then this was a bidding war between the states over a $50 billion dollar diamond mind. Successful businesses of this scale relocating is extremely rare and extremely good for the local economy.

              This “stimulus” logic suggests that we could simply have the government pump 3.75 billion in some sort of makework project, to the same effect.

              Thus why congressmen typically fight to have gov projects done in their home district. However 4 billion being spent every single year until the end of time is insanely special even by those standards, and we’re grossly underestimating the impact by just looking at salaries.

              The logic also demolishes Milton Friedman’s theory that corporations have no higher purpose than to provide return to their shareholders.

              This claim gets made occasionally, i.e. companies should care about “all stakeholders”. Typically companies which go down that path don’t do well.

              What links these together is the idea that the economy, absent Amazon, is incapable of sustaining itself.

              New York will survive without Amazon. It will be tens of billions of dollars poorer, and the normal people will have to pay taxes which Amazon and it’s people would have instead, but it will survive.

              Deliberately choosing to have his/her/their people be poorer is an unusual choice for an elected official however.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              Entities capable of contributing to society either ought to be contributing or be considered to be taking charity from the society?

              I can see how this attitude might really take off.

              Like, to the point where a politician who ran on this sort of thing would be *VERY* popular.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

                You don’t think that “getting everyone to pay their fair share” is a generally accepted norm all across the political spectrum?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Snort.

                Of course it’s not.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

                That surprises me, since I see it in everything from Reagan complaining about welfare queens getting stuff they weren’t paying for, to the standard liberal line about corporate welfare.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Seems to me the phrase “everyone needs to pay their fair share” is similar to a campaign slogan. It’s true but empty until everyone fills it with their preferred “them”.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                There are three weasel words in there at first glance.

                If you can’t imagine “whatabouts” that could get people (from both sides, even!) to object to asking about having a cultural norm expecting members from Group X contribute more to Us As A Society, you’re not trying.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter says:

                That phrase translates into: They need to pay more!

                That translation works if they’re currently paying zero or if they’re currently paying the vast bulk.Report

  12. Avatar Stillwater says:

    Here’s a rundown of the benefits from the NY and VA offers as well as others which Amazon rejected. (It’s a good article, with more in it than just that!)

    Some relevant snips:

    While $3.4 billion [combining both NY and VA packages] is nothing to sniff at, Amazon had reportedly received better offers. Maryland was offering $8.5 billion in tax and infrastructure incentives to Amazon as part of the bid for Montgomery County, while New Jersey was offered $7 billion in incentives as part of its Newark proposal.

    “These regions were not chosen by Amazon for tax breaks,” said Heather Redman, managing partner at venture capital firm Flying Fish Partners and the former chair of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. “These regions were chosen because this is where the talent currently lives or wants to live.”

    Also, this:

    Here’s how it [ie., NY and VA’s offers combined] compared to other recent large incentives packages corporations have received for building large manufacturing facilities or corporate headquarters:

    1. Boeing BA, +1.99% (Washington, 2013): $8.7 billion

    2. Alcoa AA, +0.25% (New York, 2007): $5.6 billion

    3. Foxconn (Wisconsin, 2017): $4.8 billion

    4. Boeing (Washington, 2003): $3.2 billion

    5. Amazon (New York, 2018): $2.6 billion

    6. General Motors GM, +0.51% (Michigan, 2009): $2.3 billion

    7. Ford F, +1.43% (Michigan, 2010): $2.3 billion

    8. Sempra Energy SRE, +1.06% (Louisiana, 2013): $2.2 billion

    9. Nike NKE, +0.83% (Oregon, 2012): $2 billion

    And finally, this:

    In the long run, the battle over HQ2 could have serious ramifications for taxpayers, if other companies choose to replicate Amazon’s process. However, Walczak said the unusually open process Amazon promoted for HQ2 also meant that Americans were given the chance to scrutinize the terms of the offers lawmakers made.

    Report

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