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John Burbank, Economic Opportunity Institute: Who is the taker in our town? Amazon!

Speech by John Burbank, executive director, Economic Opportunity Institute, at Kshama Sawant’s inauguration and launch of 2020 Tax Amazon campaign, Jan. 13, 2020:

Thank you friends!

Let’s take a step back, back to 2012. That was when Mitt Romney, Republican candidate for President, denounced 47% of Americans as takers from the government. Romney’s words were the language of class warfare, of the elite corporate sector denouncing the American working class.

Now, let’s consider who are the real takers in our society. Let’s consider the corporate behemoths who reside in our state. Let’s consider Amazon…. Last year Amazon was praised as it supported legislation making it contribute to a program for free tuition for low income students in Washington. Amazon even agreed to increase its effective business and occupation tax by two-thirds to fund this program. But somehow, as the legislation made its way toward passage, a ceiling was stuck into the bill, so that Amazon pays no more than $7 million a year for this program. That is three one-thousandths of a percent of Amazon’s revenue of $233 billion in 2018.  

Now let’s consider how much has Amazon received from the state of Washington in excused taxes.

• In 2013, Amazon got $35 million in excused taxes.

• In 2014, Amazon got $31 million.

• In 2015, Amazon got $44 million.

• In 2016, Amazon got $54 million.

• In 2017, Amazon got $56 million.

That adds up to $220 million and doesn’t even include 2018 and 2019 gifts from the state.

In 2018 Amazon doubled its profits to $11 billion and received a federal tax rebate of $129 million. The City of Seattle just built a new electricity substation for Amazon at the cost of $220 million. Who pays for this? All of us Seattle City Light ratepayers. That’s right, we are subsidizing Amazon out of our own bills for electricity. So let’s consider who is the taker in our town.

Who is the taker in our town?  

That taker has enabled its CEO, Jeff Bezos, to be the wealthiest person in the world, while pushing housing costs beyond the reach of Seattle’s working class. That taker spends billions on space travel design, while making transit and transportation go slower and slower in Seattle. That taker undermines small businesses, while making its own warehouse workers act as robots, not human beings.

We have had enough of Amazon taking from us and pulling apart our people. It is time the city made Amazon contribute, now, to build a commonwealth for all of us.

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