While conservatives and liberals consider the political leanings of Washington Post buyer and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in an attempt to divine how his politics will affect those of the historic institution, the truth appears to be far simpler: the Post is now Bezos’ latest political tool in a crony capitalist effort to work with the Obama administration. How else to explain President Obama puzzling decision last week to roll out his corporate tax plan at an Amazon.com fulfillment center?
Bezos spent $250 million of his own money to purchase the Post, which is bleeding money at an incredible rate. He didn’t spend Amazon’s cash to do so. Nonetheless, the juxtaposition of events is striking. Last Tuesday, Obama visited an Amazon fulfillment center in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he toured the facility before touting the company and stumping for Keynesian stimulus measures:
It’s great to be here at Amazon. Thank you, Lydia, for that introduction and for sharing your story. I just finished getting a tour of a very small part of this massive facility. It’s the size of 28 football fields. Last year, during the busiest day of the Christmas rush, customers around the world ordered more than 300 items from Amazon every second – many of them traveling through this building. So it’s kind of like the North Pole of the South…. And we should partner with the private sector to upgrade what growing, 21st-century businesses like Amazon need most…. I’ve also called on our businesses to do more for their workers. A good example is what you’re doing at Amazon with your “Career Choice Program”…. And because no one who works full-time in America should have to live in poverty, I will keep making the case that we need to raise a minimum wage that in real terms is lower than it was when Ronald Reagan took office. That means more money in consumers’ pockets, and more business for companies like Amazon…. It doesn’t help a company like Amazon when hundreds of thousands of customers have less money to spend.
But, as critics pointed out, Amazon was an odd pick to roll out a speech about middle class jobs and minimum wage. Last year, the Seattle Times reported that Amazon employees at fulfillment centers were overworked and allegedly pressured not to report injuries. Furthermore, many of the jobs at the warehouses are of the $11 per hour variety, hardly hallmarks of middle class job creation. Last Monday, the White House was hard-pressed to explain the Amazon visit in the first place, other than in generic terms. Even more tellingly, Jay Greene of the Seattle Times reports that both the White House and Amazon refused to answer which party had solicited the President’s visit, and the White House declined comment on Amazon’s employment practices.
The sale of the Post was supposed to be top-secret, with staffers asked not to tweet about it for ten minutes. But it’s more than possible that the Obama administration had some advance notice about the sale, and that Obama appeared at the Amazon warehouse as a sign of good faith to Bezos prior to the move. Bezos has not been averse to holding hands with President Obama, either; back in October 2009, Bezos had lunch with Obama, at precisely the time Amazon was pitching cloud-computing services to the feds. This year, Amazon received a lucrative 10-year, $600 million cloud contract with the CIA, despite its bid being higher than that of competitor IBM. Bezos also backed Obama’s plan for an internet sales tax. Federal help wouldn’t come at a bad time for Amazon, which has seen two straight rough quarters; Amazon reported a 37 percent drop in profits in the first quarter of 2013, following hard on a fourth quarter 2012 report showing a net income drop of 45 percent.
Ben Shapiro is Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of the New York Times bestseller “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences America” (Threshold Editions, January 8, 2013).