Last Thursday, Amazon announced it was abandoning plans to build a second headquarters in Long Island City, Queens, citing opposition and hostility from local officials. The new headquarters was expected to bring up to 40,000 high-paying jobs to the area and generate potentially billions of dollars in annual tax revenue. Upon its initial announcement, the plan was met with mixed feelings from New Yorkers. Public support for the project polled at 70 percent, according to Amazon’s blog; although, a survey by Quinnipiac University reported that 57 percent of New Yorkers approved of the plans and 46 percent approved of the tax breaks Amazon would receive. Officials on both sides of the aisle praised the headquarters’ potential to attract investment and commerce to the local community. However, a vocal minority of local politicians vehemently opposed the deal, and the city’s promised $2.8 billion in tax subsidies to Amazon over the next decade, effectively killing the project and thousands of jobs along with it.
This is the unfortunate yet unsurprising accumulation of idealistic, anti-business, progressive politics that has risen to prominence in the last several years.
The new headquarters would have directly created between 25,000 and 40,000 jobs, attracted additional investment in the forms of new housing and businesses and generated up to $30 billion in tax revenue. The headquarters would have benefited all parties in the Queens community — workers, businesses and the city. Unfortunately, opponents of the project resorted to using misleading rhetoric in an attempt to demonize big-business and depict Amazon as a large, greedy corporation with the sole purpose of exploiting workers; all in an effort to appeal to their progressive base.
It is a travesty that a small number of young, opportunistic officials such as City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Sen. Michael Gianaris and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez were willing to sacrifice thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in new investment in exchange for cheap political capital. Ocasio-Cortez, perhaps the most prominent opponent of the project, claimed that Amazon factories were essentially “sweatshops” and that the $2.8 billion in tax subsidies should instead be used for hiring teachers and fixing subways. Surely we don’t need to explain to a member of Congress that a tax subsidy doesn’t actually come from taxpayers and that the money doesn’t actually “exist” yet. But alas, here we are. Cortez’s criticism shows her ignorance of taxation and how money works.
It’s tempting to fixate on and laugh at Cortez’s understanding of fiscal policy, but Cortez and her brand of progressivism are merely symptoms of a much bigger problem: a growing anti-business, anti-free market, anti-capitalist sentiment in America. Recently, there have been calls to implement a 70-percent tax bracket, abolish private health insurance and even provide “economic security to all those who are unable or unwilling to work.”
These asinine ideas completely undermine the very foundations of American life.
America’s economic success is the result of allowing individuals and businesses to make money and flourish. Profit incentivizes innovation, hard work and personal responsibility. These qualities subsequently lead to better lives for everyone — more effective medical technology, healthier food and cheaper energy. When you take away those incentives, you also take away the very means that have made America the most prosperous country in the history of mankind.
Since 1967, real annual income for the middle class in the United States has risen 35.2 percent and real GDP has increased from $4.5 to $18.1 trillion. The demonization of business and free markets must stop.
Wright Ricketts is a senior banking and finance and managerial finance double major from Memphis.