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NYC Open Letter to Jeff Bezos (avc.com)
64 points by jger15 24 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 141 comments



Thank you, Fred.

The amount of misinformation around this issue has been remarkable.

1) No you can't just say "let's spend that $3B on fixing the subway". This money comes from tax rebates. It means that you only get this $3B to give away when you get more tax revenue.

2) This wasn't some "backroom deal". The NDAs were a stipulation in Amazon's competition meant to prevent bidding wars. If cities could react to other cities, it would have created an escalating race to the bottom. Ironically, Amazon probably did this to avoid bad press. Go figure.

3) This wouldn't have put more strain on the subway. During rush hour, trains to Manhattan are packed, but trains to the outer boroughs are empty. This would have allowed NYC to step away from the high-maintenance hub and spoke model which strains the MTA.

Source: the New York State Budget Director's statement https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/open-letter-new-york-state-...

---

Let's do some back of the envelope math. What's 25k (minimum number of jobs) * 150k (the average salary) * 11% (income tax for NY state + NYC)? 412M. That means that $3B would be paid off from new income taxes alone over ~7 years.

That's not even considering:

- State / city corporate tax

- The new taxable income that would go to local businesses

- The effect it would have on increasing taxable income for other tech workers in the city

So yes - this was still a really good deal.


It was a good deal. Unfortunately for New York, it was also a touchpoint for exactly the same type of local populism that Amazon was trying to hedge against in the first place.


The amount of people loudly misunderstanding #1 really frustrates me.


I think calling tax incentives subsidies is really confusing and leads to that misunderstanding. Maybe that's the purpose of using that language?


Good point. Was it the media who started using the word subsidies for this?


"Subsidy" generally implies a third party transferring cash or cash equivalents to reduce or offset an expenditure. "Discount" or "break" generally implies that the party issuing the bill is voluntarily reducing the charge. The boundary between these is fuzzy, but I don't think it's right to call both "subsidies" and I do think there is a tendency for people to refer to discounts they don't like as "subsidies".


I think it's more coming from the perspective that taxation is the cost of doing business in an area. It pays for the training, infrastructure, security, etc that businesses rely on. Schools, roads, and police aren't free. Its coming from the perspective that governments pay the bill for companies operational expenses, and a company which is not pitching enough in to pay for these costs is getting subsidized by those that are.

I don't think "subsidy" is precise language but talking about "tax breaks" doesn't really communicate what a truly cushy deal Amazon is getting at the expense of others.


True. But it also annoys me that people assume it’s 25k jobs no matter what. I don’t doubt Amazon could double it’s executive workforce in the next 10 years, revenues, etc. It still is not a certainty though given we have already had a 10 year bull market run.


The amount of people who think #1 at all excuses this sort of deal really frustrates me.


Why? Tax rebates are incredibly common. $2.5B of that $3B was going to come from existing programs, like NY State's Excelsior program.


>"This wasn't some "backroom deal"."

From NYC's perspective this was exactly a backroom deal, done out of sight up in Albany.

It's important to note that in order to build the LIC Amazon campus the state employed a somewhat controversial land use procedure known as a GPP - General Project Plan. This was used as a way of circumventing the city's rezoning process which would have required greater city council input.

Using a GPP ensured that the Empire State Development Corporation had final say. And locally it was seen as an end around on Queen's LIC Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer and his district.

It's striking just how mismanaged the local perceptions and local politics of this whole deal were from the beginning. LIC and Queens in general is one of the most diverse places in the world. The overwhelming majority of which are people who have never heard of Hackernews or even work in tech.

Further this comes amid a time when New Yorker's have watched the fabric of the city change in rather concerning ways. The city has been blighted by a mix of both empty store fronts and endless retail bank branches on every block. Up above them a hyper construction machine builds endless glass tower "luxury condos" that are little more than safety deposit boxes for people who will not live there the majority of the year. All of this is a backdrop of great anxiety for many people. Our local governments have far more responsibilities than just generating tax revenue. These purely financial and technocrat armchair analyses never bother to take any of this into account.


You can’t have an economic model that just focuses on all the positive aspects of a deal — that’s just intellectual dishonesty. What about the negative externalities? The strain on public services, transportation, housing, etc? To be clear, I don’t think either side, for and against Amazon in New York City, know clearly how an economic development like this will affect the region.


How would such strain be any different than if a different business or collection of businesses that employed the same number of people were launched in the same neighborhood?

(Disclaimer: I work for Amazon, but have no knowledge of or role in this process. Opinions are my own and not of the company.)


Know clearly, or know for sure?


1) $500M of the deal is cash. That can be spent on other things. Many other companies are investing large sums in NYC without cash or tax incentives. Why give amazon special treatment?

2) It was a back room deal in the sense that it was negotiated in private without input from stakeholders such as city residents.

With respect to your math, the goal of government is not to maximize tax revenue, but to provide benefits for residents. Moreover, even if it was, the proper comparison is to alternative development plans and not to zero. If the goal is to redevelop LIC, why not have a competitive bidding process to redevelop that area? Many companies and developers would be interested and would bid against each other. When you negotiate with one party in secret you lose all your leverage.

I don't understand why any deal is necessary. Google, Facebook, etc. all seem to be doing fine in NYC without special treatment.

This is not about being against Amazon or tech, it is about being again crony capitalism.

--NYC Resident


1) The $505M is conditional if they bring 40k jobs. If it's only 25k jobs, that turns into $325M. This money is meant for construction costs. [1]

2) Who cares? Do we need a popular referendum for every business moving to New York? That's insane. There's a reason why we're a republic and not a direct democracy.

> With respect to your math, the goal of government is not to maximize tax revenue, but to provide benefits for residents.

That remaining tax money would improve infrastructure around LIC.

Also, as someone who used to live in LIC, who gives a shit? It's mostly yuppies and luxury housing until you get to Court Square. Sure, you have Queensbridge up north, but if public housing can survive in Manhattan, it'll survive in LIC. This is as low impact as you can get.

- Also a NYC resident

[1] http://gothamist.com/2018/11/13/amazon_queens_nyc_subsidies....


Well, we can agree to disagree, but I think there are many reasonable arguments against this deal that have nothing to do with the RWDSU and everything to do with a lack of transparency and special treatment for a large powerful corporation.

Wouldn't it be better to have a competitive process with multiple bidders to redevelop LIC? Let's see what the market clearing price would be. I'd bet it would not involve subsidies.


> Wouldn't it be better to have a competitive process with multiple bidders to redevelop LIC? Let's see what the market clearing price would be. I'd bet it would not involve subsidies.

When are you starting the campaign to cancel the REAP and ICAP programs?


> crony capitalism

It's just capitalism.


Not sure I follow. But when you say 'capitalism' do you mean the free exchange of goods and services? If so, did you buy the computer you used to write your comment? Or the food you ate this morning for breakfast?


My point is that this isn't the free market malfunctioning. This is the entirely logical outcome of capitalism. What you (and I) are asking for is more regulation to prevent these outcomes.


I am not asking for more regulation. Regulation often creates barrier to entry for the little guys. Good luck.


> 2) This wasn't some "backroom deal". The NDAs were a stipulation in Amazon's competition meant to prevent bidding wars. If cities could react to other cities, it would have created an escalating race to the bottom. Ironically, Amazon probably did this to avoid bad press. Go figure.

The entire thing was a race to the bottom.

> So yes - this was still a really good deal.

It wasn't. No giveaways to Amazon.


> It wasn't. No giveaways to Amazon. The mental gymnastics of this are exhausting. Just because it's a big company, doesn't mean this is a bad deal. We give tax rebates for new businesses all the time.

And as my math just showed, you pay this off in very little time.


But if you, as the city, didn't play ball and you knew for certain that the next town over wasn't going to play ball either; some city WOULD get the contract regardless. That tax revenue is gonna get collected and someone will get to spend it, whether you give Amazon $3bn or not.

I'm tired of giving money to multi-billion dollar companies, even if it does make fiscal sense. We have a poverty problem, and a shrinking middle class problem. Adding 25k jobs at $150/year would only make the housing crisis in NYC worse.

So why bend over backwards? All towns should band together and just stop coming to the table. Companies have to locate themselves somewhere. I don't want my state or city to try to attract more businesses that will raise my taxes if they're not going to do anything to fix my infrastructure and my tax rate.


> I'm tired of giving money to multi-billion dollar companies, even if it does make fiscal sense. We have a poverty problem, and a shrinking middle class problem. Adding 25k jobs at $150/year would only make the housing crisis in NYC worse.

I'm not sure I follow. How does rejecting business development and turning away thousands of high paying (and thus, paying high taxes) jobs help reduce poverty? How is rejecting well paying job opportunities supposed to help grow the middle class? Housing crises have everything to do with supply. San Francisco has a fraction the population of NYC but also has a housing crisis.

You seem to be operating under the notion that the presence of wealth somehow causes poverty. This is just plain wrong. How are we supposed to help the impoverished and build the middle class if we destroy job opportunities?

Your post comes off as putting more emphasis on "wealthy people stay out" rather than trying to come up with ways to help the poor


> I'm not sure I follow. How does rejecting business development and turning away thousands of high paying (and thus, paying high taxes) jobs help reduce poverty?

Because allowing this kind of behavior creates a race to the bottom, where the end state is that no company ever pays any tax. The only way to avoid this situation, if you don't have a higher-level government entity banning it entirely, is to grow a backbone and say no. And it isn't as if NYC is hurting for jobs.

> How are we supposed to help the impoverished and build the middle class if we destroy job opportunities?

I can just as easily flip this question on its head: how are we supposed to help the impoverished if we allow companies to play hostage-taker with jobs and ultimately drive their tax rate to 0?


> I can just as easily flip this question on its head: how are we supposed to help the impoverished if we allow companies to play hostage-taker with jobs and ultimately drive their tax rate to 0?

Because even if their corporate tax rates are reduced, their employees still pay income and sales taxes. Other posters estimated that Amazon's NYC workers would be paying close to half a million in income taxes alone each year.

Not to mention you're being intellectually dishonest as framing this as "dropping their tax rate to 0". Amazon's tax break is a temporary incentive. When the tax incentives expire, Amazon will be paying taxes like any other company.

The New York government estimated that the deal would bring in 27 billion over 15 years, yielding an 800% ROI.


Ding ding ding!

San Fransisco has a housing crisis BECAUSE of all the $150k jobs. How are the $65k people supposed to find an affordable place to live? You've got thousands of wealthy people, tens of thousands of high-end places to live, and hundreds of thousands of middle class people that can't afford rent. Meanwhile you've got renters who can't make a buck off poor people, and can't find any wealthy people to move in!

The presence of wealth doesn't CAUSE poverty. It exacerbates poverty. It's just incompatible in the same ecosystem.

You don't see any problems with the nations capital for homelessness handing $3,000,000,000 to a company that's already worth $1,000,000,000,000? Keep in mind that NONE of those homeless people will be getting job offers to work at Amazon. Amazon will truck and fly (already wealthy) talent into NYC to hire. You're not "improving" NYC poverty, you're just diluting it with existing wealth from elsewhere.


Nope. It has a housing crisis because policymakers and NIMBYs (whether wealthy SFH owners who bought into the inflation, or poor 'only approve if 100% affordable' housing types) block development.

What baffles my mind is people who think shutting down business is the way out. Which is what's happening in SF. Look at all the empty storefronts (now they want to tax landlords for keeping empty storefronts).

Whether you're being extorted based on your race, or trying to navigate all the permitting, it costs too much to do business here. That's why the storefronts are empty. Both on at the local level and even on the level of Tesla and Juul (who is leaving SF for many reasons including passing of more taxes for big local business, and attempts to ban corporate cafeterias in the city.).

The policymakers, many of whom have never done anything in the private sector are arrogant and corrupt to believe they can socially engineer people's behavior on all levels. I'm more inclined to believe shutting down the government would get more done (theoretically, notwithstanding existing gov employees).

You don't hear the stories of latino families who bought a house in the Mission for 50k in 1975 who then sold it for $1.5M in 2015. Or the people happy their neighborhood no longer has the violence it once did. You only hear the people who complain. Who are unable to adapt and take advantage of the incredible opportunity to grow themselves and their family. Maybe they should move to Flint, Michigan?

But then again, yea, keep hoods yours. Stave off the all evil racist (white) 'gentrifiers'...

And lastly, let me guess, you are not in poverty? But you know what's best for people who are? (Just checking)


> San Fransisco has a housing crisis BECAUSE of all the $150k jobs

No, it's because there's a shortage of housing. There are plenty of places that have high incomes and low rents, because the supply of housing keeps up with demand. I doubt directional drillers in North Dakota are paying San Francisco rents.

> The presence of wealth doesn't CAUSE poverty. It exacerbates poverty. It's just incompatible in the same ecosystem.

I find this statement to be very dubious. Where would the homeless living in tents be if all the wealthy people had their salaries cut in half? They'd be in the exact same spot, except the government would have a lot less tax revenue to spend on social services.

Do you genuinely think that it's better to be poor in a poor country than it is to be poor in a wealthy country? What kind if life does someone in the bottom 10th percentile live in a place like the Democratic Republic of Congo, or Venezuela lead? What kind of life does someone in the same finacial position lead in Switzerland or Singapore?


I doubt directional drillers in North Dakota are paying San Francisco rents.

https://oilprice.com/Latest-Energy-News/World-News/North-Dak...


This is a town with less than 30k people: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Williston,_North_Dakota

> The 2010 census[6] gave its population as 14,716, and the Census Bureau gave the 2017 estimated population as 25,586, making Williston the sixth-largest city in North Dakota

Of course a tiny town that nearly doubles in population in less than a decade is going to experience a sharp rise in rents. This is a classic example of cherry picking outliers.

In contrast, the median home price in all of North Dakota is just over $200k.

This still demonstrates my point: it's supply and demand that dictates the price of housing. If demand rises and supply stays the same rents go up. If supply keeps up with demand, they do not.


> San Fransisco has a housing crisis BECAUSE of all the $150k jobs

More accurately because it has lots of $150k+ jobs (and growing numbers of them) and lots of jobs at or barely above local minimum wage.

Absent compulsion, there's no reason for any marginal increase in housing stock available on the market to serve the latter market when it can be directed to the former, even if that involves a delay (e.g., for remodeling.)

> The presence of wealth doesn't CAUSE poverty.

Yes, it does; the presence of concentrated wealth drives up costs, increasing CoL, producing poverty. Outside of the situation where the production possibilities curve doesn't actually suffice to provide reliable survival-sufficient food, clothing, and shelter for the population such that with equitable distribution people would not be dying of starvation or exposure except by choice not to avail themselves of what what accessible, essentially all poverty is a result of the presence of concentrated wealth, because resources are directed to serve the interests of those with wealth, which is, after all, fundamentally just he power to command the direction of resources.


The solution to the housing crisis is:

- Improved public transportation (bring more homes in commuting distance and you increase supply, which decreases cost)

- Better building codes so we can build up. The NIMBY landlords who insist on height caps are artificially decreasing housing supply so they make more money.

Let's not strawman tech jobs in place of poor public policy. Creative destruction built the modern economy and cities need to plan for growth.


Thank you!

I'd also like to add to NIMBY designation (beyond landlords):

- Those who bought a SFH/condo for exorbitant prices who don't want more supply to keep their investment afloat

- Those who block all housing that does not meet their demands for affordable-ness. Oftentimes, anything not 100% affordable is unacceptable to them.


The folks who have signed this open letter don't represent average New Yorkers. I live in New York, yet no one ever asked me how I felt about this Amazon thing.

This should have been put to a popular referendum. Present the people with three options:

1. Invite Amazon to NYC for free. 2. Invite Amazon to NYC with subsidies. 3. Do nothing.

My gut tells me most people would have voted (1) as an affirmation that Amazon is ultimately free to come to NYC or not, with or without the subsidies.


Yes they did. That's what elections are. You voted for representatives who you believed would exercise similar value judgments as your own to all the thousands of complicated situations and decisions that the government faces. Referendums have their place, but imo, this is a terrible situation to have one.

A resolution asking "should tax breaks be part of the incentive options allowed to be given to?" would be ok. But I think the resounding "no" that vote would get is why it won't happen.


Exactly. And this idea that everyone should get a vote on every issues also assumes that people casting a vote are smart enough and will take the time to fully consider all possible nuances to 'vote' in the right way. Not to mention the fact that people are not all the same and/or stand to gain or lose in the same way. Someone in the neighborhood is quite different than Fred Wilson living in a $35m condo in NYC (and yes he does by the way..)

The election process along the same lines is certainly less than perfect. But is is way better than having referendums and letting people decide all issues by popular vote.


So how is it a choice then? If whoever you vote for is going to go against the people because of "complex political reasons" how is voting a choice? How is it putting your $0.02 in? If he voted for a different representative they probably would have also voted against his wishes.

Because they're all bought and paid for by lobbyists.


I voted for the CEO of Warby Parker?


> Yes they did. That's what elections are. You voted for representatives who you believed would exercise similar value judgments as your own to all the thousands of complicated situations and decisions that the government faces.

You're assuming New York has democratic elections, which is a reasonable assumption if you don't live in New York, but is unfortunately very incorrect.

New York government is not a democracy; the ruling parties have constructed a series of arcane, layered laws which allow the parties to essentially appoint people to nominally-elected positions, which bypasses the entire spirit of democracy[0]. The parties are controlled by local private clubs, which have hefty membership fees (my local club starts at $1000/year, which I could technically afford if I wanted to, but many of my neighbors could not).

Unlike most states, we don't have the right to have direct ballot initiatives. We don't even have the right to vote against unopposed candidates if we don't like them - if a candidate runs unopposed in a primary[1], the primary is cancelled altogether. So, for example, Kirsten Gillibrand literally did not have a primary election in 2018 - she won the nomination with a total of zero votes.

[0] as just one example, just the tip of the iceberg: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/18/nyregion/new-york-politic...

[1] and remember, the party gets to approve whether a candidate receives a primary challenge in most state races


> and remember, the party gets to approve whether a candidate receives a primary challenge in most state races

This makes sense. Primaries are internal party business. It's totally up to them to decide how they select their candidates.

The general elections are where the citizens get their say.


> This makes sense. Primaries are internal party business. It's totally up to them to decide how they select their candidates.

New York is the only state which conducts primaries this way.

> The general elections are where the citizens get their say.

No, because general elections are uncontested (due to gentleman's agreements between the two parties not to run candidates in each others' districts, and laws making it infeasible for third parties to do anything but cross-endorse the major parties).


> New York is the only state which conducts primaries this way.

That argumentum ad populum does not invalidate the offered justification.


> That argumentum ad populum does not invalidate the offered justification.

That "offered justification" doesn't refute the original point, which is that exists solely as away to have an elite minority subvert or disregard the will of the people.

The irony in pejoratively using the term argumentum ad populum in a thread that is literally about popular vote is not lost on me.


> 1. Invite Amazon to NYC for free. 2. Invite Amazon to NYC with subsidies. 3. Do nothing.

The options you list mentions no implications and therefore, you'd get responses where each individual will vote for what they think the implications are. This might lead to people voting for misleading options(for example, Brexit). One way to incorporate that is to ask for people's feedback on the implications. In such a model, you do not ask the final question but post the down the sets of implications posed as a question. For ex, Q1 : On a scale of 1-5, what do you think about XYZ? etc. The city council can have a discussion about these questions before heading to vote. You then give these questions to the people and solicit answers. Once you get the answers, you compile it and discuss how these answers could be addressed.

It's a cardinal sin to reduce complex multi-objective optimization into a simple Yes or No question based on popular vote.


The opinion polling I've seen says that something like 80% of New Yorkers wanted Amazon to come. But it isn't uncommon in political issues for passion to make up for numbers. Most of the supporters seem tepid and those opposed seem like they really might be willing to change who they vote for to keep Amazon away. So it's not surprising that politicians would bow to the pressure.


People are conflating anger at the whole HQ2 search process with New Yorkers wanting Amazon in their city.

Most want Amazon in NYC, but (locally and nationally) most are also angry at how the HQ2 shit show went down. Amazon was never going to open an HQ2 in the Midwest or the South. No, Northern Virginia is not the South. The tax breaks are a red herring.


Well you never know that! Sometimes politicians create the pressure themselves for the sake of their own interests.


Well that's not how representative democracy works. You voted-in your representatives. Now they will make the decisions for you. If you don't like their decisions, vote them out the next time.


> Well that's not how representative democracy works. You voted-in your representatives.

We didn't, because under New York state law, if the party doesn't approve a challenger (which they rarely do), the election is literally cancelled.


> This should have been put to a popular referendum

Popular votes got us Brexit and Prop 8. I'd much rather issues like this be worked through by experts than by my peers.


One is not option though right? That one is and has always been on the table is my understanding.

The options are two and three and I also live in NYC and I would have voted for 2. It makes no sense what’s happened with this thing, while Amazon has some fault by making a spectacle of all this, NY politicians believing they are “saving” us deserve the bulk of the blame.


(1) is a great option to have on this type of ballot because it'll signal that NYers really do want Amazon to do business here. If most people voted to "do nothing", that'd be a strong signal that they just don't care about Amazon.


> 1. Invite Amazon to NYC for free.

Would that option include canceling the city and state programs Amazon was going to take advantage of?


I'm incredulous about the average person having enough knowledge about the possible pros and cons of these choices. Nor should they - that's what representative democracy is for. A popular referendum for a complex issue like this, is in my opinion, a very bad idea.


Yes! Brexit is the best example for it. Not judging about It, but clearly non off the politicians that proposed Brexit did a basic research or investigation for such a huge change and about how it should work and what is the impact. Which means they had a different goal.

You should make sure you have the right people in the system to make the right decisions.

Manipulating majority is not hard. And wrong politicians even from outside the system will do it just for the sake of taking power and their own interests.


That's not the case. Many of the politicians who campaigned for Brexit have a very deep understanding and had been campaigning for it for large parts of their adult lives.

Indeed, so far their predictions appear to have been more accurate than those of the so-called "experts". For instance "experts" claimed voting to leave would destroy 500,000 to 800,000 jobs. The Brexit campaigners said it wouldn't. The experts were wrong.

Be very wary of assuming that:

a) The people claiming to be experts on a topic are experts

b) Experts on a particular topic exist at all

c) Experts will make better decisions than the people in aggregate

There are all sorts of reasons to doubt all three of these propositions.


I had two issues with the Amazon deal: 1) LIC (including transportation) cannot support 10K+ workers 2) The deal was done in secret

You need to invest money to make money. I have almost no issues with the subsidies and I have voted Libertarian since the 2004 election. I viewed the deal as NYC partnering with Amazon. No amount of small business can bring what Amazon would have brought. None.

Back to your point, I did not like the fact that everything was hidden until the end, but I also disagree with the referendum. Look at Brexit. A bunch of people simply did not understand the issue. Look at the fools that blindly follow AOC. Same thing.


Do you want a referendum for each business that wants to move in New York?


> 1. Invite Amazon to NYC for free. 2. Invite Amazon to NYC with subsidies. 3. Do nothing.

How is 1 different from 3? You buy a nice card from Papyrus and write an invitation with calligraphic letters?


Aren't 1) and 3) the same?

Google has offices here but didn't need a formal invitation to do so.


Option #1 wasn't really on the table given all the other cities in the running.


It's sad that people sit here and beat their chest about how wrong Amazon is without looking at the other side. Amazon doesn't owe you jobs, tax revenue, or anything else. The discounts are reductions in the amount of money they would owe local and state governments IF they moved their location there.

Since they aren't obligated to move their business there, they don't owe you that money. That's not your tax discount money to spend on other things, it's their tax discount money that they no longer potentially owe you.

The underlying flaw of all of this is that Amazon should "be a good corporate citizen" (do what we want with their money), that tax credits are made of money otherwise spendable by governments (when in fact they're otherwise spendable by the corporation, because it's their money until they owe the tax debt), and that we should be able to beat and shame billionaires into giving us their money and providing these opportunities. Good luck with that strategy, but I think it's unwise.

So while the college students can proudly stand there and talk about how they won with their ideals, the people who would actually benefit from it (families, struggling people who could use additional services paid for by additional tax revenue) are given not the benefits but the warm and fuzzy feeling that the collective nose has been cut off to spite the face.


> Amazon doesn't owe you jobs, tax revenue, or anything else.

They don't owe anyone jobs. They hire people to do work, they make money off that work. That is how this works. Job creators are not noble or good or generous merely because they create jobs. It is a self-serving act.

They owe tax revenue on profits earned.

> that we should be able to beat and shame billionaires into giving us their money and providing these opportunities

We should be able to do that. Exterminating the billionaire class (by taking their money) would be a great thing for society.


> Exterminating the billionaire class (by taking their money) would be a great thing for society.

I feel like you're going out of your way to phrase that as offensively as possible. I would refer to this as some kind of dog-whistle for advocating violently putting people against the wall, except dog-whistles are supposed to be subtle. There's no reason to use words like "exterminate" unless you're explicitly trying to normalize murder as a political tactic. It's like saying we should "exterminate Muslims" by converting them to Christianity.

If you weren't trying to imply a threat, then I'm sure you won't object to my retort--that we should "exterminate" people like you by patiently educating them until they see reason and change their minds. Or maybe by forcibly confiscating their voting rights so they can't impose their desired "exterminations" on others.


> patiently educating them until they see reason and change their minds.

I can hold out longer than your patience.

> Or maybe by forcibly confiscating their voting rights

I don't have voting rights.

Billionaires shouldn't be allowed to exist in our society. That kind of wealth hoarding does no good, it's a massive waste.


> I don't have voting rights.

Thank God for that. You people slaughtered enough people in the 20th century.


> Exterminating the billionaire class (by taking their money) would be a great thing for society.

I suppose a class of actual slaves would be a great thing for society, too. It's easy when you define slaves, or billionaires, as being outside society and therefore subject to depredation.

Fortunately, advances in the theory of human rights as extending to all people have put an end to such thinking.


Except that if you say, implement a wealth cap at X millions then taking a billionaires money still leaves them rich enough to do anything.

That's not slavery.


Or they can just move all their money out of the country. An estimated 200 billion in capital left France when it instituted it's wealth tax.

And if you try to tax billionaires on wealth stored abroad, they'll just move to New Zealand. Do you really think billionaires are going choose to stay in the US and loose huge portions of their net worth instead of just leaving the country?

This is the problem with extreme forms of taxation. They really only work when a country does things like restrict travel out of the country. And if someone's policies is contingent on restricting certain classes of people it is going to raise some ethical questions.


> We should be able to do that. Exterminating the billionaire class (by taking their money) would be a great thing for society.

Historically, weak private property rights are used to hurt the poor, the vulnerable, the weak, the unpopular, the racial minorities, and the immigrants. My fellow members of the left make a grave mistake in assuming that private property rights are only important to the wealthy.

I will predict that assailing private property rights to accomplish societal goals will be seen as a major unforced error by this political movement because it will end up being used to harm non-billionaires FAR more than its used to rob the rich.

Not to mention that just like wiretapping and anything else, it's a lazy shortcut to just suspend rights to achieve your ends rather than doing the proper work within the system and without violating anyone's property rights. We need to put more thought into things than these kinds of facile solutions.


> My fellow members of the left make a grave mistake in assuming that private property rights are only important to the wealthy.

If you're defending billionaires, you aren't on the left.


Thanks for the No True Scotsman logical fallacy. Let me say in return that if you're this irrational, your adherence to the left (and your gatekeeping the left) is far more of a disservice to the left than a service.

I defend anyone's personal human rights from inappropriate threats, because I actually understand why we have those rights and why they're important. You are trying to dehumanize the billionaires so you can deny their fundamental rights and you're calling that "the left." I'm defending everyone's human rights, and I'm calling that "the left." I pray that I'm right and the left is more filled with thoughtful intellectuals who want to improve things rather than violently irrational people who want to seize other peoples' property and dehumanize their fellow citizens.


> Thanks for the No True Scotsman logical fallacy

Not no true Scotsman. gatekeeping, yes.

> I'm defending everyone's human rights, and I'm calling that "the left."

Good for you, but I wouldn't call that left or right wing. Defending private property rights is more right wing than left wing.


There isn't one position in politics...

L----------|----------R


I think Venezuela is looking for new citizens...

You may fit in well there. Just saying.


Communist China is of course the perfect example of the lack of property rights, enabling the displacement of the poor/non-connected to make way for the grandiose dreams of the Party.


Well said. Unfortunate a lot of the 'college students' you speak of are now policymakers with the same ethos of entitlement, arrogance, and most importantly, a lack econ 101.


So that $28 billion in tax revenue they talk about. How does that jive with all of the statements that Amazon paid $0 in tax through savvy use of the laws?

Ignorance? Wishful thinking? Marketing? I'm honestly not trying to be political, just wondering where they're getting that from.


Amazon pays $0 corporate income tax. They pay huge amounts of other taxes.


Is there a citation for this that does not lead back to that probably-biased ITEP article?

Edit: clarification, since it seems my question as misinterpreted. Is there a citation for the $0 in federal income tax?


Their financial statements show they provisioned $1.2 B in income taxes worldwide for 2018, I suppose from that narrow perspective you have to define 'plenty'. Their effective tax rate seems like it's in the 10% range?

I think it'd be difficult to measure their employee tax footprint, I haven't been able to find good numbers on that, a Fermi estimate makes their numbers seem plausible if they went according to plan.

https://ir.aboutamazon.com/static-files/ce3b13a9-4bf1-4388-8...


Not the OP, but here's a Bloomberg article about this [1]. It has a bit of an incendiary tone. Later Bloomberg published an editorial [2] explaining that actually there's nothing scandalous about the zero federal tax rate; it is due to a difference between tax accounting and GAAP accounting. For tax purposes deferred equity compensation is considered to be out-the-door the moment it is granted, for GAAP purposes it's out-the-door the moment it vests.

[1] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-02-22/tax-law-d...

[2]https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2019-02-26/amazon...


This is my question as well.


you might be confused between Federal tax and State tax. Amazon paid $0 in Federal taxes but they still have to pay state tax in the states they do business in.


This is correct. The $27B also counts income taxes paid by employees, property taxes based on rising valuations, and so on.


>"How does that jive with all of the statements that Amazon paid $0 in tax through savvy use of the laws?"

You want "jibe" here not "jive." For some reason this malapropism seems to be on the rise, not sure why. Jive is never correct in the context of "in agreement" or "in accordance."

See:

https://grammarist.com/usage/gibe-jibe-jive/


That figure comes from the taxes paid by the people they employ


That tastes bad to me. That's not amazon paying tax, that's just employees. That makes the statement in that letter seem disingenuous. Am I overthinking this?


> That tastes bad to me. That's not amazon paying tax, that's just employees.

The entity that is charged the tax has nothing to do with who's actually paying the tax (in the real sense - the person who bears the burden of the tax). A sales tax that's added to a point-of-sales bill versus a sales tax that's invisible to the consumer and charged to the supplier has the exact same economic impact on both of them.

For example, FICA taxes are nominally paid 50% by the employer and 50% by the employee, but over 90% of the actual tax incidence falls on the employee. Even if we changed the law so that 100% of FICA taxes were paid for by the employer, employees' after-tax wages would be the same.


Just pointing out the number they're referring to

For the record I'm an LIC resident and generally opposed to Amazon under the proposed plan


No, you're not. This also conveniently ignores the additional costs to services.


Question: How much is this computer?

Answer: $1186

Question: If I buy 100 of them can you give me an x% discount?

That's what Amazon did with the elected NY leaders. If I bring 25,000+ employees that might generate as much as $28 BILLION in taxes, can we get $3 billion in discounts? If we don't get the $3 Billion in rebates you will NOT be getting the $28 Billion in taxes.

It was a yes or no.


This is nice. But I don't know why Amazon would want to do business in New York. Or California, for that matter.

These states' policymakers are hostile to business in the form of taxes and regulations. Cuomo himself said 'America was never great'.


>These states' policymakers are hostile to business in the form of taxes and regulations.

All states collect taxes and have laws and regulations, so I guess they're all "hostile to business."

>Cuomo himself said 'America was never great'.

I don't see what relevance that should have to Amazon's tax strategy, but if you think Amazon should only do business in pro-Trump areas, you should probably look into Jeff Bezos' politics first.


Agreed, all states have taxes. But different states have different policies and regulations.

For example, with individuals, Washington State does not charge income tax but has a sales tax. On the other hand, California has a state income tax, along with a sales tax.

So you can see, tax policy is not binary. Some states are more favorable for individuals, and by extensions, businesses.

-

As far as the quoted local politicians comments, it is important to understand their mindset when potentially doing business in their state.

For example, I'd want to know if they sounded entitled, naive, or arrogant when it comes to business (or anything for that matter)? Do they think business owes them something for breathing the air, for example? Do they hold a world view where there are bad guys, good guys, and nothing in between?

I could go on, but personally, Cuomo's comments (and actions) would make me think twice about doing business in his state.


Let's not forget, that of the $3B in subsidies, only $505M was a capital grant specific to Amazon, itself tied to Amazon investing $3.6B (see https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-and-mayor-de...).

The rest of that $3B figure was from _existing_ programs that are also available to other companies, should they meet the eligibility requirements. The Excelsior program at the NY state level made up $1.2B. The other bits are ICAP and REAP, which are NYC programs. The city projected that Amazon would be eligible for $897M from REAP and $386M from ICAP through 2038. I say 'projected' since AFAIK, these are incrementally granted credits based on what is incrementally delivered by the employer.

The city/state projected 107,000 total direct and indirect jobs, over $14 billion in new tax revenue for the State and a net of $13.5 billion in City tax revenue over the next 25 years. And $186 billion in Gross State Product for the New York State economy over the initial 25 years.

This was a tremendously positive deal for NY/NYC and despite multiple polls showing majority support among constituents for the deal, it got tanked by a vocal minority of far-left socialist activists/politicians. Governments and companies need to develop a stronger spine, ignore the social media outrage machine, and learn to sift out/ignore loud voices who have the time to engage in a visible/disruptive manner (which incorrectly skews opinion away from silently-held opinions that are equally valid).


A way that works for everyone?

Sure. Amazon comes in. They don't get any tax breaks. They do business and make money and pay taxes. NY actually uses those taxes for things people need.


Opportunity knocks only once.


Signed, the vocal minority.


Incorrect.

> The result: 56 percent of voters statewide approved, while 36 percent didn’t.

> In New York City, 58 percent of registered voters backed the plan, while 35 percent were opposed.

https://nypost.com/2019/02/12/majority-of-new-yorkers-want-a...


as if this whole processes hasn't been gross enough, do they think this boot-licking after the fact is going to curry some favor?


Probably more a message to some politicians than to amazon.

The political divide in this country is insurmountable. Just listen to Ben Shapiro's opinion on events, and then NPR's. Stark, polar opposites. It is impossible for the average American to take an informed position on something in so polarized a climate.


> Just listen to Ben Shapiro's opinion on events

I'd rather shoot myself

> and then NPR

I'd rather just sit in silence staring at a wall.


> Probably more a message to some politicians than to amazon.

And to donors.


NYC > AMAZON


This shit is gd insane

Fuck amazon


This comment is not relevant to the content of the letter, but why on earth am I reading this letter in a low-res PNG?


Its a little bit easier to read if you hotlink to the image https://avc.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/2019-03-01-NYTime...


It's weird they chose the image format, maybe it's because they want to show the signatures(?), instead of Portable Document Format.


But there aren't even any signatures on that page. HTML is perfectly capable of displaying text with some bolded elements in four columns.

Really all that providing this in image format accomplishes is:

1. makes it blurry on high-res monitors

2. makes it so that it can't be zoomed effectively

3. makes it so that it can't be searched

4. makes it so that it can't be indexed by search engines

5. makes it so that it can't be copy/pasted easily

6. makes it cost exponentially more data to transfer


> pplease sir, can i have some more :(


NYC resident here. If Amazon wants to come to NYC, great, but why do they need corporate welfare including $500M in cash? We do not need them here, and they should pay full freight like everyone else (including Google, which is buying whole city blocks without second thought and with no handouts). This is a terrible back room deal and crony capitalism.


The commentary on this kills me.

This isn't some check to Bezos. This is a rebate off their tax bill. These are taxes that you will not get unless the business moves to New York.

Taxes incentives are incredibly common, so common that the deals that NY offered Amazon work within existing programs like Excelsior.

Finally, it's not a backroom deal. Part of Amazon's competition was for each city to sign an NDA in the process so cities can't see the bids of other cities. This would have created a bidding war that, surprisingly, Amazon didn't want.


> Taxes incentives are incredibly common

Yes, because our society is corrupt by design.

> This isn't some check to Bezos. This is a rebate off their tax bill. These are taxes that you will not get unless the business moves to New York.

At which point he gets to earn an extra 3 billion that should be going to the state.

> Finally, it's not a backroom deal. Part of Amazon's competition was for each city to sign an NDA in the process so cities can't see the bids of other cities. This would have created a bidding war that, surprisingly, Amazon didn't want.

That's a backroom deal. Giving it a (flimsy) reason for being a backroom deal doesn't change the way it was done.


> Finally, it's not a backroom deal. Part of Amazon's competition was for each city to sign an NDA in the process so cities can't see the bids of other cities.

Who benefits from this information asymmetry?


It meant that there wasn't an escalating bidding war between cities. So in this case, the taxpayer.


That's not necesarily true. The NDA means that Amazon has more information than the cities as was pointed out, so the cities are absolutely at a disadvantage. There's really no circumstance where information asymmetry is a positive thing, since the party with more information could always potentially exploit it. At best, you are no worse off than under information symmetry.

The NDA would have easily allowed Amazon to give the impression that other cities are offering more than they actually are willing to offer. This could have driven up bidding even more than if it were in the open.

You also have to think about incentives here. Why would Amazon want an NDA if it wasn't for their benefit? Are they just trying to avoid bidding wars out of the goodness of their heard?


>The NDA would have easily allowed Amazon to give the impression that other cities are offering more than they actually are willing to offer. This could have driven up bidding even more than if it were in the open.

Have you ever actually participated in an RFP? Its not a two way conversation. Basically (A) gives a list of requirements and then (B) and (C) submit their "bids" to (A). (A) reviews the bids and picks one.

And yes the NDA does benefit Amazon, just like any business benefits from RFP. But non-blind bidding would benefit them a lot more if their desire was to maximize incentives offered.

Blind Example: (A) sends out a RFP for a service. (B) Bids to do the service for $5,000. (C) Bids to do the service for $6,000. Neither (B) or (C) know each others bids so they bid the lowest they can and still turn a profit.

Non-Blind Example: (A) sends out a RFP for a service. (B) Bids to do the service for $5,000. (C) Bids to do the service for $4,000 since they can see what (B) bid. (B) then bids $3,000. Both (B) and (C) are in a worse position than if they couldn't see each others bids.

Having more information isn't always helpful. Looks at what happened when regulation made CEO compensation in publicly traded companies public knowledge. CEO compensation rose exponentially.


> The NDA would have easily allowed Amazon to give the impression that other cities are offering more than they actually are willing to offer.

That's a good point.

My impression was that Amazon wanted to avoid a bidding war because of bad press.


$500M is literally a check to Bezos.

And it is a backroom deal in that there was no competitive process to redevelop LIC, which would allow other companies and developers to compete with Amazon, as well as no input from city residents and those affected. The NDA is for Amazon's benefit and was clearly done at Amazon's behest.


> Finally, it's not a backroom deal. Part of Amazon's competition was for each city to sign an NDA in the process so cities can't see the bids of other cities. This would have created a bidding war that, surprisingly, Amazon didn't want.

So, it's a backroom deal. Opacity in this process benefits Amazon and hurts the cities, so people got pissed off and rejected it. This isn't hard to understand.


> they should pay full freight like everyone else

"Everyone else" would have received the same breaks for that location and scale of project (less the $500MM you already mentioned).

> including Google, which is buying whole city blocks without second thought and with no handouts

Is there evidence for this, or is it just speculation based on silence (because Google is smart enough to keep their mouth shut and not start patronizing national dog-and-pony shows)?


> "Everyone else" would have received the same breaks for that location and scale of project (less the $500MM you already mentioned).

Amazon left the impression with their year long spectacle they were getting a special deal. They really have nobody to blame but themselves.


Both that and Amazon not actually needing any assistance do not excuse the constant misinformation being repeated about this situation.


It would be public information if they did receive any tax incentives. As far as I understand, Google, Facebook, and Amazon's already existing 5,000 NYC jobs have been achieved the good old fashioned way, sans bribery.


> It would be public information if they did receive any tax incentives.

Sure, if you dig for it. New York is notorious for burying records under obscure bureaucracy.

> As far as I understand, Google, Facebook, and Amazon's already existing 5,000 NYC jobs have been achieved the good old fashioned way, sans bribery.

Just because a reporter hasn't decided to go digging for evidence (and succeeded) doesn't mean these companies didn't get breaks and subsidies. There are programs that cover certain areas of Lower Manhattan, though generally south of 96th St. there are not many city incentives. The state incentives that Amazon qualified for in LIC they certainly already qualify for, at least in part, as do Facebook and Google.


We can't prove a negative. If you want to convince us that Google and Facebook were motivated to hire in NYC because of tax incentives, provide some evidence. Otherwise, I don't think it's a compelling point.


Google has a history of using shell companies to hide its tax breaks.


>""Everyone else" would have received the same breaks for that location and scale of project (less the $500MM you already mentioned)."

And this 500 million dollars is kind of a really big deal. To the average NYC resident who has watched their transit system languish in a perpetual state crisis and disrepair this is 500 million dollars in "real" tax dollars woefully misspent.


First, the MTA has plenty of money. They need to stop wasting it.

Second, the $500MM was coming from the state. It would not, and will never, see the coffers of the MTA.

Third, if $500MM is such a big deal then the $2.5B in non-special incentives are a much bigger deal, and are getting completely lost in the misinformation that the entire $3B was a special deal for Amazon and that they would have got $0 without the dog-and-pony show.


>"First, the MTA has plenty of money. They need to stop wasting it."

No they don't. Albany has repeatedly diverted tax revenues earmarked for the subways. This goes all the way back to Governor Pataki. State then forced them the agency to borrow and spend obscene sum on debt servicing. This is well-known and has been well-discussed.[1] The state currently contributes well over 500 million to the MTA.[2] So clearly money from the state does "see the coffers of the MTA."

For 2019 the MTA has deficits of just over 500 million dollars. This information is public and readily available.[3] It's worth noting this is the same amount the state was going to give to Amazon via a grant.

Despite whatever waste and inefficiencies at the MTA it most certainly does not have anywhere near the 19 billion dollars needed for Andy Byford's Fast Forward plan.[4]

>"Second, the $500MM was coming from the state. It would not, and will never, see the coffers of the MTA."

Wrong. The MTA already receives direct financial contributions from NY State via its' Metropolitan Mass Transportation Operating Assistance Fund.[5] This is not new either.

The actual facts refute your assertions.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/18/nyregion/new-york-subway-...

[2] http://web.mta.info/mta/news/books/docs/MTA-2019-Adopted-Bud...

[3] http://interactive.nydailynews.com/project/mta-funding/#subs...

[4] https://ny.curbed.com/2018/5/23/17383870/nyc-subway-mta-over...

[5] https://www.budget.ny.gov/pubs/archive/fy18archive/exec/agen...


Google in NYC shares a building with the FBI, shares the other one across the street with Internap (and is part of a fiber loop out to all of the big datacenters in New Jersey) and the entire building across the street from the first one belongs to the DEA.

I'm sure that the government chose Google as an occupant for those buildings just as much as Google's money did.


If there's one silver lining to this HQ2 spectacle, it seems to have really soured a lot of folks on handouts to large corporations over often illusory or exaggerated promises of jobs and investments. We've been through this in Seattle ad nauseum with both Boeing and Amazon. Wisconsin is currently learning an even harsher lesson with Foxconn.

Most recently, Amazon threatened to pull out of a large skyscraper project if the head tax went through[0]. It didn't, and a few days ago they announced that they would not be moving into the building anyway.

Even if you are a small-government libertarian, you should be opposed to these policies, as they are blatant handouts to powerful players. Small- and medium-sized businesses don't get this kind of treatment. This is a race to the bottom among states and municipalities. It is oligarchical, crony capitalism.

[0] https://www.geekwire.com/2019/amazon-backs-massive-seattle-o...


> It didn't, and a few days ago they announced that they would not be moving into the building anyway.

It did, after months of debate and planning.

Amazon and a few others got it scrapped almost instantly.

> It is oligarchical, crony capitalism.

Our society is built to fuel the interests of the wealthy.

It's just capitalism. No special modifiers required.


This is such gross crony capitalism. It drives me nuts the uncritical repetition that Amazon's going to "bring 25,000 jobs" to NYC. As if the tech industry wasn't already hyper-competitive in NYC. Unemployment for tech workers is nigh non-existent. There are already a surplus of jobs. We don't need this. Google didn't need this for their workforce expansion in NYC. Facebook didn't need it. And hell, Amazon didn't need it for their 5,000 employees already in NYC.


I just don't understand why this conversation seems to be dominated by financial discussion. The main problem that many NYs had with the Amazon deal was dilution of our culture. Dumping 25,000 high earning employees into a complex and vibrant city is following San Francisco into folly.

They probably oversell the economic benefit, and it's pretty foul the way a corporation can push around politicians. But the bottom line is, these jobs wouldn't go to existing New Yorkers in large part, and that makes the economic benefit to New Yorkers thing difficult to reason about.


Do you... live in New York? I don't mean to be rude but you say "our" culture can't handle 25,000 high earning employees. 25,000 new high earners would be utterly unnoticed in the sea of Wall St.-ers. Honestly I think it'd improve the high-earner culture here if anything...


I live in Brooklyn.

In lower Manhattan they might be unnoticed, but that is not New York. Queens, is not Manhattan. You're talking about a major gentrification event. Can't handle is bad wording, but it would seriously exacerbate the wealth distribution problem here, which is already the worst in the country.




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