The richest man in the world is not the smartest, but even if he was he couldn’t save the system from its contradictions.
“The U.S. austerity regime has reached a high-point and has primarily targeted Black cities.”
Jeff Bezos has decided not to build an Amazon corporation headquarters in New York City. According to reports, Bezos was deterred by opposition from local politicians. Opposition from local New York City politicians was in part a response to the organizing efforts of unions and community organizations such as the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union and CUNY Rising Alliance. The deal to bring Amazon to New York City initially came under scrutiny after the richest corporation in the world was guaranteed three billion dollars in local and state tax subsidies and other incentives. Amazon’s departure from NYC was much more than a singular “bad deal.” Bezos was sent packing because real limits to austerity do exist and it is the task of revolutionary and socialist leftists to assist the masses in realizing them.
One limit of austerity is the “buy the city” model that monopoly corporations have been imposing on localities across the United States for the last several years. Corporations such as Amazon understand that low-wages and high-tech production schemes eventually reach their limits of profitability when competing monopolies adopt the same practices. One of the ways that monopolies have increased their profitability is by pressuring public sector institutions into starvation (austerity) and then replacing them (privatization).The U.S. austerity regime has reached a high-point and has primarily targeted Black cities. During the Obama period, Detroitand Atlantic Cityhad their governing bodies turned over to the same private law firm, Jones Day, which acted as a proxy for the banks. These cities were effectively declared “failed states” of the domestic variety and in need of humanitarian economic intervention from Wall Street.
“One of the ways that monopolies have increased their profitability is by pressuring public sector institutions into starvation (austerity) and then replacing them (privatization).”
This model inspired Amazon to sink its teeth into New York City, home of Wall Street and one of the highest union density rates in the United States at 22 percent. Bezos didn’t have to fight hard for three billion dollars in tax evasion dollars from New York’s coffers. Amazon had already pressured Seattle last year into rejecting a proposed per-employee taxon the corporation that would allow the city to address the issue of homelessness. Recent reports have found that Amazon has paid zero dollarsin federal taxes over the last year despite being the most profitable corporation on the planet.
Amazon has also profited mightily from the U.S. military apparatus. Amazon possesses a 600-million-dollar contract with the Central Intelligence Agency. Last year, Amazon came under fire for having sold facial recognition technologyto ICE in support of its deportation regime. The corporation is also the frontrunner in securing a contract to develop cloud technology for the Pentagon. Enhanced cloud technology will greatly expand the surveillance capabilities of the military-state. Amazon invests heavily in perpetual warfare to boost its profit margins at the expense of the world’s people.
“Amazon has paid zero dollars in federal taxes over the last year.”
Bezos is a 21stcentury robber baron, a monopolist whose eyes only see profits and whose class position is at the root of every single ill that exists worldwide. The austerity regime that Bezos leads may have been temporarily set back in New York City, but this surely won’t stop the richest man in the world from seeking full spectrum economic and political dominance. Amazon has already set its sights on the privatization of education through investments in “Montessori” schools in California.This follows the lead of billionaire competitors such as Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, whose destructive investments in the charter school industry have threatened the very existence of public education in several Black cities across the country. And Amazon will undoubtedly seek to increase its influence over the 2020 election race and politics in Washington generally as it moves forward with development of its second headquarters in Crystal City, Virginia.
The limits of U.S. capitalist austerity will undoubtedly be on full display in the 2020 presidential election cycle. Corporate mediaand Trumpalike have publicly announced their fear of a creeping “millennial socialism” that threatens to exacerbate the damage done to the two-party duopoly in the 2016 elections. Billionaires such as Bezos fear “millennial socialism” because it requires the two-party duopoly to subsidize the crisis-ridden capitalist economy. Any investment in popular policies such as Medicare for All, no matter how much they save in real dollars, appear as wasted investment opportunities for profit to the monopoly capitalist class. With Bernie Sanders having entered the race, the billionaires that control policy in the United States may be forced to wield an even heavier hand against him. It doesn’t hurt that Bezos owns the Washington Post. In 2016, the Post relentlessly attacked Sandersand provided much needed media cover for the DNC’s sabotage of the Sanders campaign.
“Amazon has already set its sights on the privatization of education.”
Billionaires like Bezos understand that Sanders and his “millennial socialist” base represent the first cracks in the endless austerity regime. The mere utterance of New Deal-like policies in the political arena immediately compelled the Democratic Party establishment to crush the first Sanders presidential campaign,which is public knowledge thanks to WikiLeaks. Since then, monopolies such as Amazon and its Wall Street backers have only intensified their assault on the “millennial socialists” even as figures such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have entered the halls of Congress. The Democratic Party has coalesced around neoliberals such as Tom Perez and Nancy Pelosi, both of whom possess long track records of service to the profits of the billionaire class. Establishment Democrats have flooded the 2020 primary in hopes of splitting the Sanders vote, with the likes of Kamala Harris and Corey Booker voicing support for Medicare for All to deflect from their history as cheerleaders of privatization and mass Black incarceration.
Bezos’ banishment from New York City cannot be separated from the victory of the Chicago teachers’ strike in 2012or the recent victorious strike waged by Los Angeles teachersearlier this year. The limits to austerity are becoming further exposed as more and more workers fall into poverty and permanent unemployment. Majorities of people in the United States want Medicare for All. Tulsi Gabbard’s 2020 campaign has the potential of bringing anti-war discussions of U.S. foreign policy into the electoral arena. What is missing is an organized left movement that can challenge the power of the billionaire capitalist classamid the widening cracks in their economic and political system. Sanders strikes fear in the ruling class because his fight for a 21stcentury New Deal opens a door that the billionaire class is incapable of closing. Thus, while Sanders is no socialist, his campaign could certainly be of critical importance toward the destruction of the Democratic Party’s legitimacy once the establishment conducts its inevitable assault on his electoral chances.
“What is missing is an organized left movement that can challenge the power of the billionaire capitalist class.”
Of course, the limits of austerity are accelerating even faster globally. Venezuela has steadfastly opposed U.S. military maneuvers to reimpose austerity measures on the country by way of an illegal coup. Massive rebellions in France and Haiti have shown a spotlight on the international reach of austerity. The struggle against Amazon, Wall Street, and the rest of the capitalist class is a global struggle. It is a struggle against white supremacy and the forces of repression that keep oppressed peoples of darker hues in a state of underdevelopment and confinement. Austerity will only intensify as the billionaire capitalist class attempts to swallow the wealth of the planet whole. To end the austerity regime, the wealth that Bezos and his class have stolen must be expropriated and redistributed. This means that the power the billionaires and the rest of the capitalist class holds over the development of society must be usurped wholly and completely. It remains to be seen whether Sanders can accelerate this process. However, the internal conflict that his very existence in the electoral arena has intensified within duopoly will certainly aid in an important step: a widespread exodus from the Democratic Party.
Danny Haiphong is an activist and journalist in the New York City area. He and Roberto Sirvent are co-authors of the forthcoming book entitled American Exceptionalism and American Innocence: A People’s History of Fake News- From the Revolutionary War to the War on Terror (Skyhorse Publishing, Release Date: April 2nd, 2019) . He can be reached at [email protected]
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