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New York to Jeff Bezos: Go away 

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Amazon’s notorious attempt to squeeze $3 billion in subsidies from New York taxpayers had two very positive results: One, it shoved these immoral bribery schemes into the glare of the national spotlight; and two, it showed that outraged commoners can push back and push out a corporate bully that considered itself untouchable royalty.

Local activists pulled the curtain on the sordid affair between CEO Jeff Bezos and Gov. Andrew Cuomo and — whoa! — even jaded New Yorkers were aghast at the buck-naked ugliness they saw. In a city with a housing crisis, a broken subway system and other crying needs for public investment, taxpayer funds were to be doled out to a monopolistic, tax-dodging, anti-union colossus.

Then, when ordinary people and grassroots leaders dared to denounce the hubris and greed behind this raw deal, mighty Amazon turned out to be a fraidy-cat. Facing protest rallies and — worst of all — public questioning, Bezos & Company chose to scamper away rather than engage the community and find a way to become a good neighbor — starting by rejecting the money and apologizing for trying to rob the people.

I salute San Antonio, Texas, which in 2017 simply refused to play Bezos’ con game when he first rolled it out. While 238 cities and states groveled in front of the diminutive potentate, San Antonio’s mayor and top county official sent a “Dear Jeff” letter kissing him off. They said their city has much to offer, but any development deal “has to be the right fit; not just for the company, but for the entire community,” adding that “blindly giving away the farm isn’t our style.” 
The officials wrote that a key criteria for awarding any incentives was whether a company is “a good corporate citizen.” Noting that Amazon almost certainly had already chosen its preferred location, they called the national “search” a money-grubbing scam. “This public process is, intentionally or not, creating a bidding war amongst states and cities,” they charged.

We need a national discussion about how to end these corporate shakedowns that are now rampant across our country. They won’t stop until We the People stop them — indeed, half a dozen states went running to Bezos the moment he fled New York, begging him to take their tax dollars.

To break this sick civic cycle — which diverts public funds from infrastructure, education and other needs that actually create real economic growth for all — let’s join people in Arizona, Florida, Illinois and elsewhere who are pushing an interstate compact called the End Corporate Welfare Act. For more information on how we can stop profiteers like Amazon from pitting us against each other, go to: GoodJobsFirst.org.

You can contact Hightower at jimhightower.com.

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