This feels newsy in a “strange bedfellows” way, Fox News’s 8 p.m. guy joining forces with the socialists’ rookie of the year. But socialists and nationalists aren’t light years apart on economics. And in the particular case of Amazon shaking down NYC and DC for big tax breaks, pretty much everyone apart from the elected establishment in both parties is a “bedfellow.” Trot on over to Reason and you’ll find libertarians also in high dudgeon about the deal, and understandably so.
After all, what’s not to dislike? Bezos held a long-running national beauty contest featuring endless buzz about how Amazon might be ready to restore serious economic vitality to some “forgotten” part of flyover country. In the end that hype was seemingly nothing more than fuel for a carefully engineered bidding war designed to sweeten the pot among the coastal cities Amazon was actually considering. And when it came time to choose, they didn’t choose just any cities; they picked the country’s two centers of financial and political power and were paid lavishly by both for doing so. They even squeezed Virginia into changing the name of the area where the new HQ will be built.
It’s the corporate equivalent of LeBron James’s “Decision” special in 2010, with the down-on-their-luck midwesterners being passed over for the sexy coastal metropolis in the most humiliating way possible. Except in this version LeBron somehow convinces Florida to let him live there tax-free and to rename Miami “Jamestown” or something.
Don’t be too impressed with Ocasio-Cortez, though. She’s right here, but Philip Wegmann’s also right that she has no objection in principle to showering taxpayer money on corporations. How could she? Handing out cash from the local treasury to favored recipients is basically the definition of liberalism. (The definition of politics, really.) Show her a company that promises to advance part of her agenda and she’ll happily resort to what Jim DeMint famously called “venture socialism.”
All the United States needs to do, the bartender-turned-legislator argues, is to encourage “the electrification of vehicles, sustainable home heating, distributed rooftop solar generation, and the conversion of the power grid to zero-emissions energy sources.”
What does this flowery and high-minded green rhetoric actually mean? It means billions in subsidies and tax credits. It means a repeat of Obama-era waste when the profits were private and the risk was public. It means Solyndra, only on a much more massive scale.
Ocasio-Cortez absolutely deserves points for calling out Amazon and calling out state governments. But her anti-cronyism only goes so far because her beef isn’t the redistribution of taxpayer dollars. Her frustration is that those taxpayer dollars aren’t being funneled to the corporations she prefers.
I wonder what sort of companies Tucker would tolerate taxpayer handouts to. Nationalists aren’t laissez-faire sticklers about letting the market pick winners and losers like libertarians are.
In lieu of an exit question, spend some time with this Reason piece by Andrea O’Sullivan detailing the many non-monetary ways in which Amazon fleeced not just New York and D.C. but the many suckered cities that didn’t make it to the final rose ceremony. I wonder if other tech behemoths will follow suit and conduct phony beauty contests the next time they’re looking to open a new shop or if the stink from this one will lead them to rethink. If nothing else, there’s a PR opportunity here for Google or Apple or whoever in actually choosing a midwestern city after Amazon turned up its nose at flyover country. And given the growing unease on the right about Silicon Valley’s power, including among nationalists like Steve Bannon, the industry could use some good PR with middle America right now.