A popular headline on the wires for today’s news is “Amazon to New York: Drop Dead,” a riff on a famous New York Daily News front page from the 1970s. This was more of a drop-dead effort by progressives towards Amazon, as Cuomo recognizes.
“Amazon chose to come to New York because we are the capital of the world and the best place to do business. We competed in and won the most hotly contested national economic development competition in the United States, resulting in at least 25,000-40,000 good paying jobs for our state and nearly $30 billion dollars in new revenue to fund transit improvements, new housing, schools and countless other quality of life improvements. Bringing Amazon to New York diversified our economy away from real estate and Wall Street, further cementing our status as an emerging center for tech and was an extraordinary economic win not just for Queens and New York City, but for the entire region, from Long Island to Albany’s nanotech center.
“However, a small group [of] politicians put their own narrow political interests above their community — which poll after poll showed overwhelmingly supported bringing Amazon to Long Island City — the state’s economic future and the best interests of the people of this state. The New York State Senate has done tremendous damage. They should be held accountable for this lost economic opportunity.”
Ocasio-Cortez wasn’t driving the “stop Amazon” train, in fairness, although she was the most visible spokesman because of her fame. State senator Michael Gianaris and local left-wing activists did the grunt work of organizing against the company. A notable exception to the effort was Bill de Blasio, who supported the deal. Imagine how far to the left your agenda needs to veer to put Bill de Blasio on the side of corporate giveaways.
Amazon’s spokesman had no problem blaming AOC by name, though:
“It wasn’t any one incident,” Seth said in an interview. “It was that the environment over the course of the past three months had not got any better. There were some local and state elected officials who refused to meet with Amazon and criticized us day in and day out about the plan.”
Seth said it came down to a long-term environment that Amazon did not care to work in, in part because different politicians put forward different reasons for opposing the project.
“If you talk to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, it’s ‘Never Amazon,'” Seth said. “If you talk to [New York City Councilman Jimmy] Van Bramer, it’s unions.”
Reading through some of the progressive takes on the Amazon news at Memeorandum is useful in getting to the core of the objections to the deal. The tax breaks are duly referenced in every piece, understandably considering the populist appeal of the argument that fabulously wealthy multinationals shouldn’t receive welfare. Gentrification in working-class Queens is another recurring fear. But the sense underlying all of it is more basic and territorial: You do not bring a household-name corporate villain, especially one led by the world’s richest plutocrat, onto our turf in 2019. If the growing popularity of progressivism means anything, it means Jeff farking Bezos’s company doesn’t get to set up shop in the capital of blue America. That attitude explains why Ocasio-Cortez has seemed bizarrely upbeat today about the prospect of 25,000 jobs evaporating, notwithstanding support for the deal in the Bronx and Queens. It was a turf battle and her side won. They showed their strength. Who cares about jobs?
It reminds me of when student activists organize to try to shut down right-wing speakers on campus. It’s not a question of that speaker saying something potentially inflammatory, it’s a matter of defending one’s territory. If controlling your own turf means anything it means getting to decide who does and doesn’t get to come onto it, and enemies don’t get to do so. “We don’t want you here!” is how Kevin Williamson summarized the reaction to Amazon in New York and it does get to the basic impulse at work. Bezos should have offered to give up the tax breaks, which mean nothing to him when push comes to shove, just to see how progressives would have reacted to the biggest alleged stumbling block to HQ2 being removed. I don’t think opposition among the activist class would have changed much. Why should it? Amazon still would have been invading their turf.
Here’s Ocasio-Cortez reacting on camera. Find someone who looks at you with the same excitement and affection as she looks at 25,000 jobs flying away. Gianaris’s tone was different, it’s worth noting: “Like a petulant child, Amazon insists on getting its way or takes its ball and leaves,” he said in a statement. “The only thing that happened here is that a community that was going to be profoundly affected by their presence started asking questions.” That’s the sort of thing you’d say if you care, or at least want your constituents to think you care, about losing so much economic opportunity — annoyance that a deal couldn’t be worked out due to Amazon’s selfishness. AOC can’t be bothered to pretend. It’s wonderful that those jobs aren’t coming to New York. Progressivism won today. What could be finer? “Never Amazon” captures her attitude perfectly. Oh, by the way: As you’ll see in the clip, America’s new political star seems to believe that the $3 billion in tax breaks that Amazon would have received is cash that the city has in hand and which can now be spent on progressive agenda items. This is who’s setting the left’s economic agenda.