Since it was launched in 2005, Prime has become the retail equivalent of the “Death Star,” capable of obliterating decades-old businesses. The platform is under the exclusive control of the Amazon empire, a remarkable feat for CEO Jeff Bezos, who cut his teeth on Wall Street. But while many like to attribute the growth of Prime to Bezos’ business acuity, the true story of its success is the unprecedented taxpayer support Amazon has gotten from all levels of government.
Prime was able to spring into existence because states and even the federal government allowed Amazon to be the exception to seemingly every rule. For example, the publicly subsidized US Postal Service had a rule that it would not deliver mail on Sundays — that is, until 2013, when Amazon cut a deal with the post office to get the Sunday delivery restriction lifted, at least for Amazon and Priority Mail Express parcels.
At the state level, Amazon has scored a staggering $241 million in subsidies since 2015, according to research done by Thomas Cafcas and Greg LeRoy for Good Jobs First, an advocacy group that tracks public subsidies.