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Ralph Nader’s Open Letter to Amazon’s Jeff Bezos

| June 22, 2018

Not a friend of Nader's. (Mathieu Thouvenin) jeff bezos

Not a friend of Nader’s. (Mathieu Thouvenin)

By Ralph Nader

Dear Mr. Bezos:

You’ve come a long way from being a restless electrical engineering and computer science dual major at our alma mater, Princeton University. By heeding your own advice, your own hunches and visions, you’ve become the world’s richest person – at $141 billion and counting.  You must feel you are on top of the world.

You are crushing your competition—those little stores on Main Street, USA, and other large companies that are still in business.

Your early clever minimizing of sales taxes gave you a big unfair advantage over brick and mortar stores that have had to pay 6, 7, 8 percent in sales taxes. Your tax-lawyers  and accountants are using the anarchic global tax avoidance jurisdictions to drive your company’s tax burden to zero on a $5.6 billion profit in 2017, plus receiving about $789 million from Trump’s tax giveaway law, according to The American Conservative magazine (see Daniel Kishi’s article, “Crony Capitalism Writ Large,” in the May/June 2018 edition).

Amazon has been a leading corporate welfare King and is about to reap more of this extorted harvest once you decide where to locate your second headquarters. By the way, if you are considering the Washington, D.C. area, where you are building an extended mansion worthy of an emperor, consider the fact that there is a higher concentration of public interest lawyers per square mile there than any other metropolitan area. These lawyers stand opposed to further housing price spirals, gentrification, congestion, and huge crony capitalistic subsidy demands.

Your expansion into retail stores and warehouses will further highlight the low wages and sometimes hazardous working conditions and assembly line pressures of your corporate model.  Other companies are exploiting their workers—as in Walmart (which by the way pays far more income taxes than you do on a percentage basis even under its tax avoidance schemes)— but few companies are as blatant in their planning to replace with robotics the warehouse workers and truck drivers delivering goods.

Your small Board of Directors is clueless about both their responsibility for Amazon shareholders and their overall social responsibility.  Your board will rubberstamp all of your proposals as they tally how rich you’ve made them with stock options, at the expense of your workers. I wrote you (see enclosed letter) as a shareholder to start paying a dividend—your horde of cash belongs to the shareholders, doesn’t it? You have not had the courtesy to reply to this letter.

Amazon and Starbucks have just succeeded in a grotesque power play reversing the Seattle City Council’s vote to impose a mere $48 million a year tax on large, local corporations to combat the crisis of homelessness and unaffordable housing in your hometown. Given your successful tax avoidance mania, you should be ashamed of yourself. Because of your company’s insatiable greed, you have decided to ignore the plight of the homeless.

You should spend some personal time with Seattle’s homeless. Then you can announce what you have seen is inconsistent with our society‘s values and capabilities. You should then announce that you will personally pay that annual $48 million to the city. This charitable gesture will ground, ever so slightly, your cash investments in extraterrestrial space travel. Jeff, reduce your focus on the future, installing all robotic plants and your outer space ventures. You would do well to increase your focus on what is happening presently on Earth.  Here, hard-pressed people have to live and raise their children with increasingly bleak prospects.

So you are on top of the world, hyper-rich, arrogant, with your raucous laugh and your sudden temper, believing that neither antitrust laws, nor labor laws, nor tax laws, nor consumer, nor environmental, nor securities laws will ever catch up with the excesses of your business model.

Don’t bet on it. Relentless greed with overly concentrated power (about the only thing you seem not to be willing or able to control is Alexa whose ambitions may come back to haunt you) sooner or later, faces a statute of limitations.

Ralph Nader

ralph naderRalph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His latest book is “The Seventeen Solutions: Bold Ideas for Our American Future.” Other recent books include, “The Seventeen Traditions: Lessons from an American Childhood,” “Getting Steamed to Overcome Corporatism: Build It Together to Win,” and “Only The Super-Rich Can Save Us” (a novel).

14 Responses for “Ralph Nader’s Open Letter to Amazon’s Jeff Bezos”

  1. Stretchem says:

    Bezos didn’t create the laws, or lack thereof.

  2. 107 says:

    The collected tax revenue will just give reason for politicians to spend more. No doubt a Lobbyist will benefit and politicians will play ignorant after their bought and paid for. Bottom line the politicians are ultimately responsible for their donations, right Jack Abramoff?

  3. Anonymous says:

    So much for Jeff Bezo’s image of himself as the most progressive person on earth. especially given that he reportedly treats his employees like dirt.

  4. Ed Parker says:

    Ralph, stick to protecting the consumer. Amazon already does that. Why is Bezos responsible for the homeless situation in Seattle. Poor democratic control is where to look, not Amazon.

  5. Richard says:

    What Ralph Nadar fails to recognize is that Amazon doesn’t HAVE to be in Seattle Washington. It can and perhaps will move to another location such as Nevada where corporations are not overly taxed. After all did he ever realize why major companies in the past have moved OUT of the USA into other countries to set up business? Nadar is just another left wing radical loony who feels the wealthy should make the poor rich. Socialism at its best.

    Maybe some of these poor homeless people who are willing to work could get a job at Amazon and not be constantly looking for handouts. Yeah right! Most of them already have a job, begging for money so they can buy more alcohol and drugs.

  6. Agkistrodon says:

    I buy ZERO from Amazon. Never have never will, and I am not “missing out” on anything.

  7. mark101 says:

    Man there was a homeless problem way before Amazon ever got going. Its not Amazons problem or its management. its the states, cities and government. Homelessness has been an issue since the 1800’s.

    Nadar needs to go after the Government, state local and federal for his beef.

  8. Kevin says:

    I’ve “sat down” with Seatle’s homeless on city buses (they get free passes to ride all day) where they fight and urinate and harass those just trying to get to their jobs to survive. Many of these homeless are mentally ill and in need of better care, they should not simply be left to their own devices because they don’t have the capacity to manage their own lives and their demons then take over and turn them into the social threat that they demonstrate. So please Mr. Nader give us your blather over the need for Mr. Besos to “sit-down” with the homeless. Jeff Besos has done more for the consumer in this country than any other of his contemporaries. You make it out like he created the tax system of which he took advantage. When you speak of the technology he uses (robots) instead of human drones, I am sure you used a computer to draft your letter instead of a secretary to whom you dictated the letter, shame on you for using technology and not employeeing some poor downtrodden unemployed stenographer who could have been paid by you to do the task that ruthless technology stole. Get real you passe Corvair attacker!

  9. Pogo says:

    @The same wise men who “buy” their “news” from Fox And Fools, Drudge, the Kochtopus – and buy their boner pills from Alex Jones would have it that Jeff Bezos is just one little guy. Where, one wonders, do they keep their private jets?

    Mr. Nader is repeating ancient wisdom:

    But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.
    – Luke 12:48, KJV

  10. Agkistrodon says:

    Quoting scriptures and boner pills. And I was taught, Judge not lest ye be judged thyself. And I am in no way a religious person.

  11. Jeanne Latter says:

    Tell it like it is, Ralph Nader! Imagine Amazon & Starbucks avoiding a paltry $48 million to help the homeless in Seattle! Really bad.

  12. Anonymous says:

    What has Flagler County done for the homeless other than try to chase them away from the Bunnell Methodist Church? Flagler doesn’t even have a program set up to help those that can’t pay water or power—bare necessities. Bottom line is the government will keep taking and taking and taking from us the working people whether they get it in the form of a tax or some other way. Our lawmakers spend money and have no over-site over so much….there are ways belts can and should be tightened. People tighten their belts when they loose their jobs…..why can’ government do it when people loose their jobs so our taxes will be lower. This county alone has soooo many out of control high paying jobs its sickening! Many people are being paid (not that they earn it) nearly as much or more than most of the elected officials who have to spend money every few years to keep their jobs.

  13. Sherry says:

    We do not live on this planet “ALONE”. Those of us who have compassion, hearts and souls understand, even more than many so called Christians, that “highly evolving” civilizations civilizations do not turn their backs on those less fortunate. Unfortunately, the USA is now “de-evolving” in many ways.

    Those who are not self aware enough to see their own judgmental faults . . . while often “calling out” those who disagree . . . are blind “Hypocrites” themselves. Those who refuse to believe FACTUAL information and choose to instead be led by charlatans, who manipulate them at every turn, are lost to themselves and to true humanity. Those who passionately believe that those who are wealthy should be revered. . . for no other reason than the power of the wealth they have accumulated are complete fools.

    Good Post, as usual, POGO!

  14. Jose says:

    Weirdly enough I come here because of a book written by Tucker Carlson on Fox.

    You point out the insatiable greed and social degradation that seems to erupt as a result of Bezos and his greed. He seems future set on automating all work at his company with him the only one able to extract any reward. What will happen when no one is able to find well paying jobs? Will Mr Bezos live on a private island of automation a world apart from the husk of what was once the United States.

    I am usually very pro capitalism having friends live through what is now Venezuela but ignored to see what caused these people to vote that way in the first place.

    I doubt Bezos will ever change and will continue his plan for more capital accumulation and decreased labor costs. He will never care for America but only in the name of what allows him to escape the scrutiny of his retrograde labor practices.

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