President Trump attacked the online retail giant Amazon earlier this month, accusing the behemoth corporation of paying “little or no taxes to state and local governments,” and taking advantage of the United States Postal Service and “causing tremendous loss to the U.S.”
Not true! Since April 2017, Amazon has collected sales taxes in all states that levy one. And, though Trump insists the U.S. Postal Service loses money by shipping Amazon packages, the Postal Regulatory Commission has stated repeatedly that Amazon’s contracts with the Postal Service are a source of significant profit for the agency.
Trump’s disdain for Amazon is widely known to be both political and personal. Trump is clearly angry about articles that appear in The Washington Post, which is owned by Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon. Trump accuses the Post of malfeasance for publishing reports that detail how his presidential decisions often favor his business associates and reward his corporate empire.
But, it’s not just the negative coverage he gets from The Washington Post that makes Trump so fitful and angry at Jeff Bezos—it’s outright jealousy.
Bezos is the richest man in America and significantly better than Trump at two things in which Trump takes enormous pride: avoiding taxes and making deals. You’d think Trump would praise Bezos for his ingenuity. Wasn’t it Trump who continually bragged about his own ability to game the system by manipulating local politicians with donations to their campaigns and not paying federal and state income taxes?
Yes, Amazon barely pays any federal income tax. Its strategy is to avoid booking profits for years on end, preferring, instead, to invest all profits back into the business. Therefore, Amazon’s amazingly low tax rate is the result of aggressive tax planning. It’s interesting that Bezos’s Amazon federal tax filings are public, yet Trump has refused to release any of his personal or corporate returns.
And Amazon, just as the Trump organization, is expert at pitting state and local governments against each other, demanding large subsidies for major capital construction projects. Last year, Amazon opened a search for a building location to construct its second headquarters—a $5 billion project that would eventually employ upwards of 50,000 workers. Well over 200 metro areas submitted bids—one community competing against another—offering numerous incentives, including substantial tax breaks.
Historically, presidents have clashed with business leaders and taken on industries which they felt to be ill-serving the nation. But Trump is unique in his viciously singling out individuals and companies on a regular basis for his own political gain.
According to Dean C. Garfield, the president of the Information Technology Industry Council, which represents major tech firms such as Amazon, Dell, Facebook, Google and IBM, Trump’s anti-business tweets cause significant reputational harm and upheaval.
“It’s no laughing matter,” he said.
“There’s no real advantage going toe to toe with him,” says Joe Lockhart, a spokesman for the National Football League, another favorite target of Trump. “And his attention span is so short, he will move on. He’ll find another target.”
The Trump Administration has a propensity for trying to punish enemies in the media such as CNN, Time Warner, AT&T, Newsweek, NBC and CBS, while at the same time praising sycophantic media outlets such as the Sinclair Broadcast Group, which recently ordered news anchors on its 200 local television stations to record Trump-style warnings about fake news. According to The New York Times, “Sinclair’s regime-friendly propaganda, which seems meant to erode trust in competing sources of information, is also familiar from other nations that have slid into authoritarianism.”
To end on a lighter note, while I was doing research for this column, I paused to browse Amazon.com, searching for a few items. To my delight I discovered an intriguing product—Trump toilet paper—made from 100 percent virgin pulp wood, non-toxic, guaranteed not to smudge or smear. On each and every sheet is a portrait of the man himself, with his iconic smirk.
Perfect! I could just imagine Jeff Bezos ordering up thousands of rolls of that bathroom tissue with Trump’s kisser on it and gifting it to everyone. In fact, I’m stocking my own bathroom with a few rolls, as well. Need I say more?