More than a year after he requested proposals from the general public for philanthropic initiatives that he could put a portion of his $163 billion fortune toward, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos—the world's wealthiest person—unveiled the idea he'd come up with: a $2 billion fund to help the homeless and establish a network of schools for low-income communities.
The tech founder's plan was slammed as amounting to far less than what he could easily afford to do for communities that are struggling, especially after Amazon pressured the city of Seattle out of passing a corporate tax that would have funded affordable housing for the city where the company's headquarters has contributed to its sky-rocketing home prices—a tax that could have alleviated some of the need for the homeless shelters Bezos's initiative will help.
Bezos (worth $160+b) will fund homeless charity with donations he can deduct from his taxes after forcing Seattle to repeal a tax on his company that would have funded help for homeless. Seattle, meet your feudal lord. https://t.co/RiZnC7yWxn
— Paul Blumenthal d/b/a James McMorgans LLC (@PaulBlu) September 13, 2018
— Harry Leslie Smith (@Harryslaststand) September 13, 2018
Amazon didn't trust Seattle to spend head tax $ wisely on homeless services, affordable housing. Bezos clearly feels like he can identify nonprofits that do better. Meanwhile, this HUD list is a reminder of what he sees driving into work everyday pic.twitter.com/zYYAMKisVF
— Nick Wingfield (@nickwingfield) September 13, 2018
On social media Thursday, Bezos announced his plan to launch the Day One Families Fund, which will award annual grants to groups that provide housing and food to homeless families, as well as the Day One Academies Fund, which will establish preschools to serve low-income children.
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In keeping with Bezos's self-described "genuine, intense customer obsession," the CEO wrote, "the child will be the customer" in his new endeavor.
"The child will be the customer" is one of the most dystopian phrases I've ever heard. https://t.co/6eRQdCDXsX
— Julia Carrie Wong (@juliacarriew) September 13, 2018
@JeffBezos Do you still not get it? People are sick of deregulated free markets extending into everything. And you are completely missing the point of education if you think it is about the ‘child will be the customer' https://t.co/4smWueLFXQ
— Youssef El-Gingihy (@ElGingihy) September 13, 2018
Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) was among the critics who drew attention to reports that Amazon mistreats its employees—with many launching health and safety complaints due to overwork—who receive a median salary of $28,000 per year.
"The biggest statement Mr. Bezos could make is by raising the pay of workers in his own company," Khanna told The Guardian. "Philanthropy will not solve income inequality or stagnant wages. Raising wages like Henry Ford did in 1914 would make a dent."
I think if Jeff Bezos were authentically interested in equity he'd raise workers' wages & promote more women of all kinds & people of color to senior roles at Amazon. Branding Amazon to a massive youth audience may be one of his primary motivations here. https://t.co/FhTL69GUdX
— Shannon Coulter (@shannoncoulter) September 13, 2018