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New Yorkers mobilized to stop Amazon from bringing its new headquarters to New York City. The company announced Thursday that it was canceling plans to build a campus in Long Island City, Queens. (Photo: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

New York HQ Fiasco and $0 in Federal Taxes, Say Critics, Confirm Amazon's Status as Deadbeat Corporation

"Why should corporations that contribute nothing to the pot be in a position to take billions from the public?"

Julia Conley

A day after Amazon announced it was canceling plans to establish a new headquarters in New York City, critics pointed to a new report on the company's federal taxes for 2018 as more evidence that its exit was no loss for New York.

The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) on Friday released data showing that despite making more than $11 billion in profits in 2018, Amazon paid zero dollars in federal corporate taxes for the second year in a row. The company contributed nothing to public coffers thanks to President Donald Trump's tax plan that was passed into law in 2017 as well as tax credits for executive stock options.

The news follows Amazon's announcement that it was backing out of a deal in which New York State was to give the company nearly $3 billion in tax incentives if it went ahead with building a new headquarters in Long Island City, Queens. Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio had offered the incentives during Amazon's 14-month nationwide search for a new home—denounced as a "race to the bottom" by critics.

American cities were pitted against each other to see which government would offer the company—run by the world's richest man—the biggest savings.

As Good Jobs First director Greg LeRoy said Thursday, the competition exposed corporate tax incentives to the larger public as an exercise in out-of-control corporate greed aided by politicians.

"Suddenly the green curtain was pulled back," LeRoy told the New York Times. "People are aghast at what they saw, and rightfully so. It's absolutely a godsend to those of us who have been trying to reform economic development."

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who celebrated its decision to withdraw as proof of the power of organizing, was among those who pointed to ITEP's report as new proof of the company's long track record of contributing nothing to the greater good in the cities it inhabits, despite its enormous wealth.

Ocasio-Cortez was attacked on Friday by MSNBC anchor Joe Scarborough for calling out Amazon's plan, with Scarborough accusing her of "only [caring] about herself...and not about the people she represents because those people would be getting jobs themselves," referring to Amazon's claim that it would offer 25,000 jobs to New Yorkers.

In response, Ocasio-Cortez argued that Amazon canceled its plans after refusing to work with the community to ensure the best outcome for local residents.

"Opponents in New York's city council and the state legislature refused to buckle to Amazon's demands," wrote David Dayen at In These Times. "They doubted the necessity of handing over taxpayer cash to the world's most valuable company, at a time when New York has struggled to fund public transit and affordable housing. Furthermore, they feared a worsening of congestion, gentrification, and displacement in Long Island City."

"Come for me all you want, but my job is to make sure that people are protected in society," Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter, addressing her critics. "Someone's got to look out for the people our system is leaving behind—especially now, when most of the wealth created is going to fewer people, those left behind are the majority of Americans."

"Like a petulant child, Amazon insists on getting its way or takes its ball and leaves," said state Sen. Michael Gianaris, who represents the district where Amazon was planning to build. "The only thing that happened here is that a community that was going to be profoundly affected by their presence started asking questions."

Like LeRoy, Dayen suggested that Amazon's refusal to budge on the perks it expected to receive from New York was "a massive blow to corporate welfare."

"The HQ2 debate in New York broadened awareness of the sordid process of economic development deals, by which powerful companies raid cities and states to the tune of up to $90 billion annually, while local services suffer from lack of funds," he wrote.

"While these subsidies are often granted under the cover of secrecy, Amazon turned its demands into a spectacle, which appears to have backfired," he added. "All companies that enjoy corporate welfare will likely now receive more scrutiny for such massive subsidy deals."

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