Faced with the triple emergency of COVID-19, the deepening housing crisis, and the recession, there is growing support and momentum to enact the Amazon Tax.
On Tuesday, The Seattle Times published an Op-Ed attacking Councilmember Tammy Morales’ and my legislation for coronavirus relief and affordable housing — all over a 1% tax on the top 2% of Seattle businesses.
The article was co-authored by Seattle’s most pro-corporate Councilmember, Alex Pedersen, along with Matthew Gardner, Windermere Real Estate’s chief economist. Speaking as a Ph.D. economist myself, there are no surprises here. These are stock conservative arguments, but I will address them point by point.
1. Bad economics? Pedersen and Gardner claim taxing big business during a recession will kill jobs and the economy. The opposite is true. Our legislation creates $200 million in assistance immediately for people hit hardest by the crisis. Economists broadly acknowledge that putting money in the hands of ordinary people is a smart move during recessions because workers spend what they receive, while the corporate elite hoard cash. Lastly, far from being a “job killer,” our legislation will create thousands of union jobs by funding the construction of up to 8,000 new homes.
2. “A regional solution?” The authors say Seattle shouldn’t act alone because Amazon could punish us, and we should rely instead on regional tax solutions. This is nothing new — opponents of progressive measures rely heavily on fear mongering about disappearing jobs. But bowing to corporate threats means a never-ending race to the bottom. Instead, let’s win Seattle’s Amazon Tax, and spread it regionally and nationally.
3. False advertising? The authors say our Amazon Tax is false advertising because Amazon wouldn’t be the only one taxed. In fact, we’ve repeatedly explained this is a tax on the top 2% of businesses. We say “Amazon Tax,” referencing Seattle’s biggest employer. To be clear, the tax is on the wealthiest corporations — not on small businesses, workers or jobs, as the establishment would have you believe.
4. Unintended consequences? Whenever workers fight back, we’re warned about “consequences,” in this case businesses “bleeding jobs.” Let’s get real: These companies have bigger cash reserves than working families and just received one of the largest bailouts in American history on top of Trump’s massive 2017 corporate handouts. It’s ordinary people who need a bailout. With our legislation, big business would pay a measly 1%, while Seattle households making $25,000 currently pay a highest-in-nation 17% of income in local taxes.
5. Using COVID-19 as cover? With the crisis raging, we need big businesses to pay their fair share. Ironically, it’s the authors who are attempting to use the pandemic as “cover,” while their “tax on jobs” arguments are almost identical to those used in 2017 and 2018. But yes, I’m proud to be a consistent fighter to tax big business, instead of working people, in this state with the nation’s most regressive tax system.
6. Strong relief packages already? In this historic crisis, the establishment has been forced to take some steps to prevent widespread bankruptcy and loss of legitimacy. But federal measures have been heavily weighted toward big business, while one-third of Americans couldn’t afford April rent. We cannot rely on President Donald Trump or Congress to protect Seattle workers.
7. Threat of lawsuits? Pedersen and Gardner warn about potential lawsuits. Certainly Seattle’s working people have faced lawsuits for most everything we’ve won, from the $15 minimum wage to renters’ rights. And we’ve defeated them. Big business is scared of the Amazon Tax because they know legal precedent is on our side.
8. High administration costs? The authors seem to think working people can’t do math, calling it “wasteful” to spend $92 million administering a program that raises nearly $3 billion. That’s 3%! The Amazon Tax is money well spent and paid for only by Seattle’s wealthiest businesses.
9. State legislators can do more? Anyone counting on Olympia to solve our housing crisis or create a major jobs program during the recession may be waiting forever. Seattle has an opportunity to act now.
10. A fiscally responsible alternative? In proposing 10% budget cuts and using city emergency funds backed by regressive taxes, the authors reveal their true intention — to foist the burden of the recession onto ordinary people. This is precisely why the Amazon Tax is needed, because workers can’t and won’t pay for this crisis.