A simmering feud between President Biden and Jeff Bezos has come to light after the Amazon founder went on the offensive to criticize the White House’s approach to inflation and taxing wealthy corporations.
Biden has frequently used Amazon as a foil as he lobbies for higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans and big business to help fund his economic agenda, and he recently vocally supported union organizing efforts at the company. .
But Bezos’ tweets accusing the president of “hijacking” and risking worsening inflation with his economic proposals, and the acerbic response from the White House, marked an escalation in what has become a growing relationship. conflicting.
“You don’t have to take a big leap to understand why one of the wealthiest people on the planet opposes a middle-class economic program that cuts some of the biggest costs families face. , fights long-term inflation and adds to the historic deficit reduction the President is achieving by asking the wealthiest taxpayers and corporations to pay their fair share,” said the White House Deputy Press Secretary, Andrew Bates, in a statement.
“Nor is it surprising that this tweet comes after the president met with union organizers, including Amazon employees,” Bates added.
Bezos hit back Monday afternoon, accusing the White House of trying to change the subject and strike back at its economic policy.
“Remember the administration has done its best to add another $3.5 trillion to federal spending,” Bezos tweeted. “They failed, but if they had succeeded, inflation would be even higher than it is today, and inflation today is at its highest level in 40 years.”
Monday’s back-and-forth followed several tweets over the weekend, in which Bezos challenged the White House’s argument that raising taxes on big business would help reduce inflation. He argued that the two were unrelated and he suggested that a government disinformation committee should investigate a Biden tweet making the case.
Publicist Karine Jean-Pierre, when asked about Biden’s tweet, spoke broadly about the benefits of a fairer tax code for American workers and for fighting climate change.
The White House has found support from former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, who had criticized the administration’s early economic rescue package and warned of the risk of inflation for much of the last year. .
“I think @JeffBezos is mostly wrong in his recent attack on admin @JoeBiden,” Summers tweeted Monday. “It’s perfectly reasonable to believe, as I do and as @POTUS asserts, that we should raise taxes to reduce demand in order to contain inflation and that the increases should be as gradual as possible.”
While the fight against inflation has vexed the White House, a public spat with Amazon is one the administration would seem to welcome. Biden has used the tech and retail giant as a cohesive foil. He repeatedly pointed the finger at Amazon for failing to pay federal taxes as part of a broader rhetoric pushing corporations and the wealthiest individuals to pay their fair share.
And Biden, long an advocate for organized labor, has in recent weeks been a public supporter of efforts to organize Amazon workers.
“Amazon, here we come,” Biden said to applause at a North American building trades union legislative conference last month after workers at one of his Staten Island, NY, locations voted to be represented by a union.
Earlier this month, Biden hosted Amazon union president Christian Smalls at the White House.
Robyn Shapiro, spokesperson for the American Economic Liberties Project, said Bezos’ Twitter feud with Biden was an effort by the Amazon chief to show off his own political power.
“Whether on Twitter or in other venues, what we’re looking at is Bezos’ flexible political power that comes with the extreme economic power he maintains,” she said.
“And I don’t find it at all shocking to see someone who maintains such extreme corporate power back down at a time when there’s a huge debate about the role that extreme corporations [power] plays into inflation,” she added.
Bezos’ criticism comes as the tech industry opposes antitrust reform proposals.
The Computer and Communications Industry Association, of which Amazon is a member, links record inflation to its campaign against the US Online Innovation and Choice Act. The group released an ad on Monday, backed by a seven-figure campaign, warning that the bill could raise already skyrocketing prices for consumers.
The Biden administration has backed the legislation, which would prevent tech giants, including Amazon, from prioritizing their own products and services on their platforms.
Versions have emerged from the Senate and House Judiciary Committees with bipartisan support, but face a rocky road and an ever-shorter deadline to pass Congress as the midterm elections approach.
Amazon, and Bezos himself, have become targets in progressive efforts to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans and the most profitable companies.
Over the past four years, Amazon has declared a total federal tax rate of 5.1% on more than $78 billion in U.S. revenue, according to a report by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.
Amazon posted record profits of more than $35 billion last year, 75% more than its 2020 profits, and paid just 6% of those profits in federal corporate income taxes, according to the report.
Bezos himself reportedly paid no federal income taxes in 2007 and 2011, according to a bombshell ProPublica report released last year citing IRS data.
Between 2014 and 2018, Bezos declared income of $4.22 billion and paid $973 million in taxes. During this period, the wealth of the Amazon founder and then CEO increased by $99 billion, according to the report.
“I don’t think he wants the public to talk about the fact that the wealthy should pay taxes on their income, just like middle-class people, or that profitable businesses should pay taxes on their profits,” he said. said the Institute’s Amy Hanauer. taxation and economic policy.
“I think it’s very appropriate that the White House is talking about having a tax code that collects the resources that we need to get the kind of programs that we think are going to help the economy,” he said. -she adds.