November 17, 2021 by Ethics in Tech board member Brett Wilkins for Common Dreams
Progressives on Wednesday slammed what they called a proposed $10 billion handout to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos—the world’s first multi-centibillionaire—in the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act as a “giveaway of galactic proportions” in the face of growing wealth inequality and the inability of U.S. lawmakers to pass a sweeping social and climate spending package.
According to Defense News, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) plans to merge the $250 billion U.S. Innovation and Competition Act of 2021 (USICA)—aimed largely at countering the rise of China—with next year’s NDAA, which would authorize up to $778 billion in military spending. That’s $37 billion more than former President Donald Trump’s final defense budget and $25 billion more than requested by President Joe Biden. The NDAA includes a $10 billion subsidy to Bezos’ Blue Origin space exploration company.
“Providing Jeff Bezos with $10 billion of taxpayer money would be an inappropriate giveaway of galactic proportions,” Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU), said in a statement Wednesday.
“Jeff Bezos shouldn’t receive taxpayer subsidies for his personal projects—period,” he continued. “In at least two recent years, one of the richest people on the planet paid no income tax; yet he then demands billions in taxpayer funds for a project that’s already been awarded to another company. This is the height of hubris.”
“Rather than waste $10 billion on a redundant space contract for Bezos, that money could be used to adequately fund Social Security Disability, Medicare and Medicaid, and the food stamps that many of his own employees at Amazon and elsewhere have to rely on to make ends meet,” Appelbaum said.
“Jeff Bezos’s business model includes feasting on public subsidies—and the U.S. Senate must not acquiesce to his demands,” he added. “Furthermore, until Jeff Bezos changes the way his employees are mistreated and dehumanized at Amazon and elsewhere, no elected official should support the passage of subsidies for him or any of his projects.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has condemned the NDAA for containing $52 billion in “corporate welfare” for Big Tech. Explaining why he would vote against the NDAA, Sanders said Tuesday that “combining these two pieces of legislation would push the price tag of the defense bill to over $1 trillion—with very little scrutiny.”
“Meanwhile,” he added, “the Senate has spent month after month discussing the Build Back Better Act and whether we can afford to protect the children, the elderly, the sick, the poor, and the future of our planet. As a nation, we need to get our priorities right.”
(Photo: Daniel Oberhaus/Flickr/cc)