by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
President Trump spent the week attacking Amazon.com on Twitter and in his speeches, and his White House piled on.
Maryland’s legislature spent the week finalizing and passing a jaw-dropping $8.5 billion subsidy package for Amazon in hopes of getting the company to bring its second headquarters to the Free State.
We would like to propose a middle-ground between these two approaches to Amazon. Perhaps government officials should neither attack Amazon nor subsidize it. Governments would do well to adopt an old phrase from our own industry and approach Amazon and other companies “without fear or favor.”
Trump attacked Amazon for not paying enough sales tax. His attacks have been totally disconnected from the truth because, if anything, Amazon should be criticized for its pro-sales-tax lobbying. Amazon, as all of its customers know, already collects and remits sales taxes based on the state of the buyer, following a court order based on the fact that Amazon has storefronts or distribution centers across these states. Now Amazon is lobbying to require its smaller competitors, who don’t have physical presences in many states, to nevertheless collect and remit sales taxes in all those states.
Now, the White House is complaining that Amazon costs the U.S. Postal Service money (the reality is probably the opposite), and that it doesn’t somehow collect sales tax on sales made by third-party sellers through Amazon.com.
The flimsiness of these objections suggests that Trump’s anger toward Amazon isn’t about Amazon and the federal fisc, but about another property of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos — namely the Washington Post.