Phew, that was a tough week for the ol’ Emerald City. Below are three classes we might study from it — however primarily based on latest historical past, in all probability gained’t.
Thanks, Amazon! For educating all of us in Seattle a lesson or three this previous week.
Lesson primary: We are way more emotionally connected to Amazon than Amazon is to us.
This may appear counterintuitive, as Seattleites are supposedly crammed with angst about the megalith in our midst. But the firm’s dramatic threat to cancel up to 7,000 new jobs if the metropolis passes a giant enterprise tax revealed the reality: People like that Amazon is from right here. We assume it says one thing particular about Seattle, about our creativity and smarts.
I first skilled such a civic-corporate romance with Boeing (bear in mind them?). In the 1980s, once I first obtained right here, Seattle was Jet City. Even the beer adverts featured “the men who make the planes”: Boeing machinists striding into taverns after one other day of shrinking the world.
Most Read Local Stories
I admit I purchased into this gauzy satisfaction. Before taking a flight I even adopted the previous native saying: “If it ain’t Boeing I ain’t going.”
Then it was Boeing itself that was going, jilting us for Chicago.
We ought to have realized then: Corporations are not truly individuals, it doesn’t matter what the Supreme Court says. They don’t have any loyalty, no soul. They will up and depart in the event that they get a greater supply, or, in Amazon’s case, in the event that they merely see a possibility for marginally shaving payroll prices.
This is not evil, as the tone-deaf City Councilmember Kshama Sawant retains yelling. Corporations exist to develop and maximize income, full cease. It’s not private to them, it’s enterprise. What makes the relationship so unbalanced is that it’s private to us.
I really like Seattle and so can be open to paying a $500-per-year “head tax” on myself to assist with reasonably priced housing. Amazon does not love Seattle (I’m distinguishing right here between the company and its workers). Amazon the company can take us or depart us — because it so explicitly demonstrated this previous week.
We have to get it by means of our sappy heads: Our relationship is a chilly enterprise calculation for them. Our leaders want to start out treating it like one, too, as a substitute of an ideological campaign.
Speaking of our leaders: Thank you, Amazon, for highlighting that Seattle doesn’t have any proper now. The most revealing half about this story is that City Hall was startled to study the city’s largest employer doesn’t like a coverage proposal that was a yr in the works.
That’s governing negligence. This City Council is barely a governing physique anymore, a lot as an activist group. A traditional council would have insisted that Amazon be half of the crafting of such a giant tax plan, or not less than launched an intelligence operation to search out out what they thought. But all that’s powerful to do once you’re shouting at them by means of bullhorns.
Finally, thanks Amazon, for displaying the metropolis why the “head tax” was a foul thought in the first place.
The City Council is true that vastly worthwhile companies might afford to pay extra. They are additionally right to level out that Amazon’s windfall from the reckless Trump federal tax cuts dwarfs no matter Seattle is asking them to pay.
But the head tax — a tax on hours labored, about $500 per full-time employee per yr — is a blunt hammer of a tax. There’s a cause it’s so seldom utilized by different cities. As Amazon simply demonstrated, it’s straightforward for decentralized, non-facility-based firms (like high-tech!) to keep away from paying it by merely finding their heads elsewhere.
I’m not saying the tax would trigger firms to maneuver. But some would develop elsewhere as a substitute, as Amazon simply threatened. That’s an organization already opening a second headquarters in one other state, so it’s no shock they will take their new Seattle jobs and fly away.
The different drawback is that the firms that may’t do that are primarily the location-based ones with the least margin to pay the tax. Think grocery shops. So the tax would dampen tech employment (by not less than Amazon’s 7,000 jobs) whereas in all probability elevating the value of our meals. That’s simply not a wise tax.
A straight enterprise and occupation tax or larger enterprise charges, as the city did a few years ago to pay for more police, would not less than be tougher to flee (although it might require voter approval.)
Did any of this penetrate the civic skull? I’m hopeful, as a result of it’s powerful to think about any politician, apart from perhaps Sawant, voting to outright cancel 7,000 jobs. But that is Seattle. We will be hardheaded like that.