November 19, 2018

Reminder: the Amazon HQ2 is terrible business deal and a waste of taxpayer money


As we noted a few days ago, it is difficult to justify the decision to spend $1.5 billion dollars incentivizing a trillion dollar company to move to a city that can’t maintain it’s transit system or manage to keep lead out of the drinking water at public school. Indeed, this is almost certainly going to be a bad deal for taxpayers in New York and Virginia. A very similar arrangement between the state of Wisconsin and Foxconn certainly was.

But what if all that weren’t true? What if the investment was 100% guaranteed to pay serious dividends to taxpayers? What if we could be absolutely certain that the establishment of Bezocracy in Queens wouldn’t result in an intensification of the housing and homelessness crises in the city?

It would still be a terrible, terrible thing to do, because Amazon is a morally bankrupt, fundamentally predatory enterprise. They’re evil. They do bad things in the world. No amount of upper middle class job creation makes up for that fact.

Several months ago, we covered a China Labor Watch report that Amazon’s Kindle, Echo, and Echo Dot were being produced by massively exploited laborers. To appropriately recognize the HQ2 announcement, we’d like to share a poem written by Xu Lizhi (许立志), a Foxconn worker who killed himself at the company’s Shenzen campus in 2014. This is what American taxpayers are subsidizing.

“I Fall Asleep, Just Standing Like That”

The paper before my eyes fades yellow

With a steel pen I chisel on it uneven black

Full of working words

Workshop, assembly line, machine, work card, overtime, wages…

They’ve trained me to become docile

Don’t know how to shout or rebel

How to complain or denounce

Only how to silently suffer exhaustion

When I first set foot in this place

I hoped only for that grey pay slip on the tenth of each month

To grant me some belated solace

For this I had to grind away my corners, grind away my words

Refuse to skip work, refuse sick leave, refuse leave for private reasons

Refuse to be late, refuse to leave early

By the assembly line I stood straight like iron, hands like flight,

How many days, how many nights

Did I – just like that – standing fall asleep?

– 20 August 2011




Simon Reichley is the Director of Operations and Rights Manager at Melville House.