By Will Day
Our holy saviour, how benevolent your gifts. Does your virtue know no end? Praise be! Praise be! Is this how Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, thinks the world will greet him after he donates the slightest fraction of his wealth?
For too long we have pandered to the messiah complexes of the billionaire class, allowing them to hide behind the thin veil of philanthropy whilst failing to hold them to account for mass exploitation of workers and avoiding tax on a colossal scale. It’s time that changed.
Last year Jeff Bezos donated $100 million spread across twenty-four charities fighting family homelessness in America. Objectively, this is a good thing. The money will undoubtedly help many vulnerable families across America. Plenty of good acts however, have been done for bad reasons.
$100 million is an inconceivable amount of money for almost every person on earth. For Bezos it is almost insignificant. It’s such a small amount of his fortune he probably wouldn’t even notice it gone; even if he did it would only take him twenty-two hours to re-earn it.
If Bezos genuinely cared about homelessness in America, he could literally end it. Studies estimate the cost of ending homelessness in America would be around $20bn: Mr Bezos’s net wealth is $115.6bn. He could end homelessness in the United States and still nearly be the richest man in the world (he would fall behind Bill Gates by $0.9bn). His donation to fight the Australian bushfires was borderline offensive, a shameless attempt to keep up the façade that he cares for the planet or its inhabitants. His donation, $690 000, accompanied with the message “Our hearts go out to all Australians as they cope with these devastating bushfires”.
How his heart must have wrenched, so much so that he was willing to part ways with an amount of money he earns EVERY FIVE MINUTES. In 2017, he invested $42 million to help build a clock that will tick for ten-thousand years. Clearly a man who’s got his priorities right. Jeff Bezos has notoriously failed at philanthropy compared to many of his peers. Notably, he has not signed The Giving Pledge. Created by both Bill and Melinda Gates alongside Warren Buffet, the pledge urges the wealthiest to commit to donating half their wealth towards philanthropy. As of 2017, it was reported, Jeff Bezos had only given 1% to such causes. In 2019 he did top the Philanthropy 50 List, this however was largely due to donations by his (now ex) wife. Since leaving him, Mackenzie Bezos has signed The Giving Pledge.
Whilst climate changes engulfs us all, Bezos will have spent his fortune on the quest for eternal life
It’s time we started calling out these donations for what they really are, a misdirection. They create the illusion of generosity, when in reality, Bezos (other billionaires are also available) seems to have has hoarded his wealth, constantly looking for ways to avoid paying tax.
Despite profits growing to $11.2bn in America in 2018, Amazon paid $0 in federal income tax for the second consecutive year. Fair Tax Mark reported that over the previous decade Amazon paid $3.4bn in tax in the US on profits of $26.8bn. Meaning, they have effectively been paying at a rate of 12.7%, drastically lower than the headline tax rate of 35% implemented for most of the period. In Britain, Amazon UK yielded profits of £72m yet only paid £1.7m in tax.
This is far from the full story however, Amazon UK only contributes to a fraction of the total business conducted by Amazon in Britain. In fact, total Amazon sales in the UK rose to more than £11bn in 2017. This business however is conducted by the UK branch of Amazon EU Sarl, a Luxembourg based company. The company takes advantage of lower tax breaks in Luxembourg and has no obligation to publish tax records paid on UK sales. As a growing socialist movement spreads over the western world, increasing scrutiny has been levied at corporate giants who are not paying their fair share of tax. Perhaps it’s just a coincidence that Mr Bezos’s rebrand as a philanthropist coincided with this. I highly doubt it.
Amazon’s infamy for brutal working conditions is well documented. Workers are subject to long and intense shifts with targets so high that employees are forced to urinate in bottles as taking toilet breaks would see them fall behind. Between 2013 and 2018, emergency services were reportedly called to Amazon warehouses 189 times for suicide attempts and other serious mental health crises.
As increasing numbers of injured workers are reported as homeless after being cast aside by Amazon, an important question needs to be raised. If Jeff Bezos genuinely cares about homelessness, why doesn’t he start with preventing it in his own company? Although none of this really matters. Soon sea levels will rise, and we’ll all drown. The only remnants of humanity left on Earth will be a giant clock, ticking to no one for ten-thousand years.
Jeff won’t be dead though. Whilst climate changes engulfs us all, Bezos will have spent his fortune on the quest for eternal life before he and Elon Musk venture out into the cosmos attempting to privatise every corner of the universe. I suppose spending eternity with Elon Musk will be a just punishment.
Image credit: DonkeyHotey