Guest editorial:: Trump’s stepping over Amazon’s bright red line
There is no guarantee Bezos will keep being the richest person in the world but if Amazon stock continues to grow as it has in recent years, there’s a good chance he could stay there for the foreseeable future.
No one who looks at the corporate leviathan that is Amazon with clear eyes can cheer its every move. Like any dominant business, it is, almost by definition, a force for both good and ill.
A great American success story, it swiftly delivers just about anything under the sun to consumers at low prices. Its backbone of cloud servers power a large swath of the internet.
Alexa, in how many other ways is its technological wizardry transforming the economy? Plenty.
Meantime, it’s no friend of unions in its distribution centers. Brick-and-mortar stores are getting crushed under the pressure of its prices, which sometimes have the unfair advantage of being effectively tax-free.
All fair game in assessing a company with more than half a million employees and a market capitalization around $700 billion. But leave it to the Great Oversimplifier in the White House — the head of the federal government — to engender sympathy for the behemoth.
Trump, who as a candidate carped bitterly about Amazon and its CEO Jeff Bezos, last week unleashed the full force of his presidential fury at the company. On Twitter (of course), he blasted the company for paying “little or no taxes to state & local governments,” for using “our Postal System as their Delivery Boy” and for “putting many thousands of retailers out of business!”
Point one is mostly wrong; Amazon pays its fair share on most direct sales. It is true, though, that so-called Marketplace sales, in which third-party retailers use Amazon’s platform, don’t pay.
(Many of those third-party retailers, mind you, are the very brick-and-mortar stores that Trump says are suffering because of Amazon.)
Point two is also wrong. Though the Postal Service is bleeding money — and though it does give Amazon discounted service, because of its volume — the e-commerce giant’s packages are one of the U.S. Postal Service’s few money-generators.
Point three is true, though it’s mainly the result of millions upon millions of individual decisions by informed, price-conscious consumers. In other words, capitalism at work.
One would think that Trump, who offered himself to the American people as the consummate CEO, would have a healthy respect for a company that’s mainly succeeding by outcompeting.
But Trump is less a mature businessman than he is an emotionally wounded adolescent, who will never cease to suffer daily conniptions from the Bezos-owned Washington Post.
It is a president’s right to be personally peeved about any company and its CEO. The second he begins marshaling the awesome power of the federal government to damage that business — that one tweet alone arguably cost Amazon shareholders billions — he will step over a bright red line.
For, in Donald Trump’s case, the 20th or 30th time in his presidency.