(Clutches aluminum Louisville Slugger menacingly to ward off the dreaded @betteridge_bot. Not today, punctu-zoid!)
Ah, a job offer. Let’s click it and see: Digital Marketing Manager for the next president of these United States? Why, LinkedIn, you shouldn’t have!
No, really, Mr. Omniscient Algorithm, don’t tempt me. Posting “Happy Birthing Person Day” memes to the verified White House Instagram sounds marginally better—better by a jot or tittle—than being a Treblinka day guard.
Among all the other junk that fills my Gmail tri-inbox, LinkedIn recommends I join Jeff Bezos’s commercial colossus. My gracious response: hard pass—despite my near residential proximity to the ultra-industrialist’s new Barad-dûr in Crystal City. Cyber-stalking Amazoners with abandoned cart emails doesn’t exactly sound fulfilling.
But I suspect Bezos is planning to use his lowly digital chandler as a springboard to political office; more specifically, the oval-shaped one.
What electoral tea leaves am I reading? Great question, considerate reader! I take my cues from the only political scene worth observing: Twitter, soon to be known as Tesla-but-for-ratioing.
Jeff Bezos recently started reply-guying President Biden over who’s to blame for our inflationary woes. The tweetin’ two-step is the same old dance: a liberal president blames greedy corporations for being all corporation-y while a scrappy entrepreneur with a net worth higher than Uganda’s GDP blames the government. The seemingly sentient printing press housed at 33 Liberty St. is ignored. It’s all a verbal scrap over federal fleece rates.
President Biden (read: W.H. social media intern) tweeted: “You want to bring down inflation? Let’s make sure the wealthiest corporations pay their fair share.” That argument is what philosophers call a category mistake: taxes don’t increase or decrease inflation. They’re distribution claims on already existing currency. Bezos felt the need to correct the Administration’s tortured logic: “Raising corp taxes is fine to discuss. Taming inflation is critical to discuss. Mushing them together is just misdirection.”
I’m glad Mr. Bezos is open to discussing monetary matters. He clearly doesn’t approve of actual free discussion on the internet. Baby steps!
Social media accentuates conflict, so the beef naturally kept sizzling. The White House clapped back on official letterhead: “It doesn’t require a huge leap to figure out why one of the wealthiest individuals on Earth opposes an economic agenda for the middle class that cuts some of the biggest costs families face, fights inflation for the long haul, and adds to the historic deficit reduction the President is achieving by asking the richest taxpayers and corporations to pay their fair share.”
Go back and check—the rejoinder is one big mouthful of a sentence. Can’t the West Wing hire an editor? Maybe that crooning Potterhead who just quit the Ministry of Truth can take up copyediting.
Bezos wasn’t about to back down. What? You think he has the biggest retailer in the world to run or something?
He responded in tweet: “[The White House] understandably want to muddy the topic. They know inflation hurts the neediest the most.” Then Bezos doffed his business titan cap for an economist’s tweed beret. ($19.00 on Amazon.com in three colors—not eligible for Prime.) “Remember the Administration tried their best to add another $3.5 TRILLION to federal spending. They failed, but if they had succeeded, inflation would be even higher than it is today.”
Bezos’s tweets aren’t in the style of a concerned citizen. They’re cut from the drab political cloth as empty-suited congressmen, complete with all-caps emphases, didactic smarminess, and unprovable counterfactuals. There’s even a quaint sincerity to Bezos’s gainsaying—it’s like he actually wants to make a substantive argument on the internet. How precious.
So why is Bezos picking a Twitter fight with the White House now? Well, just as he foresaw a need to skip the Waldenbooks line and purchase the latest James Patterson pap over the internet, the Amazon progenitor spots an opening. The Biden Administration’s approval ratings are in the doldrums. Prices of basic goods are climbing so high, so fast that Hunter Biden is trying to snort price tags at Walmart. Meanwhile, the last President is throwing a tantrum on his own glitchy social platform about an election he handedly lost two years ago. In the choice between a senile incompetent and a self-obsessed man-toddler, wouldn’t you want a sane, calm, mature, clear-eyed businessman to take the helm? Someone with a proven track record of success who understands the needs and desires of the… blah blah blah platitude platitude platitude America!
You get the idea.
You get the idea because it’s been tried before. Numerous times. And it has consistently failed—the one exception being the selfsame billionaire who ran on precariat concerns and shockingly won over a haggard pre-Amazon throwback.
Remember Chief Barista Howard Schultz’s brief presidential run? Probably not, because his campaign faded faster than the buzz off a flat white. Or how about Ross Perot, who scored a fifth of the popular vote but none of the votes that actually matter? Or Steve Forbes? Or Carly Fiorina? Or the late Herman Cain?
Each had their pet project—Forbes’s flat tax, Cain’s 9³ tax, Fiorina’s um… um… being a girl boss?—but none had any distinguishing attribute other than gracing Fortune at some point.
Jeff Bezos can at least brag about revolutionizing the American way of life with his cheap two-day shipping subscription. He can also take credit for easing the burden of the COVID-19 crisis by adroitly increasing capacity on his already robust supply chain (though he probably hopes we forgot about his month-long Charmin shortage in the pandemic’s early days). And because political campaigns promise unachievable goals, Bezos can also boast about his literal moonshot efforts.
What presidential contender could be more appealing to your average American than the guy who can get diapers on your doorstep in a matter of hours and allows you watch “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” while you wait? With half the country already subscribed to his premium service, Bezos’s name ID may exceed George Washington’s.
The question is: why wouldn’t Bezos run for president? His potential ground operation is already humming in the most populous parts of the country. Surely a forward-thinking guy like Jeff isn’t going to settle for cardboard conveyance and hobby rocketry. His shiny pate in history books sounds exactly like the only career cap an aggressive enterpriser like Bezos will settle for.
One obstacle may preclude his presidential consideration: the fact that Jeff Bezos is above politics. His commercial leviathan is theoretically and practically beyond Washington’s remit. “Amazon, like Google and Facebook, is more comparable to one of the quasi-sovereign state-linked firms that dominates industry in Russia or China,” Matthew Walther writes. “[T]he resources that any of these firms would be able to marshal in the event of an actual antitrust prosecution would dwarf the legal forces currently available to the relevant departments of the executive branch.”
We won’t even get into the disturbing fact that Bezos oversees the CIA’s data servers. Nor that he owns the house organ of our imperial capital. Nor more that he wrings subventions out of state and local governments like a mob boss extorts a delicatessen for “protection” money.
Jeff Bezos is trans-politics, operating his own money-spinning fiefdom under his own rules. If anything, it’s Bezos’s acumen that will thwart his presidential ambition. By the numbers, Americans enjoy Amazon’s plethora of services. But countless horror stories of the working conditions within Amazon depots—including workers micturating in bottles to avoid efficiency-killing bathroom breaks—and the dour, overly rushed attitude of its couriers suggest that Bezos didn’t climb to the top of the business world by being compassionate.
Americans have an overbearing boss complex: they hate and loathe uncaring management. That’s why Barack Obama bested vulture capitalist Mitt Romney, and Donald Trump won out over nagging Hillary Clinton. The former gave the impression of caring more about the little guy; the latter seemed cold, removed, and apathetic to any plight other than that of their stock dividends.
Bezos’s perceived lack of sympathy, combined with his image as a monocled monopsony master of the universe, would bar him from the White House. If politics was strictly business, the outcome may be different. But voters want a president who they believe will take care of them, lest they actually have to take care of themselves. Businessmen like Bezos demand work for wages—a political non-starter.
Don’t expect the perverse quid pro quo-ism nature of voting to deter the Amazon chief. Guys like Bezos take “No” not as an answer, but a challenge. So expect more lecturing tweets. And an announcement outside his Kalorama mansion sometime next year.
Nobody’s registered Bezos2024.com under Route 53 yet. Maybe I should scoop it up, and update my CV. There’s money to be made on delusions.
This whole discussion comes right back to perennial 20th Century problem: Entire swaths of Covid Americans believe corporations can and should pay taxes. The idea that corporations are TAX COLLECTORS and cannot and will not ever be TAX PAYERS never even crosses the far horizon of rational public discourse.