Amazon’s recent decision to establish headquarters in several new locations has been met with both fervent contention and eagerness. Over the past year, Amazon has received 238 proposals from cities across the country. The prospect of 50,000 new jobs and the inevitable economic transformation and growth that this sort of influx of employment and investment would yield seemed like a golden ticket for economic prosperity. Amazon finally revealed the locations of its new headquarters: New York City (specifically Long Island City) and Northern Virginia (specifically Crystal City in Arlington). The promise of economic growth and prosperity that most politicians have become so enamored with is unfortunately a nightmare for the already disenfranchised and poor people living in these areas who will be experiencing increasing wealth disparity and gentrification due to the new headquarters.
Both cities initially did not publicly disclose if they had included tax breaks and infrastructure investments in their bid, but it has now been revealed that New York City and northern Virginia will be providing around $3 billion and $1billion dollars respectively in tax cuts and incentives. These tax breaks allow Amazon to avoid contributing to investments relating to infrastructure and programs — such as public education — that benefit the residents of these areas.
At the same time, the job creation that Amazon says justifies these tax breaks won’t be going to current residents or those suffering from unemployment. Most new jobs will be high-skilled, high-paying jobs that will recruit already qualified, employable and wealthy people from and outside of northern Virginia and New York City. In addition, the influx of high-paying jobs will increase the wealth gap in these areas, while also making affordable housing virtually obsolete. Rent and property values are predicted to increase dramatically. In northern Virginia, for instance, there is set to be the creation of around 25,000 new jobs. However, these jobs are highly skilled with an average salary of $150,000. This influx of high-income residents will make the cost of living in these areas impossibly high for those already trying to make ends meet, thus pushing them out of the areas and saturating these areas with wealthy, educated, predominantly white people.
Although Amazon is still receiving giant tax incentives from their new headquarters, they did not exclusively select these new locations because of their quantifiable benefits. Amazon chose to locate itself in the two greatest centers of power in the U.S. The northern Virginia headquarters is in close proximity to the political capital of the world. In addition, CEO Jeff Bezos already owns a home in Washington D.C. and owns the Washington Post. The New York City headquarters is located in the financial capital of the country, and arguably the world.
Many of the states that were rejected by the company are now thinking about both what they could have done differently and what took them out of the running. These states, however, should not be too critical of themselves after Amazon’s announcement, as some suggest that the nationwide search was hollow and a giant ruse from the beginning.
I would expect nothing less than such a strategic move from a company that is deftly infiltrating every facet of American life. By placing itself in such consequential locales, Amazon is ensuring its ability to exert its influence in legislation and policy and financial dominance to the point of monopolization, as well as being able to control their narrative and image in mass media. The prospect of any one company –– and for that matter, any one person –– having such an inconspicuous stronghold on essentially every facet of power in American society will lead to an inevitable dominance and exploitation of the most vulnerable in society. Amazon has been using seemingly legal –– if morally reprehensible –– means to assert domination through exploitation up to this point without much pushback from those with the power to change those laws. So, by the time those in power realize the grave consequences of Amazon’s dominance, it will be too late to stop it.