BEZOS

HOW HE GOT IT

Jeff Bezos (born in 1964) became the richest person in the world by saying "hm, how about a store...but online?".

It wasn't easy, though. First he graduated from Princeton in 1986 and got a job at a financial tech company called Fitel. After two years there he became a product manager at a bank called Bankers Trust. Then he landed a job at D.E. Shaw & Co. in 1990 and became the hedge fund's fourth Senior VP. In 1994 he decided to quit and start Amazon. His parents (stepdad Mike/Miguel, an Exxon exec, and mom Jackie, the daughter of a DARPA founding member Lawrence Gise of the Atomic Energy Commission) gave him a $300,000 investment to start the company.

Amazon started with selling books...and then started to sell everything. In 2002, Amazon launched Amazon Web Services...which basically powers the entire internet today. Amazon Web Services owns and serves 34% of all cloud files, more than Microsoft (11%), Google (8%) and IBM (6%) combined.


WHAT HE DOES WITH IT

Amazon bought IMDB, the internet movie database for $55 million in 1998. In 2009, Amazon bought Zappos, the shoe buying site, for $1.2 billion. Amazon bought GoodReads, a social cataloging site for books, in 2013 for $150 million. Amazon bought the streaming website Twitch in 2014 for $970 million. Amazon bought the grocery chain Whole Foods for $13.7 billion in 2017. An Amazon-led team bought YES Network, the New York Yankees media company, for $3.9 billion in 2019.

Bezos bought the Washington Post for $250 million in 2013.

Bezos was stingy with his philanthropic donations until he started getting called out for it in the press in 2018. Many outlets reported that he had donated less than 1% of his net worth whereas other billionaires gave a much higher percent. Gates was reported to have donated 37%. Buffett donated 36%. Bloomberg was at 13% and Zuckerberg was at 4%. Even Donald Trump was higher at 3%. Shortly after the barrage of bad PR, he pledged to dole out $2 billion in 2018 through a charity he started called the Day One Fund. So far he's given $100 million to spread out to 24 different homelessness organizations through the initiative. Still, $100 million, heck even $2 billion, is a drop in the bucket for Bezos who is spending most of his time contemplating space colonies.

Meanwhile, here on Earth, Amazon warehouse workers and delivery drivers are treated very poorly. Bezos is resisting Amazon worker's unionizing efforts. In 2018 Bezos caved to more public shaming and raised his warehouse workers wages to $15/hour. I grew up in a rural town, and a warehouse job there around 2005 paid $15/hour. Warehouse jobs are exhausting work. Amazon's minimum wage should be at least $20/hour. It's all peanuts to Bezos anyway. How many years would it take a worker in an Amazon warehouse at $15/hr to make Bezos' net worth? My estimations have it at around 9,673,333,333 hours, or 403,055,555 days, or 1.1 million years–that is, if they work 24 hours a day in those 1.1 million years.

Amazon paid 0 federal taxes in 2018. From 2017 to 2018, Amazon held a nationwide contest of sorts where cities were pitted against each other to see who could offer Amazon the most tax incentives for their next headquarters building, HQ2. Amazon picked two winners on November 13th: NYC and Crystal City, VA. However, the people of NYC, with State Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez leading the way, made waves by rejecting Amazon.

The HQ2 debacle gets a lot of press for NYC rejecting it in Long Island City, but it's starting a development boom in Crystal City. Educational institutions are flocking to supply labor and grant partnerships.

The same day Amazon announced the 'winners', Virginia Tech announced that they're building a million square foot 'Innovation Campus' 2 miles from the HQ2 site for $1 billion. Virginia Tech seems to have found a billion dollars (enough to pay for 221,877 Virginians' tuitions for a VCCS-accredited community college) under the couch cushions. Shortly after, U.Va announced that they received the largest donation in school history to open up a new science school. Sidenote: the U.Va donation is from the hedge fund called Quantitative Foundation, run by almost-billionaire Jaffray Woodriff. Jaffray and Quantitative made their billions over the years by taking advantage of the 'carried interest loophole'–treating hedge fund and private equity fees as capital gains instead of ordinary income so you don't have to pay taxes on it.

Anyway, these huge investments always seem to be dedicated to STEM programs that fill the pipeline with engineers and programmers to companies like Amazon, hedge funds like Quantitative...even defense contractors like Raytheon and big oil. The techno-military-corporate complex doesn't need any more writers or historians or theoreticians or artists...it needs more (cheaper) STEM workers.

We've lost the plot a bit here. Back to Bezos specifically. A report by the New Virginia Majority says HQ2 and the education industrial complex that's moving in with it will gentrify and displace poor and especially Latinx populations in what will have been affordable neighborhoods. A pretty straightforward evil if you ask me.


LISTEN

Eat the Rich Ep 067: Jeff Bezos w/ Paris Marx 3/10/21
Grubstakers Episode 01: Jeff Bezos 2/4/18

IN THE NEWS

Jeff Bezos: Your Legacy is Exploitation
Paris Marx, Jacobin, 2/3/21

Secret Amazon Reports Expose the Company’s Surveillance of Labor and Environmental Groups
Lauren Kaori Gurley, Vice, 11/23/2020

How Amazon Hid It's Safety Crisis
Will Evans, Reveal News, 9/29/20

Indiana Helped Amazon Sweep a Worker's Death Under the Rug While Gunning for HQ2
Alex Lubben, Vice News, 11/27/19

Ring Says It Doesn't Use Facial Recognition, But It Has a "Head of Face Recognition Research"
Nicole Nguyen & Ryan Mac, Buzzfeed News, 8/30/2019

Doorbell-Camera Firm Ring has Partnered with 400 Police Forces, Extending Surveillance Concerns
Drew Harwell, Washington Post, 8/28/2019

Who pays for Amazon’s “customer obsession”? The service reps who pick up the phones.
Francesca Regalado, Vox, 7/22/2019

How to Not Build a Panopticon
April Glaser, Slate, 7/19/2019

Amazon, Microsoft Wage War Over the Pentagon's 'War Cloud'
Matt O'Brien, AP News, 7/9/2019

6,000 Amazon Employees, Including a VP and Directors, Are Now Calling on Jeff Bezos to Stop Automating Oil Extraction
Brian Merchant, Gizmodo, 4/12/2019

Amazon's Human Helpers Are Quietly Listening in on Some Alexa Recordings
Tom McKay, Gizmodo, 4/10/2019

'Colony of Hell’: 911 Calls from Inside Amazon Warehouses
Max Zahn & Sharif Paget, The Daily Beast, 3/11/2019

Amazon's HQ2's "National Landing" Project: A Critical Assessment
Jon Liss & Stephen C. McClure, New Virginia Majority 2/20/19

Amazon Will Pay a Whopping $0 in Federal Taxes on $11.2 Billion Profits
Laura Stampler, Fortune, 2/15/2019

Jeff Bezos Got So Rich in 2018 That He Now Makes More Per Minute Than Most People Do in a Year
Prachi Bhardwaj, Business Insider, 12/19/2018

What Washington Post Employees Actually Think About Amazon
Ashley Feinberg, HuffPost, 12/04/2018

Pointing the Finger at Jeff Bezos Worked
Micah Uetricht, Jacobin, 10/2/2018

Amazon’s Aggressive Anti-Union Tactics Revealed in Leaked 45-Minute Video
Bryan Menegus, Gizmodo 9/26/2018

Jeff Bezos Now Has a $2 Billion Charity Fund—I Have Some Questions
Bryan Menegus, Gizmodo, 9/13/2018 

Missing Wages, Grueling Shifts, and Bottles of Urine: The Disturbing Accounts of Amazon Delivery Drivers May Reveal the True Human Cost of 'Free' Shipping
Hayley Peterson, Business Insider, 9/11/2018

Amazon's Antitrust Paradox
Lina M. Khan, The Yale Law Journal, 1/2017

How Amazon Crushed the Union Movement
Verne Kopytoff, Time, 1/16/2014



NET WORTH

$210.7 BILLION