Meanwhile, back at Amazon…

Meanwhile, back at Amazon…

The online retailing behemoth has “paused construction on a massive corporate real-estate complex near Washington, D.C., that it calls its second headquarters, as the tech sector’s latest retrenchment hit a project that just a few years ago symbolized the industry’s booming expansion,” reports The Wall Street Journal.

Just to refresh everyone’s memory, this is part of Amazon’s vaunted “HQ2” project, in which it suckered government entities far and wide – Pittsburgh, included – to make billion dollar-plus bids (bribes, that is) to secure Amazon’s business.

Pittsburgh officials even went as far as setting up a sham entity in an attempt to hide particulars of its give-away-the-store bid. That’s not our assessment; it was the conclusion of an Allegheny County judge.

As The Journal notes, Amazon says it is delaying breaking ground on the second phase of the $2.5 billion development with a total jobs promise of 25,000.

“A first phase with two office towers is almost complete, Amazon said. The company plans to move employees into those buildings, which can accommodate more than 14,000 workers, starting in June. The company currently has about 8,000 people working in the area,” The Journal reports.

The commonwealth of Virginia agreed to about $750 million in incentives for Amazon. (And you can be sure there’s much more in the form of “in-kind” contributions.) It continues to defend the “incentives” as being performance-based. And it remains confident that Amazon will re-start the project at some later (yet still unspecified) date.

We shall see.

But let’s get back to the baseline of all this Amazon wheeling, dealing and snookering for the public’s money and government officials treating the taxpayer kitty as both venture capital and political legacy funds.

Simply put, it’s wrong. It’s more of that smelly government habit of perverting the marketplace, attempting to pick winners and creating losers by misallocating scarce public resources in pursuit of a warped “public good.”

In good times, Amazon has sales and profits in the billions of dollars. Taxpayers have no business giving it millions or billions more in corporate wealthfare.

And in bad times? Yes, believe it or not, Amazon has had some. Like 2022. Indeed, it had total sales revenue of nearly $514 billion. But it somehow posted a net loss of $2.7 billion.

Go figure.

But that doesn’t mean taxpayers should help Amazon’s bottom line – turning net losses into net gains — any more than they should help it pad its profits.

Aside from simply being wrong – why should the public assume risk that should be Amazon’s alone in pursuit of profits? – it certainly sounds like a bad “investment,” particularly these days with so many economic vagaries.

As already noted, whether Amazon indeed resumes its HQ2 complex remains to be seen. But taxpayers, who should not have been in this equation in the first place, should no longer be in this equation should construction resume.

Granted, that might be contractually impossible at this stage. But Amazon’s current retrenchment is a good reminder of the folly of taxpayers’ forced involvement in this and like projects at all.

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (