scorecardresearch
Larry Edelman | Talking Points AM

Even Jeff Bezos screws up

Activists and community members who opposed Amazon’s plan to move into Queens rallied Thursday in Long Island City to celebrate the company’s decision to pull out of the deal.
Activists and community members who opposed Amazon’s plan to move into Queens rallied Thursday in Long Island City to celebrate the company’s decision to pull out of the deal. (DREW ANGERER/GETTY IMAGES)

Yankees suck and all that, but you gotta give New Yorkers some props for going all Lillian Kaushtupper on Amazon.

In a city where hedge fund managers can make a billion dollars a year, enough progressive activists, union leaders, and politicians made enough noise to get one of the country’s most valuable companies — led by the world’s richest man — to pull out of a deal to build a headquarters in Queens that included $3 billion in subsidies.

This is one of those stories where you can draw your own conclusions and find some evidence to support them. Here are mine:

Advertisement



Amazon overreached. It wasn’t enough to pit hundreds of cities and towns against each other in a bidding contest; the company then split the deal between New York and the D.C. suburbs of Virginia. That would have enabled CEO Jeff Bezos to be close to the centers of political power (and his Washington Post) and financial and media power.

Amazon misjudged the power of the opposition. It also misjudged the ability of Governor Andrew Cuomo and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio to push the deal through an obstinate — and corrupt — state Legislature. To be fair, the political landscape changed with the midterm elections and the success of many left-wing candidates.

This isn’t all about greed. Yes, Amazon negotiated a very sweet deal with the city and state of New York. But there were richer offers out there. It left money on the table in order to better meet its needs.

No, the next president won’t be a socialist . The backlash against the tax subsidies — and the idea of accommodating an entitled, anti-union company whose growing power over our digital lives scares many people — reflects the momentum behind progressive Democrats and their poster representative, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. But it doesn’t mean they are assured victory in their battle with centrists over the future of the party — and its pick for the 2020 presidential campaign. Remember, polls showed that most New Yorkers backed the Amazon deal.

Advertisement



So where does this leave Amazon? The company is not used to getting “No” as the answer, and it will still get what it wants most of the time. But there are limits. It needs more humility, to soften its approach, not take every penny and win every battle as it gradually takes over the world.

My advice to Bezos: Pick a place that is struggling and that could really use your jobs. Newark, N.J.? It’s close to NYC. Gary, Ind.? The former steel city could use some love. You don’t need to commit to 25,000 jobs like you did in Arlington, Va., and NYC. Maybe a more modest 5,000. Don’t ask for a dime in return. It won’t be a perfect fit, but it would be a smart move. Something a company with a heart — in addition to an algorithm — would do.


You can reach me at larry.edelman@globe.com and follow me on Twitter @GlobeNewsEd. Sign up for my Talking Points AM newsletter here.