Progressive politicians such as Bernie Sanders, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, and Elizabeth Warren have all blasted Amazon owner and the world’s richest man Jeff Bezos for flying to space after not paying taxes.
During a post-flight press conference on Tuesday, Mr Bezos thanked “every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer, because you guys paid for all this”, in what many called a tone-deaf remark.
“So seriously, for every Amazon customer out there, and every Amazon employee, thank you from the bottom of my heart, very much. It’s very appreciated,” Mr Bezos, who is reportedly worth more than $200bn, said.
He was quickly criticised by progressive politicians, such as Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who tweeted: “Am I supposed to be impressed that a billionaire went to space while he’s paid zero in federal income taxes some years and the workers at his company struggle to afford their medical bills, rent, and food for their kids? Nope. It’s time to invest in working people here on Earth.”
Massachusetts Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren tweeted: “Jeff Bezos forgot to thank all the hardworking Americans who actually paid taxes to keep this country running while he and Amazon paid nothing.”
She used the moment to push her priorities on getting corporations and wealthy individuals to pay more in taxes.
“I’m pushing for three changes to our tax laws – a Wealth Tax, a Real Corporate Profits Tax, and long-term funding for the IRS to go after wealthy tax cheats – to make billionaires and mega-corporations start paying their fair share,” she added.
ProPublica revealed last month that Mr Bezos paid no federal income taxes in 2007 and 2011 by reporting to the IRS that he lost more money than he earned. He claimed and got a $4.000 child tax credit meant for families making less than $100.000. At the time in 2011, Mr Bezos was worth $18bn.
Am I supposed to be impressed that a billionaire went to space while he’s paid zero in federal income taxes some years and the workers at his company struggle to afford their medical bills, rent, and food for their kids? Nope. It’s time to invest in working people here on Earth. pic.twitter.com/F1NVBPu6TJ
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) July 21, 2021
Ms Warren told TMZ that Mr Bezos was “laughing at every person in America who actually paid taxes. Jeff Bezos’s trip to outer space is being financed by all the rest of the US taxpayers who paid their taxes so that Jeff Bezos didn’t have to”.
“Yes, Amazon workers did pay for this,” New York Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted about the spaceflight. “With lower wages, union-busting, a frenzied and inhumane workplace, and delivery drivers not having health insurance during a pandemic. And Amazon customers are paying for it with Amazon abusing their market power to hurt small business.”
Assistant Speaker and Massachusetts Rep Katherine Clark tweeted: “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know it’s time for billionaires to pay their fair share.”
California Democratic Rep Adam Schiff, who gained notoriety as the lead impeachment manager during former President Donald Trump’s first impeachment trial in early 2020, tweeted: “Listen, I’m all for space exploration and it must have been an amazing view. But maybe – and I’m just spitballing here – if Amazon and other companies paid their fair share in taxes, we could lift all kids – if not into space, at least out of poverty. Sincerely, Earthlings.”
Mr Bezos started his space company Blue Origin in 2000.
“What we’re doing is the first step of something big, and I know what that feels like, I did it three decades ago, nearly three decades ago, with Amazon,” Mr Bezos said following the launch. “Big things start small, but you can tell when you’re onto something, and this is important.”
“We’re going to build a road to space so that our kids and their kids can build the future, and we need to do that, we need to do that to solve the problems here on Earth,” Mr Bezos added. “This is not about escaping Earth.”
“When you go to space and see how fragile it is, you want to take care of it even more, and that’s what this is about,” he said.