Exposing the Real Politics of Jeff Bezos: Privatization, Big Business, Lower Taxes on the Rich–Is That the Future of the Washington Post?

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos unveiled the new Kindle Fire HD at a press conference in Santa Monica, California in September 2012.

August 7, 2013

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News broke on Monday that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos would be purchasing the Washington Post. ( Previous owner Donald Graham is now free to focus on Kaplan, the for-profit education empire specializing in gobbling up taxpayer dollars.)

For many, Bezos is an enigmatic businessman and a gifted entrepreneur who represents all that is great about American industry. In some ways, this description does have merit. While he studied to be a physicist and had a brief stint on Wall Street, his passion was was Amazon.com, which he set up in the garage of his two-bedroom home using tables he made out of doors purchased at Home Depot for around $60 each. As Amazon grew to the titan it is today, so did Bezos’s fame and fortune. By 2011, he was the 13th richest person in the United States, with a net worth of $19.1 billion.

But as Bezos’ wealth has growth, so has his ability to impact politics. While his spending on shaping society has been relatively modest compared to, say, Walmart heirs the Waltons, or New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, he has poured a sizeable amount of money into promoting his views.

What are those views? Like so many tech billionaires, Bezos has been attracted to right-libertarian politics–meaning socially liberal, but in favor of business and privatization. “ He’s a libertarian,” Nick Hanauer, a colleague who was an early Amazon investor, told the Seattle Times.

Bezos has particularly played up his social views. In 2012, a former Amazon employee named Jennifer Cast wrote to him, asking him to donate in support of a campaign to defend same-sex marriage rights in a Washington ballot referendum. “Jen,” he replied on behalf of himself and his wife MacKenzie. “This is right for so many reasons. We’re in for $2.5 million.” His foray into the gay rights battle in the state made national headlines, with the Seattle Times calling it “likely the largest political contribution to a gay-marriage campaign in the country.”

But what has not made news is Bezos’ careful activism on behalf of big business and some of the richest Americans. In 2010, a coalition of Washington state public interest groups, teachers and socially minded wealthy Americans like Hanauer and Bill Gates Sr. supported Initiative 1098, which would have established the first-ever income tax in the state. If passed, the initiative would’ve established a tax on adjusted gross income for individuals earning more than $200,000 a year and $400,000 on married couples or domestic partners. By taxing high-income Washingtonians, the initiative would also have allowed for a reduction in property taxes and the expansion of certain business tax credits.

Yet while Nick Hanauer was a strong backer of the initiative, the Amazon tycoon spent $100,000 to defeat it. “There’s almost nothing I could have predicted with more precision than that Jeff would hate the idea,” Hanauer told the Seattle Times. The initiative went on to fail by over 30 percentage points.

Bezos summed up his capitalist philosophy in an interview he conducted nine years earlier. “I think people should carefully reread the first part of the Declaration of Independence,” he told the interviewer. “Because I think sometimes we as a society start to get confused and think that we have a right to happiness, but if you read the Declaration of Independence, it talks about ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’ Nobody has a right to happiness. You should have a right to pursue it, and I think the core of that is liberty.”

Republished from: AlterNet