Amazon Is Not Your Newly Cheating Lover, Seattle. It's a Massive Business With a Low-Tax Agenda.


If Seattle ever hopes to become a "real" city it needs to stop identifying itself by it's largest company. Boeing left us (or is in the process of gradually leaving us) and we got better. Amazon may move some operations, and we'll be fine.

We need tax reform, but the not kind the Times wants. We never need what the Times wants. The Times is like that elderly uncle that mutters dumb things all the time, but also pays for the drinks.
If tons of other cities are lining up to get a date with the girl, she isn't ugly. Pretending she is seems...pathetic.

It tickles me to see everyone invent arguments about why Seattle doesn't need a big pile of cash and jobs.
At the same time, the advice of Heather Redman, the future Chair of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, is that Seattle needs to "wake up and realize that Amazon is the best thing that has happened to the city."

I'm sure that many people agree with Ms. Redman. I'm sure many people love the growth that Seattle has experienced due to not only Amazon but Microsoft and other tech companies as well. But I'm not one of those people. I moved here in 1979 and thought Seattle was a far more pleasant and enjoyable city back then. Streets and highways weren't clogged with cars (there also weren't morons using their phones while driving, but that's another story) and you could afford to buy a house even if you didn't have a high income.
@2, Seattle HAS a big pile of cash and jobs. The city is full, could not support another 50,000 people further pushing up housing prices and jamming up transportation infrastructure. Spread some of this so-called love to another city.
@3: You are describing what has happened to the entire country since 1979. Seattle is not special in this regard, the scale is just different. Stagnant wages and increased costs of living will do that.
This is the single best article I have read in the Stranger all year. Now get rid of that awful Mudede and this rag might turn the corner toward something better.
Great article Eli. CM continues to delight and enlighten, also.
Can the stranger make some DTMFA(mazon) shirts?
Roma dear, I don't disagree with what you are saying, but you should put it in context: In 1971, Boeing - which was the Amazon of the time - laid off more than half of its Seattle employees, and the local economy was plunged into something approaching a depression. People were walking away from their homes. Then, on top of that, came the Oil Embargo and inflation crisis of the mid and late 70's. It took until the mid 80's for it to recover. It was a great time to buy property if you had the money, but nobody had any money.
5/Theordore: Seattle is not special in this regard, the scale is just different.

And that scale makes a big difference. For example, the area where I'm from -- Minneapolis/St. Paul -- has certainly had economic and population growth since the late '70s, and traffic congestion and housing prices have increased, but not like they have here. After my mother passed away a few years ago, we sold her home (the home I grew up in) in 2013. it was in a nice neighborhood, more like Wallingford than Rainier Valley. A modest home, but it had four bedrooms, a garage and full basement and is one block from a nice park. It sold for $150,000. You couldn't have bought a garden shed for that price in Seattle in 2013.


9/Catalina, being in a city where there's a depression, or near-depression, isn't pleasant and enjoyable either (unless,of course, you have the means to profit from it.) I'm not anti-any growth.
I have had a lot of conversations with Amazon employees. They are under the impression that they pay income taxes, like they did from wherever they came. They don't. Washington, and Seattle, have no income tax. There is no big bag of cash. Amazon is subsidized through utility upgrades, stealing money from transit for Mercer remodel, and destroying the most important affordable housing in Seattle. Amazon employees have staged a crime wave across the city, beating people up on Capital Hill, beating up the homeless and gay people, peeing and shitting on businesses all over the city but particularly Capital Hill, driving like maniacs and causing accidents, stealing anything not nailed down, and making neighborhoods unsafe. And Jeff Bezos personally financed most of the expenses for the campaign against a state high-income tax.
If Seattle had the population density of Chicago, the population would increase by almost 400,000 people to just under a million. At the density of Boston, we'd be over 1.1 million. At the density of Paris, we'd have 4.7 million people.

Seattle only has 600,000 people. The city is not full, and is at no risk of ever becoming full in the foreseeable future. Adding 50 workers and their families would be nothing.
@10: I am sure homes in Seattle are pricier than homes in Minneapolis. I am also sure that the average wage in Seattle is (much) higher than the average wage in Minneapolis.

Housing costs in a vacuum are meaningless. The basic equation is the same everywhere. 2+2=4, just like 22+22=44.
Looks like cities are pushing and shoving in line to have our problems.
@15 et al

No one is saying getting Amazon is a bad thing. It can be good.

But it's also true that Amazon is looking to get the best deal for Amazon, and what's in Amazon's best interest isn't always what's in the city's best interest. Which is why it's a conversation of give and takes.
Sole proprietors and small business owners who pay the B&O tax on their gross income would argue with the oft-quoted statement that Washington "does not have an income tax."
@17 sure, if you change the meaning of words, you can be right about anything
Any business wants to hold onto the money it makes and not pay anymore in taxes just like you never pay anymore than you have to. If a city wants to invest in Amazon they know the return of that investment in jobs and wealth will spread out over the whole city and more than make up for any tax break.. Seattle is flush with cash from tax revenue like never before in it's history and Amazon is a very big source of that, it just wastes it and thinks up ways to tax us more.
If a city doesn't want Amazon, they won't make them an offer. That's their business.

Couldn't agree more!
@12 And just for fun, even proverbially sparse Los Angeles could squeeze another 200k newcomers into the same amount of space.

@17 You know they're talking about personal income tax.
What the hell does the Stranger care if thousands of jobs leave seattle. The run on unpaid interns.
great article, Eli (as usual), real journalism. Thanks.
@21: Meaningless semantics. I'm a sole proprietor and pay a tax on my gross income. This is, in reality, a personal income tax.
@11, I dare you to substantiate your rant with any verifiable facts...sounds more like the normal "Seattle is going to hell in a handbasket" spouting that has been going on forever (at least in my lifetime), probably starting on Alki in 1851 one minute after founding :)...We are The Promised Land...."By the end of the 1980s, Seattle had taken on the dangerous lustre of a promised city. The rumour had gone out that if you had failed in Detroit you might yet succeed in Seattle - and that if you'd succeeded in Seoul, you could succeed even better in Seattle... Seattle was the coming place. So I joined the line of hopefuls." JONATHAN RABAN
While we've all been been wringing our hands about Amazon, has anyone noticed what's going on with Nordstrom?…

@22 @23 They. Are. Not. Leaving. They.Are. Not. Moving. Jobs. Out. Of. State. Did you effing read the article?
Let them ruin another city instead of doing it to us twice. Preserve Seattle...enough is enough. We can't handle it now!
You must try not to live in the past Neogirl. That's my job.
I find it distracting that Eli discusses Amazon's early strategy of avoiding sales tax collection in different states as though it were the same thing as seeking to reduce Amazon's corporate tax liability. These are completely different things. Sales tax is not a tax on Amazon--it is a tax on Amazon's customers, paid by Amazon's customers. I'm sure that correcting this would not change Eli's conclusion, but the fact that he's confused about this weakens the analysis.
What is the value of a $5 billion 'investment' if it requires a $5 billion subsidy from a state legislature?

Again, Boeing workers are paying more through state taxes to keep Boeing here than they are paying in union dues to keep whatever benefits they still have.

Anyway, good luck to whatever sucker falls for Amazon 2.0.