Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) accused Amazon of not paying its fair share in taxes during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Thursday, which prompted the company to respond that it merely follows the tax laws created by Congress.
"If you don't like the laws you've created, by all means, change them," reads a tweet from Amazon's account.
Warren did not appreciate the remark:
I didn't write the loopholes you exploit, @amazon – your armies of lawyers and lobbyists did. But you bet I'll fight to make you pay your fair share. And fight your union-busting. And fight to break up Big Tech so you're not powerful enough to heckle senators with snotty tweets. https://t.co/3vCAI93MST
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) March 26, 2021
This is a classic example of saying the quiet part out loud. Warren inadvertently revealed that her crusade to hurt major tech companies is partly driven by personal animus: She wants to reduce the power of corporations so that they are no longer "powerful enough to heckle senators."
In fact, everyone enjoys the right to "heckle senators," if by "heckle," we mean engage in constitutionally-protected political expression. Senators are elected representatives: They are supposed to be accountable to their constituents and the public more broadly. It is not "cancel culture" when people criticize Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R–Ga.) for her previous enthusiasm for QAnon; similarly, there's nothing sinister or harassing about Amazon clapping back at Warren.
On the crux of the matter, Warren is also wrong. It's not true that Amazon pays "close to nothing in taxes." It paid $162 million in federal taxes last year, and is on the hook for nearly a billion more. Amazon does take advantage of several pro-business policies that let it reduce its total tax liability: investing in research and development, tax credits and deductions, etc. The U.S. tax code is extraordinarily complicated, and it's not surprising that massive corporations are able to find creative ways to hold on to more of their profits.
As Amazon pointed out, it is within Congress' power to simplify the law. Better yet, local governments could cease the practice of bribing companies to get them to headquarter in specific cities. Neither of these options necessitates breaking up Amazon, which remains the second-most-trusted entity in the country after the military. Congress, the institution to which Warren belongs, has been ranked the least trusted institution for 14 straight years.