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Stossel: Seattle's 'Amazon Tax'

The Seattle government passes a job-killing tax to fix the housing shortage it helped cause.

Seattle's City Council passed a new tax Monday. It will charge big companies $275 for every employee.

The "head" tax is supposed to fund housing for the homeless. Supporters of the tax chanted "Housing is a human right!" at a protest lead by Councilwoman Ksharma Sawant, a member of the Socialist Alternative party.

Seattle homelessness has doubled in the last 8 years. Politicians blame a shortage of "affordable" housing, but John Stossel says that the politicians' own bad policies helped create that shortage.

Seattle's building code is 745 pages long. ("Welded splices shall be of ASTM A706 steel," the code notes, in an endless list of rules.) The residential building code is another 685 pages.

Developers can't build big apartment buildings because in most of Seattle's residential land area, high-rises are illegal; zoning rules say only single-family houses may be built.

If Seattle just repealed many of those regulations, affordable housing would grow, Stossel says.

Instead, Seattle's politicians will tax big companies and use the money to buy housing for homeless people.

That upset Amazon, Seattle's largest employer. It paused construction of a new office building in Seattle. Construction workers went into the streets to back Amazon and to counterprotest the socialist councilwoman's pro-tax rally.

Supporters of big government aren't used to protesters drowning them out. Sawant accused Amazon of "extortion" and slammed Amazon owner Jeff Bezos on TV: "He said he has so much money that he doesn't know what to do with it....I want your viewers to understand who's the enemy here."

The "enemy"? Stossel says: Give me a break! Bezos created the jobs that she now wants to tax.

This week, Amazon partly won its fight. Seattle's city council approved a $275 per employee tax instead of the $540 that Sawant and the other leftists proposed.

Sawant accused Seattle's Mayor of "dramatically weakening [the] Tax Amazon bill. Grim reminder: working people can't rely on corporate politicians."

Corporate politicians? The $275 tax will hurt job creation too. No wonder Amazon is looking to build its next headquarters outside of Seattle.

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The views expressed in this video are solely those of John Stossel; his independent production company, Stossel Productions; and the people he interviews. The claims and opinions set forth in the video and accompanying text are not necessarily those of Reason.

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  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    Here's another one (it's about Nashville, but the sentiment's the same)

    Fuck This Town

  • MichaeI Hihn||

    In that vein...

    /not a sly joke about Seattle's addiction issues. Everyone knows that's Tacoma.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    This has nothing to do with what we're talking about, but Kirsten Dunst is Hawt in this.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

  • soldiermedic76||

    In the immortal word of Wayne Campbell "schwiiing".

  • freda||

    The Animals: We Gotta Get Out Of This Place (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJVpihgwE18 )

  • Flinch||

    Good stuff. Word limit prevents telling the story here, but... the devil plays steel guitar.

  • sungazer||

    meh. WA state has incredibly business friendly laws, that prevent more typical taxation. If you go and look at actual market costs, living anywhere in Seattle proper now is on par with living in Honolulu (maybe more or less given the whole volcanos). There have been shortages of cranes for construction. Pretty much, housing costs have been the #1 concern of the people that live there for more than 4 years. Most cities, and HOA's even, are able to raise money. Even the costs outside of Seattle have skyrocketed. Homes have more than doubled their value in 6 years, the population has grown over 15% in that same time frame, and the homeless population has more than doubled. Bezos is now both the richest man on earth and also recently built some giant shiny glass balls, so it's kind of hard to take him seriously about skipping town.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    WA is in no way business friendly. Ask anyone who puts up with the B&O tax, single labor L&I insurance, and a number of business crushing regulations for various industries.

  • Flinch||

    It's not about a good idea, Gus. Housing is a pretty good racket for local leftists, and it feeds their breeding pool. Ever wonder how much of "cold cash" Jefferson's money in his New Orleans freezer was lifted out of section 8 housing? Hmm....

  • Pro Libertate||

    Second HQ? Oh, sorry, we meant only HQ.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    They could move to Bellevue which would be interesting. Literally 3 miles outside the city limits, but a city capable of hosting them as a city. Their existing employees wouldn't have to make a huge change for the commute. It would be a massive middle-finger to the elite.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    *hosting them as a company/ infrastructure etc.

  • soldiermedic76||

    Bit further away, but Spokane is already making a play for Amazon. East side of Washington is still fairly sane (outside of Pullman).

  • HGW xx/7||

    As a resident of the Spokane area, my thoughts are "no, no, and fuck no". One of the major reasons why eastern WA and north ID are sane is because we aren't a magnet for proggy techs in their early twenties looking for "cultural opportunities", burdensome mass transit by diktat, and boutiques specializing in vegan nibbles.

    They can go somewhere else, thank you. Preferably hell...or back to California. Same difference.

  • vek||

    I'm coming to check out Spokane in a couple weeks! I can't take living here any longer, so checking out there and Boise both this summer, then I'm just gonna make the call. I'll probably buy a rental in whichever I decide on within the next year or so, and then make a 2-3 year plan for moving out of here completely... But that could be sped up depending on how bonkers things get in Seattle proper.

    The biggest thing making me lean towards Spokane/CDA over Boise is I hear Boise is getting pretty progged out already... I don't want to have to move again in another 10 years, ya know? Spokane could get dragged down by Washington state laws, but CDA should be pretty awesome for the foreseeable future.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    Maybe. Also, where you live in Spokane makes a difference too. The City of Spokane has 5 out of 7 city council members that are now progs. Lots of stupid things happening. Unincorporated north Spokane or the acity of a Spokane avalley are probably better choices.

  • vek||

    Yeah I know the city limits proper are more evenly split. That's how basically all major cities are though. But as far as decent sized cities go it is still pretty conservative, and the surrounding area definitely is. The same is true for Boise as well BUT Boise seems to be growing a lot, and becoming a very "trendy" place to move. This makes me think it could get properly swamped by lefties a lot faster than a place like Spokane that is seeing a lot slower growth.

    At the end of the day I am 95% sure I will move to the Idaho side someday anyway, and maybe not even into a city. I'm youngish now and would like to be more in the city for awhile, but I can certainly see myself sitting on my front porch with a shotgun overlooking my 50 acres of land someday :)

  • End Child Unemployment||

    Bellevue is not a big change for commute? Ha! I see you have not tried to drive in the hell that is Seattle.

  • ||

    Not sure of all the reasons - and they're currently headquartered in Kent, not Seattle - but REI is relocating to Bellevue for more favorable conditions.

  • vek||

    If I were them I'd open an Everett office! It's in Snohomish county, so outside of King, and it's still a lot cheaper than Bellevue for now. A nice little 5-10K person office up there would save them a lot of coin, while still keeping it in the area.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "They could move to Bellevue which would be interesting. Literally 3 miles outside the city limits,"

    Seattle's response would probably be to try to annex that whole area into it's own jurisdiction.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Washington is a problem, so Amazon will likely move out of that state.

    Amazon would be a fool to move to another city in Washington just to have these taxes become statewide.

  • vek||

    Well that's what HQ2 is for! The thing is that taxes don't hit all businesses the same. A low margin commodity manufacturer can't absorb the costs of proggie crap in a state like California, or a city like Seattle. Plus there's usually no benefit for them being located in such a place. So they don't setup there.

    But for a company like Amazon adding $500 a year per head is literally only a drop in the bucket. In truth it doesn't really matter to them when their average employee is making over 100K a year. It's just the principle of the thing really. AND they DO gain advantages by being in this general area since it has become a major tech hub and there is a lot of talent here.

    It's essentially the reason certain high value firms stay in NYC, London, or SF. They can absorb the costs pretty easily, and the benefits do exist to some degree.

    They'd be wise to have a place to run to with HQ2 if they ever need to, but they have legit business reasons to suck it up in this general region for awhile... But if it gets TOO bad they may well leave.

  • MichaeI Hihn||

    Know what's amazing? Not the head count tax, the head count tax disincentivizes jobs, and is an economically unsustainable vanity/policy/vanity-as-policy destined to hit the disadvantaged and vulnerable. Why does Seattle hate the poors and the working man?

    Unlike this. This is amazing.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

  • MichaeI Hihn||

    "HOLD ON, hold on! Hold on. You smart aleck Yankee drummer, you. You can cover up yeller, and you can cover up rose, buddy-buddy, but don't you cover up Texas or I'll stick your head through that cotton-pickin' snare drum and secede from the band, son! So help me Mitch Miller, I will."

    Excellent.

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    There's plenty of cities that have a head tax, but they tend to keep it pretty low and the businesses just pass it on to their employees anyway. Seattle is the first instance of a city actually implementing one at relatively punitive levels.

  • MichaeI Hihn||

    Denver's is $50, as I understand. What I'm hearing you say is that the problem is the degree rather than the method, and I hope that's not so. Mostly because I'm seeing visions in my future of long explanations on what stable 2% inflation does over a hundred years, the law of exponents, and assorted mathy sundries. I really hope that isn't predictive, as folks who have already decided the problem is the degree rather than the method rarely let math spoil things. Getting mad at me about it seems optional. As if I can stop math.

    That drummer, though, eh?

  • esteve7||

    Fucking tyrants. They don't care about the housing crisis, they care about more power over people's lives. If they gave two shits about the housing crisis they would let developers build more units. But just like in SF and the Bay Area, it's nearly impossible to do that.

    Supply goes up and demand stays the same, how does that work again you economic flat earther illiterate fucks?

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    Councilwoman Ksharma Sawant, a member of the Socialist Alternative party.

    HEY!!! I thought we were the alternative to socialists!!

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Idiot Sawant is only ~10% of the problem. The council voted for this 9-0. When these people talk about diversity, they don't mean differing opinions.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Get out while you still can.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Baja Mexico baby.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    Aren't Bremerton and Everett (relatively) sane places? Not exactly far from Seattle.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Yes, Cabo.

  • End Child Unemployment||

    Everett sucks, well known fact among western Washingtonians. It just feels poor. I'd go to Tacoma before Everett.

  • vek||

    It's still pretty trashy in many spots, but an extra 10K techie douche bags moving in would be enough to liven it up just the right amount, but not too much, while still saving Amazon a bajillion dollars in costs. Real estate is cheaper, taxes are far cheaper etc.

    The thing with Seattle is that it has had too much of a good thing in too short a period of time. If they spread the lovin' around a little more it wouldn't necessarily ruin a place the way Seattle has been the last 10-15 years.

    As for Tacoma, it would be fine for an office too... But I believe they're only 1 notch down on the stupid compared to King Country, whereas Snohomish is about 10 notches down. So both would be better than Seattle, but SnoHo is more betterer.

  • GeneralWeygand||

    lulz...idiot sawant....good one

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Works particularly well as I think she pronounces it that way in her accent.

  • DamnDirtyApe||

    So I guess her "idiot savant' power is creating shitty socialist policies?

  • Agammamon||

    11.1111111111111111111111111111111111% of the problem.

  • Agammamon||

    We are.

    The difference is like the difference between the assistant manager and the assistant *to the* manager.

  • MichaeI Hihn||

    Politicians blame a shortage of "affordable" housing, but John Stossel says that the politicians' own bad policies helped create that shortage.

    Rename property taxes to "minimum shelter rents", and see if anyone puts it together.

  • Philadelphia Collins||

    Ever see an omelette make itself?

  • Oscarson44.||

    Not sure what your point is. Are you pushing Amazon, Seattle, or some other entity as the eggs for your "omelette"?

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Sawant accused Amazon of "extortion" and slammed Amazon owner Jeff Bezos on TV: "He said he has so much money that he doesn't know what to do with it....I want your viewers to understand who's the enemy here."

    The "enemy"? Stossel says: Give me a break! Bezos created the jobs that she now wants to tax.

    To Socialists like Sawant the enemy is anyone who turns a profit.

  • Conchfritters||

    Alexa - slap this fucking idiot from the Socialist Alternative party.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    Do you have to be an Amazon Prime member for this function?

  • lap83||

    "I'm afraid I can't do that Dave"

  • Hunthjof||

    Thread winner. I might borrow that.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    At least now we know where the next Robocop reboot will be set.

  • XM||

    I don't think the OCP can afford to set up shop in Seattle.

  • libertynugget||

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    You're right, it would make a pretty good setting for the next Batman too.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    Or the Punisher. Instead of monsters he can execute progressives.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    Or the next X-Men, so Magneto can round them up and put them in camps with no sense of irony.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    I really want Amazon to leave. I really want to just see it collapse.

    Though, the thing that pisses me out in the local debate I see for this. Is they assume that the City Councils motives are honest. They say they want the money and that it's needed to fix homelessness. I swear to god, almost everything radio personality I hear takes it for granted that this is actually reasonable. That this will fix the issue, and all that is missing money.

    The other thing that drives me crazy. How often I've heard, "They can afford it" in response to Amazon.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Apt metaphor, Tony.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Guarantee most of the money does not go to anything other than general revenue.

  • MichaeI Hihn||

    How often I've heard, "They can afford it" in response to Amazon.

    True. The issue is what they would have been able to afford otherwise, such as employees.

    Eat the rich. I dunno why folks want to eat the rich. They can't taste good. Not even with garlic.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    And also whether the cost of staying there, when there is not any obvious reason they need to be in Seattle other than inertia, is worth 20 million a year.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Its $20 million this year. The head tax will continue to go up and up and up.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    Of course you don't eat them with garlic- that would totally neutralize the eldritch power the eater hopes to absorb.

  • vek||

    I would love to see Amazon bail too... I MIGHT, ALMOST consider staying in Western Washington if that happened... But probably not. I don't trust this whole state any more since I'm a business owner. Which is too bad. It's such a pretty area, ruined by leftists.

    But I would still like to see it because it would be just desserts for these morons. Even if they just enter a holding pattern stage once HQ2 opens and don't hire many more people here, the whole bubble in real estate may well pop just from that. So it'll be fun watching these socialist morons freaking out about how to run the budget when it's NOT going up by double digit percentages YoY.

  • MarkLastname||

    Don't worry Shawarma, it'll hit $540 in a few years. This tax is just a foot in the door.

  • GeneralWeygand||

    Shawarma......good one...

  • freda||

    The global rule for taxes is that they never go down and they expand to include smaller and smaller companies. When this head tax doesn't solve Seattle's problems it will expand and increase. Get out while you can. Housing prices will tumble when the exodus is in full swing.

  • Hunthjof||

    Yup when it doesn't bring in the revenue they anticipated they will say companies making 18 mil. They will of course blame the needed increase on the "greed" of the larger corps. Then when that fails they will lower to 12 and so on down the line.

  • XM||

    If a Starbucks open up a location in Seattle, does the franchisee (or the company) have to pay 275 bucks in taxes for every Barista? Starbucks is a "big company".

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Yes, I believe so. Their CEO was very adamantly against this as well. I think chains are impacted by this.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    Only the chains... of exploitation.

  • XM||

    Holy cow, that's insane.

  • Illocust||

    Well, they've found a great way to make sure only 'independent' stores can open up in Seattle. Shame for the people who will be left after this fallout.

  • Hunthjof||

    I believe when they passed their min wage hike they stated that in fact franchises in regards to the law were still a part of the parent corp. Remember their min wage law exempted for a long period of time business with less then a certain number of employees. Which I find amusing that they admitted in their law that min wage hikes hurt small business.

  • I'm Not Sure||

    Encouraging profitable companies to leave the city while simultaneously welcoming more homeless? What could possibly go wrong?

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    They continuously state that the idea that more spending might attract homeless is ridiculous, as no one wants to be homeless.

  • I'm Not Sure||

    Are these the same people who say it's greedy to want to be able to spend your own money on what you want while also saying it's compassionate to take other people's money to spend on what you want?

    I bet they are.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    There isn't anyone else in Seattle.

  • wreckinball||

    Starbucks new c'mon in anyone can use our bathroom policy jives with this great also. Worst job in Seattle, Starbucks janitor

  • MichaeI Hihn||

  • Hackmaschine Mutter||

    Maybe they could just give a comfort animal to each homeless person so they wouldn't care so much.

  • PaulTheBeav||

    Bellevue is right across Lake Washington and it's a much more business friendly city. Amazon should just come here. It'll be a much cheaper option than trying to move to another part of the country, and it will save a lot of hassle and heartache for their Seattle employees. For a lot of them it would even be a shorter commute.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Washington state is the problem. If you live in a decently conservative city in that state, you cannot control what those lunatics do in Seattle spilling over into state politics in Olympia.

    I have yet to see this mentioned but I am sure quite a few lefty Amazon employees are fine with this head tax.

  • Hunthjof||

    I was up there when they "found" ballots in the Governors race in King County. LOL

  • vek||

    It didn't use to always be this way! When my dad decided to move up here when I was still in high school the previous governor had been a Republican. Washington used to be a very centrist state at the state level. It makes me very sad that it no longer is. I WISH I could just move to Everett or something, but I know that'd only last for 5-10 years before the state level nonsense has me packing.

    Such a bummer that all the best places are getting ruined by the progs. If a million conservatives had moved here over the last 10-15 years instead of Texas we could have saved one of the nice coastal states from ruin because the population is so low here!

  • Sevo||

    Can't find the link right now, but Mountain View (silicone valley) is proposing the same for Google.
    Google is an easy target: 'Do no evil' (whatever that might mean), but the claim is Google is providing 'too many good jobs' according to the idiots 'governing' Mountain View.
    Yep, Google needs more janitors!

  • Hunthjof||

    You kinda just want to sit back with popcorn and watch at this point. Amazon was no better. Remember the progs all praising Amazon when they stood up to Trump for the USPS. Now they are eating him alive. It is only a matter of time before these prog CEO's get what is coming to them. How does the saying go "He that lie down with dogs shall rise up with fleas" Well these CEO's who thought they were latching on to the "Resistance" believing they could boost their brand are now scratching furiously.

  • Illocust||

    I'm pretty glad Seattle went through with this. They've basically killed their economy. Businesses will move out. People will move out, and we'll have a brand new example of why you don't pull this shit on your money makers.....course that's the optimist in me. Reality is, most the people moving with their job, will just demand the exact same laws in their new location. They'll never connect the line between them having to move and the laws they called for in the old place.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Good point. I am sure many of the people living in Seattle came from California and brought their lunatic ways with them.

  • vek||

    Just one more reason I'm glad I'm going on my scouting trip in 2 weeks to see where I'm going to move when I leave Seattle! I can't wait to get out of this place... I wish I could just do it tomorrow, but I'm going to need a wind down/transition period because of business/personal reasons. But I will feel so much better once I've even just decided where I want to move. It will be a crazy feeling to live somewhere where 70-80% of people aren't rabid socialists, and you can actually speak your mind freely about political issues.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Georgia.

    The down side is that a bunch of crazy socialists are moving here from California, Oregon, Washington, and NY.

  • vek||

    Yeah, I considered the south... But I don't like the demographic trends. Same reason I'm not going to Texas or other southwest states. I WANTED to move to Texas more than anywhere else. A lot of different geography to choose from, and I just love all the stereotypical Texasy things... But Texas is probably going to turn permanently Blue starting in 2024 if current trends continue... After that the USA itself may well be permanently doomed...

    After all the reading I have done, and my father who is also moving, I think Idaho/Montana/Dakotas are literally going to be the last places in the country to go to shit. Some southern states might do better than others, and some midwest states might be okay too... But when you throw in the geography and weather + the other stuff I think Idaho is the right spot for me. It's impossible to tell the future, so I may be wrong, but I don't think I am. Idaho is still like America and stuff! And it should stay that way for quite a few years to come. Even if FedGov goes permanently leftist, at least the state laws in Idaho will be as good as it gets.

  • jjjjj||

    A tax per head. I think there's another name for that.

  • wreckinball||

    It will be interesting to see the winner in this battler of liberal Bezos vs insane liberal Seattle city government.
    You know you've gone over the line when you've lost Bezos.
    Winder what Bernie thinks?

  • K.M. Smith||

    Amazingly, Amazon Prime membership just went up $20/year.

    Amazon won't be the one paying for this.

  • freda||

    Democrat-Liberal-Socialists (aka Seattle's City Council) must live in a bubble. Amazon is searching for HQ2 and is already nationwide and the City Council bozos give them the finger. My guess is that Bezos and his staff are studying the maps and will gradually move to HQ2. Ego is everything to Bezos and he's not going to take this lying down. Also, by leaving Seattle it will create enough empty housing for all the homeless. Remember, the last large business to leave Seattle gets stuck with the check.

  • ||

    Sawant claiming Amazon is out of line is priceless. Right out of the deranged-derelict socialist playbook. WHY WON'T YOU LET US BEAT YOU UP?! HOW DARE YOU PROTECT YOURSELF?!

    Remember kids. But conservatives and IDW are just as bad!

  • Deconstructed Potato||

    A706 is pretty standard grade rebar where welded splice joints are required, no? Welded splices aren't ideal, though, especially if done manually on site. Threaded or tapered options are preferable, Shirley?

  • zombietimeshare||

    Hmmm taxing a businesses to fund housing for the homeless. What's the old Reagan quote? "If you want more of something, subsidize it; if you want less of something, tax it." I expect this will not end well.

  • Whorton||

    They are looking at this all wrong. If Amazon moved out, the empty spaces that used to house Amazon, could be turned into housing for all those poor homeless people. . . problem solved. . .

    Microsoft and Boeing should follow for the same reason.

  • ||

    Save Your Relationship and Get Your Ex Boyfriend/Girlfriend Back!contact: Unityspelltemple@gmail.com is certainly the best spell caster online and his result is 100% guarantee.

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