Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos is being slammed for his “despicable” comments following his space flight Tuesday, in which he thanked Amazon employees and customers for financing his trip — including from many lawmakers who have urged the billionaire to pay his share of taxes here on Earth.
The show of appreciation by Bezos Tuesday to Amazon employees and the customers who “paid for all this” following his record-setting space flight did not dazzle the likes of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
“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?” Sanders tweeted. “Nope. It’s time to invest in working people here on Earth.”
Sanders’ tweet included a 54-second video showing Richard Branson winning the “billionaire space race” on July 11 in his Virgin Galactic passenger rocket plane. The footage then features a quote Sanders gave the New York Times about Branson and Bezos, saying they’re the “richest guys in the world” who aren’t worried about Earth anymore.
“At a time when the very rich and large corporations are often not paying anything or very little in taxes, they’re going to have to pay their fair share so that we can protect working families in this country and deal with climate change,” Sanders said in the clip.
Warren echoed that take, tweeting: “It’s time for Jeff Bezos to take care of business right here on Earth and pay his fair share in taxes.”
The politicians were apparently referring to a Pro Publica report that found Bezos, who stepped down from Amazon in July, paid no income tax in 2007 and 2011. He finances his rocket company by selling $1 billion in Amazon stock annually.
Ocasio-Cortez, meanwhile, said Amazon customers paid for Bezos’ trip while alleging the online giant abused its “market power” to decimate small businesses.
“Yes, Amazon workers did pay for this – with lower wages, union busting, a frenzied and inhumane workplace, and delivery drivers not having health insurance during a pandemic,” the New York lawmaker tweeted.
Robert Reich, former secretary of labor for President Bill Clinton, also took aim at Bezos and Branson, saying their flights were a sign of “grotesque inequality” that allows some people to leave Earth as others suffer.
“Who else thinks Bezos should pay his fair share of taxes before thanking Amazon customers for funding his joy ride to space?” Reich tweeted. “Imagine if billionaires invested this much time and money in preserving the planet we’re already on.”
Bezos awarded $100 million each to political commentator Van Jones and chef Jose Andres during a press conference following his trip, telling the pair to donate it to charities and nonprofits.
But that didn’t apparently win over Rep. Earl Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat on the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee who proposed legislation Tuesday to tax space travel for non-scientific research purposes.
“Space travel isn’t a tax-free holiday for the wealthy,” Blumenauer tweeted. “We pay taxes on plane tickets. Billionaires flying into space – producing no scientific value – should do the same, and then some!”
Some Amazon customers also criticized Bezos’ nod to them for paying for his trip, saying he’s officially lost their business.
“I don’t buy very much from Amazon (certainly not books), but after seeing Jeff Bezos & his gang laugh about his minimum wage employees & customers paying for his trip into space, I just cancelled my Amazon Prime account,” former Amazon customer Jules Swain tweeted Tuesday, later calling Bezos “despicable” in a follow-up post.
“I’ve just done the same Jules!” one reply read.