[Issue 067] Bezos can keep his $2B 🙅🏾
What I love most about writing this newsletter is how much I learn on a regular basis. Many of you may not know, but corporate responsibility is in no way a part of my day job in tech, so I spend a lot of my free time reading anything and everything in order to stay informed and stretch my thinking.
One of the books I picked up this weekend is called Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World.
The basic premise: We now live in a world with more inequality than ever, but what's particularly problematic is that it's a world "where the rich and powerful fight for equality and justice any way they can–except ways that threaten the social order and their position atop it."
Before starting this newsletter I would've likely read news of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' $2 billion to fight homelessness (as well as support education) in Seattle as exciting news.
Instead, I can clearly see it for what it is: The wealthiest man in the world—with assets of $163 billion, might I remind you—is throwing pennies at a problem that his company is largely the root of.
This tweet from the author perfectly sums it up:
I'm not sure there's a better "billionaire sugar daddy" example right now than Bezos, who can keep his damn $2 billion.*
This summer Amazon fought a local business tax that would fund homeless shelters and low-income housing (and won). The tax was originally proposed at $500 per employee for any business making $200+ million in revenue.
When Amazon threatened to not build any more office space, the city reduced the tax to $275. At this point Starbucks and other businesses teamed up with Amazon to get the tax repealed.
At $275, the tax would've only cost Amazon $12.5 million in 2019, and the company made $1.6 billion in profit in the first quarter of 2018 alone.
And we haven't even gotten into:
The ways in which Amazon contributes to the growing inequality and recent state of emergencyfor homelessness in Seattle
How much Amazon benefits from tax breaks in cities (the HQ2 frenzy, as the most glaring example) all while crushing the local businesses that do pay local taxes
So really, what good is Bezos' $2B? It pales in comparison to the cost communities and society as a whole is paying for him to accrue that wealth.
The next time you read a headline about some rich CEO giving away money and getting a pat on the back about it, ask yourself: are they really trying to change the world for the better?
*I don't actually want Bezos to keep the $2B. There are people in need, so I don't take the donation lightly. My point is that as the CEO of the most powerful company in Seattle he needs to do better, and writing a check just doesn't cut it.
I was SO excited to see Arlan Hamilton on the cover of this month's Fast Company! If this is the first time hearing that name, I doubt it will the last. She is the founder of Backstage Capital, a venture capital firm that solely funds startups run by women, people of color, and LGTBQ founders. I've been following her journey closely for a while, and I'm constantly inspired by her tenacity and success.
This quote from the Fast Company article sums it up pretty well:
"In an industry where privilege begets privilege—and at a time when racial justice in this country seems precarious, at best—she is claiming her seat at the table."
Here's the Fast Company article → Memo to the Silicon Valley boys’ club: Arlan Hamilton has no time for your BS
Read more about her incredible story here → How This Woman Went From Homelessness to Running a Multimillion-Dollar Venture Fund
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Airbnb May Be Its Own Worst Enemy. Airbnb has compromised with local cities on limits focused on rentals in past years, however now they are fighting against the limits. Airbnb has been battling with New York over how much the city can police Airbnb rentals, and they have also been pushing a lot of money into removing the limits as well. If Airbnb gets its way, it may be harder for locals to find long-term, available housing. // BLOOMBERG