Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and White House officials traded Twitter blows this week, arguing taxes and inflation, political misdirection, and even the now-infamous Disinformation Governance Board.
It's the latest episode in an increasingly tense relationship between the Biden administration and one of Washington's most well-known part-time residents. Bezos owns the liberal-leaning Washington Post and the district's largest house and is building a second headquarters for Amazon across the Potomac in Arlington, Virginia, but finds himself at odds with President Joe Biden, whom he blames for high inflation.
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"The administration tried hard to inject even more stimulus into an already over-heated, inflationary economy and only [West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe] Manchin saved them from themselves," Bezos wrote in a Sunday tweet. "Inflation is a regressive tax that most hurts the least affluent. Misdirection doesn’t help the country.”
The statement was a response to Biden's oft-repeated claim that he cut the deficit by $1.5 trillion this year, which critics have slammed as misleading since it reflects changes from a historically high deficit of $2.8 trillion — owing in part to policies Biden actively promoted in 2021.
The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, passed last March with no Republican votes, contributed to inflation levels not seen since the early 1980s. Bezos contends that had the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better Act also passed, the situation today would be even worse.
That wasn't the billionaire's only shot at Biden. Friday night, Bezos responded to Biden's claim that higher corporate taxes would lower inflation by calling on the Department of Homeland Security's controversial disinformation board to investigate.
"The newly created Disinformation Board should review this tweet, or maybe they need to form a new Non Sequitur Board instead," Bezos wrote. "Raising corp taxes is fine to discuss. Taming inflation is critical to discuss. Mushing them together is just misdirection."
The White House fired back, courtesy of a statement from deputy press secretary Andrew Bates that called out Bezos's wealth and aversion to taxes.
"It doesn't require a huge leap to figure out why one of the wealthiest individuals on Earth opposes an economic agenda for the middle class that cuts some of the biggest costs families face, fights inflation for the long haul, and adds to the historic deficit reduction the president is achieving by asking the richest taxpayers and corporations to pay their fair share," the statement reads.
The White House statement also mentioned a recent meeting between administration officials and labor organizers hoping to unionize Starbucks and Amazon employees, among others.
Bezos fired off once more in response, saying unions and wealthy people aren't causing inflation but that the $3.5 billion Build Back Better Act would.
Economists conceded that both Bezos and the White House had valid points but differed depending on their political perspectives.
"Biden is more correct than Bezos," said David Madland, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. "Raising taxes on the wealthy would help limit inflation because it is likely to slightly reduce their consumption. But that’s not the main reason taxes on corporations and the wealthy should be increased. Amazon and Bezos made billions during the pandemic and yet paid very little in taxes, which is unfair to taxpaying Americans."
At the other end of the political spectrum, conservative economist Stephen Moore slammed Biden, noting his billionaire critic's centrist political background.
"Bezos is no conservative, and he's being excoriated for telling the truth," said Moore. "The spending blitz by Biden is the match that lit the inflation bonfire. Now, Biden is even turning on his friends when they don't drink his Kool-Aid."
Bezos has a mixed history in politics. Aside from owning the Washington Post, he once donated $100 million to the Obama Foundation and spoke at last year's COP26 climate conference.
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But the Amazon founder has also donated to Republicans and lobbied against raising taxes on the wealthy. Amazon consistently fought against unionizing efforts from its employees during the time Bezos ran the company.
Former President Donald Trump also had his share of run-ins with Bezos — and sometimes for the same reasons. Trump often referred to the Washington Post as a fake news outlet that was used to lobby for Amazon's interests. He also accused Bezos of avoiding his fair share of corporate taxes, saying Amazon is "getting away with murder taxwise."