back to article That was quick: Seattle rushes to kill tax that would mildly inconvenience Amazon

The city of Seattle is moving to strike its plan to tax large businesses and use the money to address the Emerald City's chronic homelessness problems. Mayor Jenny Durkan announced on Monday night the city was already considering legislation that would overturn its earlier decision to impose a headcount tax on large businesses …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    "overturn its earlier decision"

    So Seattle got itself some balls, then realized next morning it was drunk and took an Alka Seltzer or ten.


    1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

      Re: "overturn its earlier decision"

      Someone roofied the Seattle city council? That would explain some things...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "overturn its earlier decision"

        Or perhaps more likely Amazon threatened to leave if the plan was implemented.

        1. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

          Re: "Or perhaps more likely Amazon threatened to leave if the plan was implemented."

          This. I rather strongly suspect Seattle was reminded that the soon-to-be-selected "New Second HQ" city could very easily become the "New Only HQ" city...

  2. Mark 85 Silver badge

    while protecting good, family-wage jobs

    So Amazon has those jobs company wide? Or is it only in the corporate offices? From all reports the warehouse workers are low paid (minimum wage or in some states, less because "part time") with not enough hours to qualify for company medical insurance.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      In Germany there have been several documentaries about the wokring conditions. The worst is seasonal workers, who are shipped in from other countries on the promise of a good wage, they are then given a contract for much less and told to either sign it or find their own way back home! They also live in winter in overfilled summer holiday chalets.

      But, of course, this isn't Amazon's fault, it is the subcontractor they use to provide the staff who is responsible. So, of course, once it came to light, they immediately terminated the subcontractor and found a reputable employment agency... Oh, wait, no they didn't.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If there's a housing crisis...

    ...then chances are that there's three main causes that apply to any successful city: An excess of well paid jobs relative to current housing supply, exacerbated by poor local government planning to esnure some balance between jobs, housing and transport, and social problems that cause chronic homelessness.

    To be fair you can't blame Amazon as such, but introducing the tax would have been an interesting experiment in deterring the sort of jobs that push up property demand and prices, and if it didn't they'd have at least made a move on either getting more money for social housing or social care. My disappointment at the Seattle politicians for their craven surrender is mitigated by a conviction that given more money, local government only waste it unproductively.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If there's a housing crisis...

      A bit of give and take. More online deliveries might mean less local employment. But I doubt that is all that is going on, and yes, preparation for change is better than panic in finding there are not enough affordable houses after the fact.

    2. LucreLout Silver badge

      Re: If there's a housing crisis...

      To be fair you can't blame Amazon as such, but introducing the tax would have been an interesting experiment in deterring the sort of jobs that push up property demand and prices, and if it didn't they'd have at least made a move on either getting more money for social housing or social care.

      There's quite a significant economic flaw with that line of argument. Those in the best paying jobs are those best able to adapt to market conditions, or are otherwise brighter or harder working than those not in them, according to conventional economics.

      If you remove those jobs, those people will out compete those in the tier of work below them, forcing everyone else down a step on the ladder. You don't have fewer people or more buildings. The price may fall, but it will be the same people able to afford them on the new lower salaries all round.

      The only answer to any perceived price problem with housing is to have more houses or fewer people. You can either build more property, or reduce population increase by lowering immigration or the birth rate; neither is universally politically popular. And that leads us on to the subdivision problem where a house gets turned into two flats, or a large flat into two small flats etc.... which is where places like London find themselves. It increases the price of the remaining houses or large flats because there are fewer of them, forcing people to move out to the suburbs and commute in, while migitating some of the small flat demand, leading to developers not wanting to build more.

      1. Eddy Ito

        Re: If there's a housing crisis...

        There is also the burden of red tape. It's difficult to adjust to housing demand when it takes more than a quarter of a year to get an answer for a permit. Plus if it isn't perfect it's to the back of the queue to resubmit and that's provided everything in Seattle is above board and not like some towns in NJ.

  4. SVV Silver badge

    Some figures

    The tax proposed was $275 per local employee per year, or $5.29 per week. So this heinous piece of evil socialism was obviously something that would have brought Amazon and Starbucks to their knees (both of whom miraculously found $25000 to donate to the campaign against the tax somewhere in their threadbare pockets).

    1. cbars Silver badge

      Re: Some figures


      Argument acknowledged, but do you have any figures for how many Amazon employees there are in Seattle? Would it only have been the headquarters, or the warehouses too? Would the tax still apply if company headquarters were not in the city? I would imagine the HQ has at least 1000 employees by itself, so that $25000 is less than a months worth of tax; and given the complexity, it could take years to totally upsticks and shift the HQ.

      I can imagine the business case for that expense was fairly straightforward.

      1. Eddy Ito

        Re: Some figures

        The figure you want is 40,000 people. At $5.29 a head per week that's $211,600 every week or a cool $11M each year. Kinda makes that whole $25k look more like pocket lint than anything.

  5. RareToy

    Or maybe... just maybe they're trying to save their jobs. 7 of the 9 are up for re-election and saw the grassroot fury building. Maybe those 7 can find a lemonade stand they can run into the ground.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      7 of the 9 are up for re-election and saw the grassroot fury building.

      THE NINE? You say they have left Mina Morgul? I saw the picture, and realised that we were talking about Laketown, in the shadow of the Lonely Mountain, with its corrupt mayor......

      Oh. Sorry, they're different books. I'd better get back to polishing my staff (it's got a knob on it, you know). Oh shit..different author. Shut the pod bay doors, HAL.

    2. no_handle_yet

      run in to the ground or assimilate ?

      Didn't think the borg practised democracy

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not as simple as all that...

    I am a relative newcomer to Seattle, and there is a lot of opposition to the head tax from the general public. One of the main concerns is that the council has no plan what to do with the money after collecting it - none at all. Perhaps if they had proposed a clear way to help the homeless population alongside the tax bill, it may have got further.

    There are many, many layers to this discussion, most of which I am not well versed or eloquent enough to describe. It is not as simple as the story makes out.

    1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

      1. Fred Dibnah Silver badge

        Re: Not as simple as all that...

        You picked the wrong icon, AC. The one with 'Joke Alert!' on it is the one you need.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not as simple as all that...


    2. Agamemnon

      Re: Not as simple as all that...

      I've been here for more than a half-decade now, and you are Correct, there is more to it than that.

      For example: Liberalism here is so bad that I Returned To Santa Cruz, CA to get some effing peace. I'll let that sink in and we can move on. ...

      Seattleites (my better half is a native) pretty much liked it around here before Amazon grew, and Microsoft started expanding the East Side. As I said, I hail from Silly Valley in the 80s and I've seen pretty much everything they're doing here now a few times already. Leadership in Seattle Proper did see a Grass Roots opportunity because Seattelites are pretty much fucking tired of Amazon Executive and Developer douche-bags wandering around town after crushing affordable living into the ground and "gentrifying" some of the cooler places in town. However, $20Million USD is a very small number when you're talking about businesses in Seattle. There's construction companies, the Airport, *Starbucks* (don't Fuck with Starbucks, that's just stupid, screw Amazon Execs), I'll bet you a weed store or two make that, and the Grocery Stores (Safeway and Albertsons, who is already in trouble in Seattle) chimed in. Basically, there are a Lot of businesses that said; "OK, if you Actually want to jump up and down on that land-mine, have at it."

      And it wouldn't have done a single thing for the Homeless OR Opiate problems in Seattle, far from it.

      1. deadlockvictim Silver badge


        I never realised that Clytemnestra was from Seattle.

        Well, you learn something every day.

    3. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Not as simple as all that...

      Amazon are noted for their ready supply of large, brown cardboard boxes...

      1. LDS Silver badge

        "Amazon are noted for their ready supply of large, brown cardboard boxes..."

        They are too thin, cheap and bad quality to be useful for an homeless shelter.

  7. GrumpyKiwi

    Seattle council = retards

    Yes this is the same group of tards whom proposed seizing Boeing and Amazon. Who wanted anyone speaking out against the tax prosecuted under RICO laws? The same group who passed an income tax despite is being against Washington state law. They're not exactly civil governance geniuses.

    Should I point out (since el'Reg never does) that the local unions were also vehemently against this tax?

    Should I point out that it's Seattle city's own zoning laws that have made building houses so damn difficult (because you wouldn't know it from el'Reg's article)?

    It never ceases to amaze me that the same dropkicks who claim "a tax on soda/cigarettes/booze will reduce soda/cigarettes/booze consumption" are also claiming that "a tax on labour won't reduce jobs".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Seattle council = retards

      I want proof that they were trying to punish people using rico

      1. GrumpyKiwi

        Re: Seattle council = retards

        Sorry, not for RICO. Just for "intimidating" public servants.

        Same crowd for whom "allowing a company to leave Washington state just because they don't like the rules is economic terrorism"

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Seattle council = retards

          That's Amazon not the Seattle city council.

          1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

            Re: Seattle council = retards

            Downvoting OP for his shitty choice of insults.

  8. earl grey Silver badge

    The last tax didn't do any good.

    The last 270 million tax they laid on the public hasn't gone into any part of housing and helping the homeless like it was supposed to; so what makes anyone think THIS tax is going to actually be applied to its spoken cause? The council there is corrupt in not addressing any of the actual problems but like politicians anywhere see someone else's money as the solution to all their problems. It isn't. It never will be. The best thing that could happen to that city would be for all those big corporations to move to another city/state where idiots like these aren't in charge. When you piss off that much of the electorate to satisfy the few, you would think they were far right wing instead of far left wing politicos.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: The last tax didn't do any good.

      The best thing that could happen to that city would be for all those big corporations to move to another city/state where idiots like these aren't in charge.

      Move? To what city/state would you suggest? Is there any city/state that isn't run by idiots?

      1. LucreLout Silver badge

        Re: The last tax didn't do any good.

        Move? To what city/state would you suggest? Is there any city/state that isn't run by idiots?


  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm amazed at how many people jump on the we create jobs so we shouldn't pay tax bandwagon thinking that's the way things should work.

    People pay taxes and corporations pay taxes to cover the things the government supplies to the people. Taking corporations out of the equation leads to austerity and the inability to fund things like healthcare (not so much the US for long), education, rubbish collections, parks and recreation, the list goes on and on and on. Moving things online has allowed corporations to fund politicians to allow a reduction in tax laws and regulations for those companies killing off non-online companies as they can't compete. The future doesn't look good but hey that's what capitalism gets you. (not advocating socialism, there has to be an in between)

    1. Agamemnon


    2. Joe Werner Silver badge

      And it never ceases to amaze me that in the US a position that would be quite conservative here (both of my "home countries", actually - ok, one of them countries is maybe the most communist monarchy you can imagine) is called liberal, leftist, socialist, or even communist - and that's the debate that never was, once you shoot it down by "communist". Seriously, the McCarthy era should be over...

      Several countries in Europe have a national health care plan - since before WW1. Several countries have a free education system (schools and universities). Yes, ultimately Joe and Jane public pay it through taxes, but (in principle) you pay more if you earn more, so those that are not as well off do get a chance of getting a good education (you know, without having to excel at sports, which has nothing to do with how intelligent they are, look at some European soccer players... though looking at what I make becoming a pro sportsperson is probably more intelligent than getting a science degree).

      (no, it's not perfect, and there are too many loopholes for the rich to hide their true income).

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      And I'm amazed at the level of economic ignorance. Corporations don't actually pay tax - some combination of the owners, workers, and customers pay the tax ultimately. The major reason that governments want to pretend to tax corporates is that they think (and are mostly successful thanks to ignorance) that they can disguise the fact that they are taxing people more. Just about everyone is in favour of taxing other people more but very few are in favour of paying more themselves. If they were they would voluntarily pay additional amounts, and not person in a million does that.

      And to add to another comment above, it is generally accepted that if you tax something you'll get less of it - that's the whole point behind high alcohol and tobacco taxes for a start. Sp extend this to the broad (stated but probably not actual) intent of this tax - to tax employment and subsidize homelessness. So they want less employment and more homelessness ?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If only there were a politician with the courage to stand up to Bezos

    Ideally high up in the federal government...

    1. veti Silver badge

      Re: If only there were a politician with the courage to stand up to Bezos

      "Standing up to people" is something you do when other people are stronger than you.

      When you do it to someone who's in a weaker position than you, it's called "bullying".

      What you're asking for is one bully to be controlled by a bigger one. Mind where that leads.

  11. applebyJedi

    One word...


  12. Malignant_Narcissism

    Seattle rushes to kill JUST ANOTHER tax that would be passed on to consumers.


    You people and your lack of ECON 101.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      competition wouldn't allow that. Hows that competition coming along with net neutrality?

  13. Jay Lenovo

    A Prime Alternative

    Amazon thinking:

    "Hmm.. Why couldn't Seattle remove the homeless with free shipping? "

    A cloudy company, in a cloudy city, resulting in a cloudy tax base. Real people reside somewhere in there.

  14. This post has been deleted by its author

  15. HungryMan

    the problem is also weather related. most west coast cities have relatively mild climates. combined that with liberal governments in the big cities where its easy to get a hand out and you have a recipe for homelessness. You don't see these problems in places like Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Fargo or Phoenix. Fargo and Salt Lake have real winters where it gets cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey and Las Vegas and Phoenix have summers so hot you can fry an egg on the sidewalk. they still have some homelessness problems but nothing like what you see in in places like Portland, LA, Seattle, of San Francisco. the other big part of the problem is the government hand outs that are support by the libs. when you take money out of working peoples pockets and give it to non working people, you end up with a whole lot of people that don't want to work and have no incentive to work. back in the late 20's and 30's during the great depression, people knew that they could not make a living where they were and picked up and moved on to where they could find a job and could support themselves. that's how California got most of its population. there was no government handout. if necessity was the mother of invention, then starvation was the father. I am not against social program for those that need it like the sick and the crippled and the old. but I have a real hard time seeing it go to able bodied people that just want to hang out on the sidewalk all day and get stoned rather than work. and that is what you have in Seattle and other west coast cities and the local governments allow it.

    1. Joe Werner Silver badge

      So it is their own fault for being homeless? No economic downturn, gentrification, strong hire-and-fire capitalism, "rightsizing" the company to increase the "shareholder value", or sometimes really just ending up in bad company and it's all downhill form there. No social security to try and catch you and push you up into the working populace again (or at least try). I cannot imagine that they really want to live in the streets.

      And by your argument European cities should have many more homeless than US cities. Hint: Most don't.

      1. Jtom

        There is a new wave of homelessness in the US. They are called 'crusties' by many. They are young, able-body youths who see no reason, have no desire, to work. I've worked in charitable 'soup lines' giving out free lunches, and saw many of them. They have cellphones, trendy clothes (both paid for by parents trying to help them sort out their life), and frequently smell of weed. Most could go back home, but would rather hang with friends than to be subjected to being nagged to find a job or live a purposable life.

        Yes, they are homeless and jobless by choice, and like it very much, thank you. They can exist in this lifestyle because of the wealth of the nation. In an impoverished country where the policy was no work, no food, they would be working. Pandering to them by giving them still more assistance would only make the situation worse.

  16. Marty McFly

    Boeing & Seattle

    Anyone remember the 1960's billboard in Seattle that said "Will the last one out turn off the lights". Seattle was on its way out. Then a little airplane company became a big company. Fast forward a couple decades and a little software company became a big company on the east side of the lake. Recently a coffee company and an A to Z company have become big. But if Boeing had failed way back then, what would Seattle be today?

    And in 2001 Boeing relocated its headquarters to Chicago. That doesn't say much about either city. How soon politicians forget that companies can and WILL move and take their jobs with them. Oh, and that led to the 787 also being built in Charleston, SC.

    To Amazon's credit they gave Seattle a chance to fix it. If I was Bezos I would have said 'Virtual HQ" and we will hire the best & brightest regardless of where their butts are at. Seattle can go pound sand for all their screwy taxes and laws.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Las Vegas has plenty of homeless people..

    Most of the trouble spots are cities with high property prices. In that list, Las Vegas is something of an anomaly. Might be excessive mental illness, or could still be a hangover from the 2008 recession when lots of people working on construction found themselves out of work.

  18. DenTheMan


    ...torian Values win out.

    Another branch of Poverty R US opens.

  19. knarf

    All this could solved by RollerBall

    Sure his has been tried before though.

  20. mhenriday

    Who pays the piper calls the tune - even if it's said to be «democracy»

    Sounds like a case study from Gilens and Page's Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens. Is anyone surprised ?...


  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The problem with taxes to "help" homeless

    Is that if you really do make the situation of the homeless better, over time you'll attract more homeless people.

    The perception of some is that homeless people are mostly crazy people who belong in a mental hospital, but there are a lot of ordinary umemployed people who got evicted and have to live in their car - sometimes with their kids. If they find out that a couple days drive will put them in a place where their children can have a roof over their heads, meals and school they'll find a way to scrape together the gas money to make the trip.

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