Amazon founder Jeff Bezos on Tuesday faced backlash after he thanked his company employees and customers for paying for his brief flight to space.
“So seriously, for every Amazon customer out there, and every Amazon employee, thank you from the bottom of my heart, very much,” he said at a news conference after his space flight. “It’s very appreciated.”
Several social media users, including American politicians, criticised the billionaire’s remarks. The criticism ranged from the dangerous working conditions of Amazon employees to the e-commerce company paying zero federal taxes in 2018.
Bezos has been selling Amazon stock to fund Blue Origin, which is based in Washington, and now has 3,500 employees, reports said.
Taking a dig at Bezos, United States Senator Elizabeth Warren said that he forgot to thank the Americans who actually paid taxes to keep the country running.
“I’m pushing for three changes to our tax laws – a Wealth Tax, a Real Corporate Profits Tax, and long-term funding for the IRS [Internal Revenue Service] to go after wealthy tax cheats – to make billionaires and mega-corporations start paying their fair share,” Warren tweeted.
Democrat representative from New York, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, said that Amazon workers paid for the spaceflight with their “lower wages, union busting, a frenzied and inhumane workplace, and delivery drivers not having health insurance during a pandemic”.
Canada’s New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh pointed out that Bezos’ voyage lasted around 11 minutes. “During the pandemic, every 11 minutes, he got about 1.6 million dollars [nearly Rs 12 crore] richer,” he added.
Earl Blumenauer, Democrat Representative from Oregon, said he had introduced a legislation he called the Securing Protections Against Carbon Emissions (SPACE) Tax Act. It aims to create new excise taxes on commercial space flights carrying human passengers for purposes other than scientific research, according to him.
“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.”
Another Democrat Representative from New York, Nydia Velazquez, tweeted: “While Jeff Bezos is all over the news for paying to go to space, let’s not forget the reality he has created here on Earth.”
She also attached a link about how much Amazon’s employees had been paid. According to the Business Insider article, the median Amazon worker made $29,007, or nearly Rs 21 lakh, last year. In comparison, Bezos’ salary is $1,681,840, or approximately 12.54 crore. In addition to this, the richest human in the world owns about 10% of Amazon stock or 53 million shares.