Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis welcomed global e-commerce giant Amazon on Feb. 20 in response to the company’s recent decision to pull out of a planned headquarters expansion in New York City.
While touting Florida’s low taxes, and business-friendly political and economic culture, DeSantis said, “On behalf of Florida, and to companies like Amazon, we welcome you.”
The newly elected governor of the nation’s third most populous state also cited the failed deal as an example of growing anti-business “demagoguery” on the progressive left.
“If you look at what just happened to Amazon in New York City, there is a hostility,” DeSantis said in a speech at the Economic Club of Florida in Tallahassee. “These political hostilities, I think, matter more than any of the other things.”
“Florida is a place where you can do well without facing the political blowback that you are seeing in other parts of the country,” he said. “Our posture here is one of welcoming, not demagoguery and hostility.”
In many ways, the message spoke to the larger conflict of visions between the increasingly influential socialists in the Democratic Party, and the low-tax, low unemployment policies that define the Trump economy.
DeSantis was enthusiastically supported by President Donald Trump in his bid for governor but was nearly defeated in November 2018 by former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a far-left Democrat who was endorsed by the self-identifying socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and financially backed by billionaire George Soros.
Perhaps no other single person did more to undermine the Amazon deal than self-avowed socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).
For months, Ocasio-Cortez drummed up local activist resistance, in addition to her immense social media following, to the company’s attempt to build a second headquarters, dubbed “HQ2” in Queens, New York.
The freshman congresswoman hails from Queens and regularly denounced Amazon’s hiring practices, wages, and lack of unionization. She took particular issue with New York’s decision to offer $3 billion in state and city tax incentives if the company could meet its proposed employment and community investment commitments.
Ocasio-Cortez wanted the $3 billion to go to teachers and to fix the city’s subway system, although the money mostly only existed as a reduction in Amazon’s long-term tax liability.
Overall, the deal would have yielded an estimated 25,000 jobs and nearly $30 billion in tax revenue over 25 years. But Amazon finally relented last week amid the extreme political pressure.
“After much thought and deliberation, we’ve decided not to move forward with our plans to build a headquarters for Amazon in Long Island City, Queens,” an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement on Feb. 14.
“While polls show that 70 percent of New Yorkers support our plans and investment, a number of state and local politicians have made it clear that they oppose our presence and will not work with us to build the type of relationships that are required to go forward with the project we and many others envisioned in Long Island City,” the statement said.
For her part, Ocasio-Cortez celebrated: “Anything is possible: today was the day a group of dedicated, everyday New Yorkers & their neighbors defeated Amazon’s corporate greed, its worker exploitation, and the power of the richest man in the world,” she said in a tweet.
In a follow-up interview with NBC News the same day, Jodi Seth, head of policy communications for Amazon, said, “If you talk to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, it’s ‘Never Amazon.’ ”
“It wasn’t any one incident,” Seth said. “It was that the environment over the course of the past three months had not got any better. There were some local and state elected officials who refused to meet with Amazon and criticized us day in and day out about the plan.”
‘Thanks For Nothing, AOC!’
The fallout of Ocasio-Cortez’s efforts reaped bipartisan scorn. Republicans predictably chided the 29-year-old socialist, but New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, an establishment Democrat, lambasted the activism that led to the debacle, although he didn’t single out Ocasio-Cortez by name.
“A small group politicians put their own narrow political interests above their community—which poll after poll showed overwhelmingly supported bringing Amazon to Long Island City—the state’s economic future and the best interests of the people of this state,” Cuomo said in a statement.
On Feb. 20, a Times Square billboard denounced Ocasio-Cortez for her role in terminating Amazon HQ2. “Thanks For Nothing, AOC!” the billboard stated.
Job Creators Network, the group that sponsored the sign, issued a statement saying, “The pullout of Amazon—because of anti-business politicians, notably Ocasio-Cortez—is a major blow to the New York economy. The retreat will not only cost the area $12 billion in economic activity, but 25,000 new jobs that would have paid an average salary of $150,000.”
Alfredo Ortiz, president and CEO of Job Creators Network, offered his own message about the dangers of socialism and what he sees as an unsettling trend.
“The Amazon pullout is a perfect example of what we’ve been saying: socialism takes and capitalism creates,” Ortiz said. “The economic consequences of Amazon’s pullout is just a small taste of the harm that is to come if Ocasio-Cortez’s anti-business canon comes to fruition and is made federal policy.”
In Florida, DeSantis called the Amazon-related political hostilities and New York’s oppressive high tax regime “a vicious cycle.”
High taxes and a rising antipathy toward business is making people leave, he said, while adding that the cycle will continue unless they change.
“We are living through a real-life experiment about what type of economic policies succeed and what types do not, or are even counterproductive,” DeSantis said.