WASHINGTON – Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said his company “should be scrutinized” by the federal government but urged politicians not to “demonize” or “vilify” big businesses.
“It is really important that politicians and others, they need to understand the value that big companies bring in and not demonize or vilify business in general,” Bezos said on Thursday evening at an Economic Club of Washington dinner.
“They shouldn’t vilify big companies and they shouldn’t vilify business in general, for sure, and the reason is simple – there are certain things only big companies can do. I’ve seen this the whole way. I know what Amazon could do when we were 10 people and I know what we could do when we were 1,000 and I know what we could do when we were 10,000, and I know what we could do the day when we are a half a million,” he added.
To support his point, Bezos, the richest person in the world, used Boeing as an example.
“Nobody in their garage is going to build an all-carbon fiber fuel-efficient Boeing 787. It is not going to happen. You need Boeing to do that. If you like your iPhone, you need Apple to do that. You need Samsung to do that,” he said. “This world would be really bad without Boeing and without Apple and without Samsung and so on.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has floated the idea of Congress passing a 21st-century version of the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act to regulate large technology companies such as Amazon.
When asked if he is “worried” that the federal government is going to crack down on Amazon with more regulations, Bezos said, “All big institutions of any kind are going to be and should be examined, scrutinized and inspected. It’s not personal. It’s kind of what we as a society want to have happen.”
He continued, “This is just normal, it’s actually healthy, it’s good. We want to live in a society where people are worried about big institutions so that’s OK. The second thing is we are so inventive that however the regulations are promulgated or however it works, that will not stop us from serving customers.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) last week introduced the Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies (BEZOS) Act, which would require Amazon to pay a 100 percent tax on the federal benefits collected by their lower-income employees.
Following the event, PJM asked Bezos for his opinion of the Sanders bill but he declined to comment. Bezos was also asked if he thinks the tax reform package is helping the economy, but he did not respond.
During the discussion, Bezos expressed disapproval with President Trump’s attacks on the mainstream media.
“It is a mistake for any elected official, in my opinion – I don’t think this is a very out-there opinion – to attack media and journalists,” he said. “We live in a society where it’s not just the laws of the land that protect us. We do have the freedom of the press – it’s in the Constitution but it’s also social norms that protect us. It works because we believe those words on that piece of paper and every time you attack that, you’re eroding it a little bit around the edges.”
Bezos said Trump should expect the scrutiny that comes with the U.S. presidency.
“I think there’s probably no public figure who has ever liked their headlines. It’s OK. It’s part of the process,” he said. “If you’re president of the United States or a governor of a state or whatever, you don’t take that job thinking you’re not going to get scrutinized. You’re going to get scrutinized and it’s healthy.”
Bezos, who owns the Washington Post, had a message for Trump specifically related to his criticism of the media.
“What the president should say is ‘this is right, this is good – I’m glad I’m being scrutinized.’ And that would be so secure and confident. But it’s really dangerous to demonize the media, it’s dangerous to call the media ‘low lives,’ it’s dangerous to say they are the enemy of the people,” he said. “I don’t want to be dramatic here. We are so robust in this country. The media is going to be fine. We’re going to push through this.”
Trump has said Amazon does not pay enough in taxes. Trump has also tweeted that Amazon should pay more in fees to USPS.
“I do defend the Post,” Bezos said. “I don’t feel the need to defend Amazon.”