Senate Eyes $10B ‘Gift’ to Bezos’ Blue Origin, Right After Amazon Spends $8B on MGM
Corporations are commonly seen as private entities, but the more one looks into how they became so big, the more one sees government footprints. This is exemplified through a bill with bipartisan support that’s currently on the Senate floor. If passed, the bill would give Jeff Bezo’s Blue Origin a $10 billion taxpayer-funded bailout, right after Amazon bought MGM Studios for $8.4 billion. Is there any hope to break up such intertwined, centralized, power and influence?
Amazon – Corporation for Everything
It seems the days of even thinking about implementing antitrust laws are long behind us. Under current trends, Microsoft stands as the last big technological company to have come under such scrutiny in a half-serious manner. Instead, we are seeing the fusion of government with large corporations, in which the latter serve as infrastructural vehicles for governmental policies and attitudes.
In the financial world, some argue this fusion has been masked under the ESG investing umbrella – Environmental, Social, and Governance. Those corporations that are deemed to fit the ESG criteria are then eligible to gain access to governmental subsidies and contracts, banking deals, and added benefits. The largest one is without a doubt Amazon.
From web hosting and book publishing to e-commerce and home automation, it would be easier to list services and technologies Amazon is not involved with. This makes Amazon an outstanding centralized platform to plug into various agendas. Just like the Chinese Alibaba serves as the commercial hand of CCP, so does Amazon serve as the commercial branch of the US federal government.
This is one of the reasons why Amazon kept making record profits while paying record low taxes. Due to deductions and tax credits, during certain years, Amazon even got paid by the federal government.
Although in 2020 Amazon paid more in taxes than usual, as a result of lockdowns which destroyed small businesses, Amazon achieved explosive growth unlike any other company in recorded history. As a result, from January to December of 2020, Amazon’s stock price has increased 73% in value.
Amazon’s tight relationship with the government had previously caused some concern among US politicians. Most prominently, the subject of Amazon appears frequently on Twitter timelines of Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, both former presidential candidates.
However, the most recent manifestation of Amazon’s untethered expansion, while simultaneously receiving anti-competitive government benefits, may cause some direct action, at least in the short run.
Amazon to Acquire MGM Studios for $8.4 Billion as Bezos “Loses” $10 Billion Space Program Bid
The old adage – “When one door closes, another opens.” – is not quite applicable to Amazon. As you will see shortly, it needs to be amended to – “When one door closes, another opens, and the government opens the other one too.”
Last Wednesday, Amazon announced it would obtain Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) Studios for $8.45 billion, making it Amazon’s second largest acquisition after having bought Whole Foods in 2017 for $13.7 billion. This means that Amazon would hold iconic IPs (Intellectual Properties) such as:
- James Bond (50% of creative control will be held by siblings Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson)
- Tomb Raider
In a direct bid for Amazon Prime Video to compete with Disney+ and Netflix, MGM would boost the platform’s offering with 17,000 TV shows and over 4,000 films, according to Mike Hopkins, senior VP of Prime Video and Amazon Studios. As this historic entertainment acquisition unfolds, some US Congress members are not pleased that Bezos lost his Blue Origin space division contract to Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
Under the umbrella of the Endless Frontier Act, Senator Maria Cantwell added an amendment to the bill requiring the federal government to funnel more than $10 billion to Bezo’s Blue Origin via NASA’s budget. Coincidentally, Blue Origin is headquartered in Senator Cantwell’s home state of Washington. This way, by giving out multiple contracts, Blue Origin would get a nice RoI on its Senate lobbying efforts worth $625k in 2021 (so far).
These developments follow the well-trodden path of institutionalized corruption that has been in place for decades. After all, constituents have zero input into policies compared to corporate lobbies that effectively write legislation, with politicians serving as stenographers. Like those previous times, this latest example triggered predictable responses from the usual politicians.
Likewise, on the opposite side of the political spectrum, Senator Josh Hawley, the author of “The Tyranny of Big Tech”, asked the question that was on everyone’s mind.
Keep in mind that if we take the latest estimate of Jeff Bezos’ net worth at $187 billion, $10 billion for this contract would amount to 5.3% of his wealth. In other words, this is a figure that’s six times less than what he made during 2020 alone. Speaking of which, there is another disturbing trend that must be noted.
Amazon’s Expansion Tends to Result in Accelerated Abuse
Wherever Amazon establishes itself as the dominant force, it results in some kind of abuse. After it acquired Whole Foods, it had been revealed that Amazon uses racial heat-maps to prevent unionization. Amazon developed this union-busting tech based on the observation that racially diverse employees are significantly less likely to unionize.
Long-criticized over working conditions that force Amazon’s employees to urinate in bottles, Amazon came up with a logical solution – AmaZen chambers – for employees to view mental health tips. So out of touch with the public, it subsequently deleted the announcement for this ground-breaking workspace ‘innovation’.
More disturbingly, Amazon Web Services (AWS) has no qualms de-platforming those services that aim to provide the digital expression of the 1st amendment of the US Constitution. This happened with Parler, as a competitive, free-speech social media platform to Twitter. Parler first filed a federal antitrust lawsuit against Amazon, which it subsequently withdrew, filing a defamation and breach of contract lawsuit instead.
Among cloud computing services, AWS holds 32% of the market, ahead of Google by 25%. However, this market share pales in comparison to Amazon’s book publishing business, accounting of up to 80% of global book sales. Such an enormous concentration of power triggered more antitrust calls, but ultimately resulted in nothing.
What stands out the most is Amazon’s ecosystem nomenclature – Amazon Fire and Kindle. One kindles fire to engage in the act of burning. Indeed, befitting this ominous naming convention, Amazon has engaged in mass digital book-burning sprees. While this has been happening for a long time, Elon Musk brought it to public attention when Amazon banned “Unreported Truths about COVID-19 and Lockdowns”, written by Alex Berenson, former New York Times reporter.
Interestingly, Amazon banned the book covering the same subject to which it owes its massive 2020 growth. Due to public shaming, Amazon had subsequently reversed the banning decision. Of course, thousands of other authors are not so lucky to have a billionaire with 56 million twitter followers mention their work to the same effect.
Blockchain Presents Itself as the Only Alternative to Antitrust Impotence
For at least a decade, we have witnessed the same pattern – calls for antitrust action, failed lawsuits, politicians speaking publicly against monopolies – yielding the same zero effect. One could even say that politicians stating the obvious are – tokenist in nature.
Alternative discourse could have to come to terms with the following phenomenon:
- Concentration of power is too enticing for governmental structures to be avoidable.
- The few billionaires who are allowed to become so then form a mutual relationship of central control.
The trend of massive corporations becoming extensions of surveillance and control are now clear. They are propped up to work in unison to exert total control of one’s financial and intellectual pursuits. If competition appears, it soon gets pummelled into submission or outright acquired. Amazon, Facebook, and Google have repeated this process countless times.
For this service, Big Tech gains unlimited growth, while governments gain few centralized points of pressure, easy to manage instead of having hundreds of market players to wrangle. Blockchain-empowered Web 3.0 may be the only way out of this matrix, combined with decentralized finance. For example, Filecoin (FIL), as a part of InterPlanetary File System (IPFS), provides a decentralized way to host both websites and addresses.
To this infrastructure can then be attached Livepeer (LPT), a video streaming decentralized network. Such protocols hold native tokens that incentivize investment and decide the course of development by voting with governance tokens. As abuse of centralized power becomes more visible and aggressive, many will find no choice but to migrate into this steadily growing ecosystem.
The silver lining of the drastic power and influence of these few corporations is that their stocks are unlikely to significantly drop in price. They might even be seen as a legitimate hedge against inflation. Do you think their behemoth status could have ever occured naturally without government interventions?