After returning from space on Tuesday on a flight that cost $5.5nillion, Jeff Bezos said at a press conference: ‘I want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer because you guys paid for all this’
Jeff Bezos has been slammed for his ‘tone-deaf’ victory lap thanking Amazon workers and customers for paying for his $5.5billion space dream while ignoring worker demands and not paying federal income tax.
The billionaire – worth a staggering $214billion – went to space on Tuesday with his brother Mark, astronaut Wally Funk, and Dutch teen Oliver Daemen whose private equity father paid an undisclosed but likely exorbitant amount for his seat.
His goal is to build a ‘road to space’ to move earth’s most damaging industries there and save the planet.
At a press conference on Tuesday after the flight, Bezos grinned and said: ‘I want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer because you guys paid for all this.
‘So, to every Amazon customer out there and every Amazon employee thank you from the bottom of my heart.’
The comment was stinging for many who pointed out that Bezos is the richest man in the world but not the most philanthropic, and while he’s spent $5.5billion fulfilling his personal dream of going to space, he’s fought Amazon workers’ demands.
What’s more, many pointed out that he didn’t pay income tax for years. Between 2006 and 2018, his personal fortune grew by $127billion but he only paid $1.4billion in taxes – a rate of 1.1 percent when considering his wealth. By comparison, the tax brackets for 2020 to 2021 go as high as 37 percent for someone earning over $500,000 a year, and start at 10 percent for the first $10,000 of anyone’s salary.
On Tuesday, Bezos announced a $100million award for ‘civility and courage’ that was to be used to better things on Earth by being donated to charity.
He gave it to CNN contributor Van Jones, who runs a prison reform non-profit organization and works on racial justice, and gave another $100million to celebrity chef Jose Andres whose charity World Central Kitchen fights hunger.
Many lauded him for the donations but others pointed out it is a tiny fraction of what he spent on the space mission, and also pales in comparison to the $5billion his ex-wife MacKenzie gave to charities in 2020 alone.
MacKenzie, after being awarded more than $30bn in their divorce and seeing that grow to a value of over $50bn thanks to rising Amazon stock prices, joined the Giving Pledge in 2020. She, like other members including Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates, pledged to give away half their net worth. Jeff Bezos has not signed up.
The Teamsters Union was among those to criticize Bezos.
‘One part of Bezos’s statement is surprisingly accurate – it is Amazon workers who have built his fortune – but if Jeff Bezos really wants to thank Amazon workers, he should listen to their demands for safer working conditions, a voice in the workplace, and good, family sustaining middle class jobs—rather than perpetuating a highly exploitative business model of high pace of work, high rates of injury, high rates of turnover and low pay,’ Randy Korgan, Teamsters National Director for Amazon, told DailyMail.com.
Others asked why he was giving away $200million in philanthropic rewards instead of increasing Amazon workers’ pay, which starts at $15 an hour, twice the federal minimum wage, a fact Bezos says proves he does listen to them.
Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez were among those who slammed him for the comment on Tuesday.
‘Am I supposed to be impressed that a billionaire went to space while he’s paid zero in federal income taxes some years and the workers at his company struggle to afford their medical bills, rent, and food for their kids?’ the Vermont senator tweeted.
‘Nope. It’s time to invest in working people here on Earth.’
Fellow Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts also took aim at Bezos over his lack of tax payments, retweeting a post quoting the billionaire’s comments during the press conference.
‘Jeff Bezos forgot to thank all the hardworking Americans who actually paid taxes to keep this country running while he and Amazon paid nothing,’ she tweeted.
In a follow-up tweet, Warren urged Americans to sign her three-step plan to change the nation’s tax laws.
‘I’m pushing for three changes to our tax laws—a #WealthTax, a Real Corporate Profits Tax, and long-term funding for the IRS to go after wealthy tax cheats—to make billionaires & mega-corporations start paying their fair share,’ she wrote.
Last month, a ProPublica report revealed that Bezos paid nothing in federal income taxes in 2007 and 2011.
Confidential tax documents filed with the Internal Revenue Service, seen by the publication, showed the world’s richest man avoided paying a dime those years by citing losing more than he earned.
Instead, he reportedly claimed and received a $4,000 tax credit for children.
This credit is supposed to be for families that earn less than $100,000.
While Sanders and Warren singled out Bezos’ taxes in their criticism, AOC took aim at the billionaire’s treatment of staff.
The congresswoman said Amazon workers had paid for the trip through poor working conditions while customers through the retail giant’s ‘market power.’
‘Yes, Amazon workers did pay for this. With lower wages, union busting, a frenzied and inhumane workplace, and delivery drivers not having health insurance during a pandemic,’ she tweeted.
‘And Amazon customers are paying for it with Amazon abusing their market power to hurt small business.’
Other people also blasted Bezos Tuesday following his space flight and comments thanking Amazon staff and customers.
Rep. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts tweeted: ‘It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know it’s time for billionaires to pay their fair share.’
Rep. Adam Schiff of California called for companies to focus on lifting kids ‘out of poverty’ by paying fair wages as a priority ahead of space exploration.
‘Listen, I’m all for space exploration and it must have been an amazing view,’ he tweeted.
‘But maybe – and I’m just spitballing here – if Amazon and other companies paid their fair share in taxes, we could lift all kids — if not into space — at least out of poverty. Sincerely, Earthlings.’
Meanwhile one social media branded Bezos ‘tone-deaf’ and Stars & Stripes journalist David Choi simply wrote: ‘I’d like a refund.’
AOC has taken aim at Bezos and Amazon in the past over its taxes, working conditions and its plans to launch headquarters in New York.
Amazon drew scrutiny last year when workers protested the conditions at a Staten Island warehouse while COVID-19 cases soared.
While much of the nation went into lockdown and people switched to working from home, warehouse workers in Amazon’s fulfillment centers were classed as essential workers and continued working on the frontline throughout the pandemic.
Staff staged walkouts amid concerns that they were not being offered enough protection from the virus.
In October, Amazon revealed more than 19,000 of its frontline workers had tested positive or been presumed positive for the virus in the US.
Bezos and his crew float weightlessly in their capsule during Tuesday’s landmark flight
GAYLE KING DEFENDS BEZOS AND SAYS HE SHOULD SPEND HIS MONEY HOW HE WANTS
CBS This Morning anchor Gayle King
CBS This Morning anchor Gayle King defended Jeff Bezos on Wednesday after the Amazon billionaire gave her a tour of his space capsule.
She was discussing her interview with Bezos and the criticism of how much money he’s spent on the space race when she said: ‘There’s been a lot of talk about all the money that was spent and how he spends his money.
‘I love people trying to tell him how to spend his own money.’
She then brought up that $200million Bezos gave to Van Jones and chef Jose Andres to fund their charities.
Jones is a CNN contributor but runs Dreams Corp, a prison reform organization.
Bezos took Gayle inside the crew capsule on Tuesday once the mission was complete
Andres runs World Central Kitchen which fights hunger in disaster-stricken parts of the world.
While many lauded Bezos for giving the money to charity, others said he should have instead increased Amazon workers’ pay.
Some also pointed out that while it was a generous gift, his ex-wife MacKenzie has already given far more away in wealth in the two years since she and Jeff split and he started dating Lauren Sanchez.
But while workers risked contracting the virus, Amazon share prices skyrocketed making Bezos richer as stay-at-home orders shuttered bricks-and-mortar stores and sent consumers to order online.
In Staten Island, warehouse worker Christian Smalls organized a walkout and was fired by the company – claiming he ‘violated a paid quarantine’.
Senators questioned Amazon about the incident and New York City announced a probe.
Amazon introduced a number of measures to better protect workers including daily temperature checks, enhanced cleaning, social distancing measures, disinfectant spray use, personal protective gear distributions and temperature checks.
In November, Smalls filed a class-action lawsuit against the tech giant, alleging thousands of minority line workers were put at risk of contracting COVID-19 while working on the frontline of the pandemic.
The following month, AOC ripped into Amazon calling its jobs a ‘scam’ after a Bloomberg report found more than 9,000 employees across nine states lived off food stamps.
The company has denied claims of poor working conditions at its facilities.
AOC was also among the biggest critics of the firm when Amazon announced it would launch it would choose between Washington DC and New York City for its new HQ.
The Democrat objected to the tax incentives the company was seeking to set up in Queens.
Amazon pulled out of the plans in February 2019 following the backlash, before announcing that December that it would open offices in New York City for its consumer and advertising teams – despite no tax incentives.
‘Big things start small, but you can tell when you’re onto something, and this is important.’
The Amazon boss told NBC he had ‘no words’ to describe how ‘amazing’ the trip was as he said it reinforced his commitment to tackling climate change.
‘We have to build a road to space so that our kids and their kids can build a future,’ Bezos said.
‘We live on this beautiful planet. You can’t imagine how thin the atmosphere is when you see it from space.’
The New Shepard rocket soared from remote Texas on the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing – the date chosen by Bezos specifically for its historical significance.
He kept the date even after Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson moved up his own flight, which meant beating Bezos into space by nine days.
Unlike Branson’s piloted rocket plane, Bezos’ capsule was automated and required no official staff on board for the up-and-down flight.
Blue Origin reached an altitude of about 66 miles, which was more than 10 miles higher than Branson’s July 11 ride.
The 60-foot booster accelerated to Mach 3 or three times the speed of sound to get the capsule high enough, before separating and landing upright.
The passengers had several minutes of weightlessness to float around the spacious white capsule before returning back to Earth.
Joining Bezos on board was his brother Mark Bezos, Funk and Daemen.
Bezos’ girlfriend Lauren Sanchez was among those in the audience to hear him speak after the mission. She flashed an enormous diamond ring on her engagement finger on Tuesday, the second time she’s been seen wearing it, sparking speculation the pair are engaged.
Oliver Daemen, 18, Bezos, Wally Funk, 82, and Mark Bezos at the landing pad after they flew on Blue Origin’s inaugural flight
Jeff Bezos’ girlfriend Lauren Sanchez flashed an enormous diamond ring on her engagement finger on Tuesday. She was wearing a $17,500 Rolex
Amazon drew scrutiny last year hen workers protested conditions at a Staten Island warehouse (a walkout at the plant on March 31 2020)
THE BILLIONAIRE SPACE RACE: HOW BRANSON, MUSK AND BEZOS ARE VYING FOR GALACTIC SUPREMACY
Jeff Bezos in front of Blue Origin’s space capsule
Dubbed the ‘NewSpace’ set, Jeff Bezos, Sir Richard Branson and Elon Musk all say they were inspired by the first moon landing in 1969, when the US beat the Soviet Union in the space race, and there is no doubt how much it would mean to each of them to win the ‘new space race’.
Amazon founder Bezos had looked set to be the first of the three to fly to space, having announced plans to launch aboard his space company Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft on July 20.
The billionaire mogul will travel with his younger brother Mark, a charity auction winner who’s shelling out $28 million and pioneering female astronaut Wally Funk, 82.
However, Branson has now announced he’s planning to make a suborbital flight nine days before Bezos and his brother. He revealed on Twitter that he plans to be Astronaut 001 on Virgin Galactic’s July 11 test flight.
Although SpaceX and Tesla founder Musk has said he wants to go into space, and even ‘die on Mars’, he has not said when he might blast into orbit.
SpaceX appears to be leading the way in the broader billionaire space race with numerous launches carrying NASA equipment to the ISS and partnerships to send tourists to space by 2021.
On February 6 2018, SpaceX sent rocket towards the orbit of Mars, 140 million miles away, with Musk’s own red Tesla roadster attached.
Elon Musk with his Dragon Crew capsule
NASA has already selected two astronauts who will be on-board the first manned Dragon mission.
SpaceX has also started sending batches of 60 satellites into space to help form its Starlink network.
Musk hopes this will provide an interconnected web of satellites around Earth which will beam down free internet to people worldwide.
Branson and Virgin Galactic are taking a different approach to conquering space. It has repeatedly, and successfully, conducted test flights of the Virgin Galactic’s Unity space plane.
The first took place in December 2018 and the latest on May 22, with the flight accelerating to more than 2,000 miles per hour (Mach 2.7).
More than 600 affluent customers to date, including celebrities Brad Pitt and Katy Perry, have reserved a $250,000 (£200,000) seat on one of Virgin’s space trips.
Branson has previously said he expects Elon Musk to win the race to Mars with his private rocket firm SpaceX.
Richard Branson with the Virgin Galactic craft
SpaceShipTwo can carry six passengers and two pilots. Each passenger gets the same seating position with two large windows – one to the side and one overhead.
The space ship is 60ft long with a 90inch diameter cabin allowing maximum room for the astronauts to float in zero gravity.
It climbs to 50,000ft before the rocket engine ignites. SpaceShipTwo separates from its carrier craft, White Knight II, once it has passed the 50-mile mark.
Passengers become ‘astronauts’ when they reach the Karman line, the boundary of Earth’s atmosphere.
The spaceship will then make a suborbital journey with approximately six minutes of weightlessness, with the entire flight lasting approximately 1.5 hours.
Bezos revealed in April 2017 that he finances Blue Origin with around $1 billion (£720 million) of Amazon stock each year.
The system consists of a pressurised crew capsule atop a reusable ‘New Shepard’ booster rocket.
Bezos is one of the richest men in the world and Blue Origin has successfully flown the New Shepard rocket 15 times.
At its peak, the capsule reached 65 miles (104 kilometres), just above the official threshold for space and landed vertically seven minutes after liftoff.