Well. Amazon already is doing a great deal to fend off homelessness. For starters, it is employing tens of thousands of people—thereby providing them with steady income with which to pay their mortgage or rent.
On top of that, Amazon has given millions to the city’s affordable-housing fund and millions more to two organizations that help the homeless. (To which Seattle officials say: Yeah, but what have you done for us lately?)
But more to the point: If Amazon declines to pay the tax, the city will take it to court. If Amazon continues not to pay, then it could be subject to liens on its property and, eventually, seizure of the property. Some people, such as actor Wesley Snipes, have even served time in prison for failing to pay their taxes, but it’s not clear if Amazon’s officers would face similar jeopardy over the head tax.
Extortion is simply obtaining money through force or the threat of force. So if anybody is practicing extortion in this case it is Seattle, not Amazon. Amazon isn’t threatening anyone with force, and it isn’t demanding money from anyone else. (At least not in Seattle; the company’s shameless gold-digging for its second headquarters, known as HQ2, is another story entirely.) Seattle is doing both.
In fact, by debating whether it will continue to grow in Seattle, Amazon is merely taking a page out of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged: It is, after a fashion, threatening to go on strike.
Reportedly, Rand said she wrote the book to show how badly “the world needs prime movers.” The linguistic overlap with Amazon Prime is coincidental, but apt.
As a wise businessman once said “Get the hell out of my way!”