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Jeff Bezos says don’t blame the wealthy for high inflation and the White House is using distraction tactics. ‘Look, a squirrel’

May 16, 2022, 10:03 PM UTC

On Friday, Amazon founder and the second-richest man in the world Jeff Bezos escalated a days-long war of words with the White House over whether corporations are a leading cause of high inflation. 

Bezos, whose Twitter presence until recently was limited to Amazon-specific content along with updates on his space exploration ventures, only began to use the platform to express political ideology in recent months, and in mid-May he began increasingly taking aim at the Biden administration.

The root of the issue seems to be a May 13 tweet from President Joe Biden’s account that proposed increasing taxes on wealthy corporations to rein in inflation. 

That day, Bezos accused Biden of “misdirection” on Twitter. “Raising corp taxes is fine to discuss. Taming inflation is critical to discuss. Mushing them together is just misdirection,” he wrote.

On Monday, Bezos kept up his critique. “Look, a squirrel!” he tweeted, adding that “They [the White House] understandably want to muddy the topic. They know inflation hurts the neediest the most. But unions aren’t causing inflation and neither are wealthy people.” He went on to write that inflation would be even higher now if Biden had succeeded in passing his multitrillion-dollar Build Back Better agenda.

This puts Bezos in the camp of so-called centrists such as Sen. Joe Manchin, the Democratic senator from West Virginia who spiked Build Back Better because it was too expensive. Manchin was unmoved by arguments that the legislation’s child tax credit would cut child poverty in half. 

‘Amazon here we come’

Bezos had previously argued, again on Twitter, that Biden’s government was just spending too much money. “In fact, the administration tried hard to inject even more stimulus into an already over-heated, inflationary economy and only Manchin saved them from themselves,” he tweeted on Sunday

Monday’s comments came in response to White House spokesperson Andrew Bates criticizing him in a statement to The Washington Post’s Jeff Stein:

“It doesn’t require a huge leap to figure out why one of the wealthiest individuals on Earth opposes an economic agenda for the middle class that cuts some of the biggest costs families face, fights inflation for the long haul, and adds to the historic deficit reduction the President is achieving by asking the richest taxpayers and corporations to pay their fair share. It’s also unsurprising that this tweet comes after the President met with labor organizers, including Amazon employees.”

Last month, the independent Amazon Labor Union (ALU) successfully unionized the first Amazon warehouse in the U.S. ALU president Chris Smalls, a former Amazon worker who was fired for allegedly violating health and safety protocols while protesting against unsafe working conditions at the start of the pandemic, has since met with Biden and testified in front of the Senate budget committee. 

While meeting with Smalls, Biden also met with union leaders from Workers United, the union seeking to represent Starbucks workers across the country. In response, Starbucks’ senior vice president of global communications AJ Jones II sent a letter to Biden’s general counsel Steve Ricchetti after the meeting: “We are deeply concerned that Workers United…was invited to the meeting while not inviting official Starbucks representatives, to discuss our view on the matter.”

In a speech in early April at the legislative conference for North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU), a department of the AFL-CIO, Biden referenced ALU’s win the week before: “Amazon here we come.”

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