From groceries and streaming subscriptions to web servers and Alexa, Amazon has become one of the most powerful economic forces in the world. And after Jeff Bezos returned Tuesday from his short flight to space in a rocket built by his private space company Blue Origin, he made comments that drew attention to the vast wealth the company had created for him.
“I also want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer because you all paid for this,” Mr. Bezos said at a press conference after his spaceflight.
Mr. Bezos’ comment sparked quick critical responses, including from a member of the House of Representatives who sits on the tax-writing Ways and Means committee.
“Space travel is not a tax-free vacation for the wealthy,” Oregon Democrat Earl Blumenauer said. “We pay tax on airline tickets. Billionaires flying into space – without producing scientific value – should be doing the same thing, and then some!”
Mr Blumenauer expressed concern about the environmental impact of such space tourist flights. He said he had introduced legislation he called the Securing Protections Against Carbon Emissions (SPACE) Tax Act, which aims to make passengers on such flights pay a tax to offset their pollution impact.
He wasn’t alone in linking Mr. Bezos’ spaceflight to concerns about how Amazon’s business practices have affected his company’s employees and small businesses.
“While Jeff Bezos is all over the news for paying to go to space, let’s not forget the reality he created here on Earth,” New York Democrat Representative Nydia Velazquez said on Twitter. She added the hashtag #WealthTaxNow on Tuesday morning and included a link to an article about how much Amazon employees had been paid.
While those Congressional Democrats criticized, the White House message was more welcoming.
“This is a moment of American exceptionalism,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said when asked about the flight at a news conference on Tuesday.