The White House jumped into an online battle with Jeff Bezos Monday after the Amazon founder criticized President Joe Biden for suggesting that more robust corporate tax payments could help reduce inflation.
Late last week, Biden sent a tweet linking the issues: “You want to bring down inflation? Let’s make sure the wealthiest corporations pay their fair share.”
The world’s second wealthiest man responded over the weekend, denying there was any link between corporate tax levels and inflation. “Raising corp taxes is fine to discuss,” Bezos tweeted. “Taming inflation is critical to discuss. Mushing them together is just misdirection.”
White House spokesperson Andrew Bates fired back at Bezos on Monday: “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,” Bates said in a statement.
“It’s also unsurprising that this tweet comes after the President met with labor organizers, including Amazon employees,” Bates added, suggesting that Bezos’s criticism may have been motivated by something other than a desire for greater economic precision in presidential communications.
Bezos replied quickly: “Look, a squirrel! … They 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 tweeted. “Remember the Administration tried their best to add another $3.5 TRILLION to federal spending,” he added. “They failed, but if they had succeeded, inflation would be even higher than it is today, and inflation today is at a 40 year high.”
Bezos did have kind words for one Democrat, though: West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, whose resistance to the Build Back Better bill assured that much of Biden’s domestic agenda would remain unfunded. “[T]he administration tried hard to inject even more stimulus into an already over-heated, inflationary economy and only Manchin saved them from themselves,” Bezos said.
Summers backs Biden: Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, who has been critical of the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which he says contributed to inflation, stepped into the squabble Monday, defending the basic premise of Biden’s original tweet.
“I think @JeffBezos is mostly wrong in his recent attack on the @JoeBiden Admin,” Summers tweeted. “It is perfectly reasonable to believe, as I do and @POTUS asserts, that we should raise taxes to reduce demand to contain inflation and that the increases should be as progressive as possible.”
Still, Summers made it clear that he remains opposed to any additional stimulus spending by the administration, and rejects the idea, popular among some Democrats on the left, that corporate price gouging is playing a role in driving inflation higher. “I say this even though I have argued vigorously that excessively expansionary macro policy from the @federalreserve and the government have contributed to inflation,” Summers said. “I have rejected rhetoric about inflation caused by corporate gouging as preposterous.”