Via America’s Lawyer: Legal Journalist Mollye Barrows joins Mike Papantonio to talk about reasons behind Amazon’s decision to cancel its plans to build a second headquarters in New York.


*This transcript was generated by a third-party transcription software company, so please excuse any typos.

Mike Papantonio:             Amazon has pulled out of its plan to build its corporate headquarters in Queens, New York. The move comes after pressure from community leaders and politicians who protested that the cost of doing business with Amazon comes at a very high price for the neighborhood. Mollye, didn’t we see this coming? I mean, first of all, you saw, you saw Amazon set up this fight. It was a fight all over the country and it was the big publicity scam. You know, you need us, here’s what we’re going to do for you. But then when they started doing the numbers on it and they started saying, wait, wait, wait, wait a second, we’re giving you these subsidies. We’re giving you this money. We’re giving you these tax breaks. We’re giving, giving, giving, and it would be 50 years before we ever got our money back. What, so what, what reasons though did the protesters give for this push back?

Mollye Barrows:                Well, I think it boiled down to when they started getting into the nitty gritty. This deal was done, like you said, they were pitting cities against each other all over the country. Where are we going to go for our new headquarters? Then this sort of neighborhood that was in the process of gentrification anyway in Queens on Long Island wins the award. They’re promised $3 billion in all these tax incentives and other incentives and then people start asking questions. Well, wait a minute, this deal’s already done. How was it done in such a secret of manner? How exactly will we benefit? Oh, by the way, our property values are already starting to go up. We’re going to price ourselves out of being able to live here. The neighbors who thought they were going to benefit from these 25,000 jobs that you’re promising with this move, so the more they started to push back and ask questions and say exactly how are we going to benefit from this? We see how you are, Amazon.

Mike Papantonio:             Here’s what happens. First of all, you have to assume that the politicians pushing this are are doing it for another reason. I mean, Cuomo’s, Cuomo’s a great example. You know he, he is tired of being governor. He wants to move on to something else now, Senate, President, who knows? So this was his, this was his going to be a swan song. I’m going to deliver this for you. And it sounded great. There was great hoopla, great, they’re coming to Queens. And then people started putting a pencil to it and saying what they told you, Mr. Cuomo is absolutely inaccurate. What you bought into is inaccurate. And yes, you may say that this is going to be your next platform for running for Senate, but you know what, you’re going to be gone, and we’re going to be here paying for this. It’s like, as we talked about earlier. It’s like an NFL stadium, isn’t it?

Mollye Barrows:                Yes, exactly. We were talking about that and that’s a story I did some months ago. But, you know, they talk about how, what an economic incentive it is to bring in a new stadium to a community. But the fact of the matter is it really doesn’t. Cities are stuck with longterm financial plans. They’re stuck basically bearing the burden of this. It never brings in the sort of business that everybody expects around the stadium. Usually they’re in neighborhoods that need an economic shot anyway. And there might be a few businesses that pop up, but for the most part, the burden is borne by the city government to pay for this monstrosity that ages out fairly quickly. And to a great extent, you have something with Amazon and these other businesses.

Mike Papantonio:             It’s called the hoopla effect. And the hoopla effect is that the politician that brings it actually benefits from it. But it just like the stadium.

Mollye Barrows:                More from a PR perspective.

Mike Papantonio:             It’s a great PR, it’s a feel good kind of thing. And then when you start saying it’s almost, you know, you’re, you’re letting them into your backyard and then they’re taking not just your backyard but they’re taking your living room from you and they’re taking their house.

Mollye Barrows:                And they’re saying, why are you complaining?

Mike Papantonio:             Why are you complaining? It’s like, it’s like off, it’s like letting this alien in that is, you know, from Mars and yeah, come on in the living room. And before you know it, not only are there rearranging the furniture, they’re taking possession of your house.

Mollye Barrows:                And that’s exactly what this mayor of Seattle said, this former leader in Seattle, I should say. He, he told CNBC that, you know, we, we were all excited when Amazon came into our neighborhood. And by the way, we’re not excited anymore. I was a supporter. Now I’m turned opponent. When they come into a community, they drain the resources. And that was what they were concerned about in New York.

Mike Papantonio:             It’s almost like they’ve charmed the folks there in New York into believing that this is some great relief but it’s not is it?

Mollye Barrows:                No, it’s not. And their latest tax report has given naysayers against Amazon, certainly more ammunition because 2018, their federal tax report came in and basically they paid zero back into the public coffers when they’re making, you know, billions, $11 billion in profits in 2018 and yet nothing was given back to the public folks. And of course, part of the benefit of that was because of Donald Trump’s tax plan that he changed, passed into law in 2017. also, tax credits for executive stock options, but basically opponents in New York City Council, this gave them the ammunition to say, hey, we made the right call by pushing back against the Amazon. We don’t care where they go, but they don’t need to be here.

Mike Papantonio:             They absolutely, absolutely made the right call.

Mollye Barrows:                We have better things to spend our money on than 25,000 jobs that will end up draining.

Mike Papantonio:             Education, Infrastructure, things like that.

Mollye Barrows:                Transportation.

Mike Papantonio:             Yeah. Thanks for joining me. Okay.

Mollye Barrows:                Thanks Pap.

Mike Papantonio is an American attorney and television and radio talk show host. He is past president of The National Trial Lawyers, the most prestigious trial lawyer association in America; and is one of the few living attorneys inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame. He hosts the international television show "America's Lawyer"; and co-hosts Ring of Fire Radio, a nationally syndicated weekly radio program, with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Sam Seder.