“Jeff Bezos?” Anyone else wonder if Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos sells securities that track companies that he couldn’t have cared less about?
Well, Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post. So anyone who has a powerful interest in making sure Amazon gets federal government help for a lot of things, especially buying technologies and services, is going to want to see how that’s going.
The Post sent Amazon’s critics yet another gift on Thursday: The Trump administration announced it’s reviewing a requirement for big suppliers of civilian goods to supply cities with a benchmark. This means if the Post is right and Trump are determined to keep a lid on certain vendors, the Post could have a story on the front page.
The Post is typically excellent when it comes to spotting nuance and insights in this super important collection of ideas, anecdotes and confidential government papers. And the paper is increasingly good at keeping track of Bezos’s mysterious and often sprawling Amazon empire.
Reading the paper has historically helped me predict Amazon is going to be willing to do whatever it takes to fix a business or a market. (The reporter who some think started Bezos’s once-obscure online bookstore, BusinessWeek, to name one example.)
But sometimes you just have to take a step back and think, when we’re talking about Amazon and government, what does this guy know about government that people, or even I, should care about?
To this point, Amazon’s big-government-dollars stories are not having much of an impact. The Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian-leaning free-market research organization, unearthed this fact in a 2017 piece that concluded, “While Amazon has invested billions into Washington, D.C., the city has yet to see a dime of return.”
Most people assume Amazon’s streak of business success means it’s not at all worried about regulation, and the concern that it’s overcharging the government is one of the greatest threats to Amazon’s ever-expanding business. (Yes, it’s entirely possible Amazon is overcharging government. But fear not, Tim Cook is not.)
Then Trump scammed the Post into endorsing his presidential candidacy by writing a flattering column about Bezos. It appears Trump wants Bezos to make U.S. infrastructure more efficient. No big surprise here.
The other issue seems to be Amazon’s relations with some of the cities in which it has operations. In recent years, Amazon has started projects in a bunch of states that could have been its next real battleground, and it has been dogged by residents who worry about ballooning traffic.
If we believe what the Post says, in the hopes that the Trump administration will meet its term-limit deadline, the story is going to be what happens with the Washington D.C. directive this summer.
If the Post story is accurate and the Post is right, the Trump administration is prepared to do what Amazon wants. In fact, it already may have started its review process of the rule. If so, if we believe Jeff Bezos, then those fears about Amazon and overcharging federal government agencies seem very much overblown.