Bernie Sanders has slammed newly minted astronaut Jeff Bezos for not paying income tax while Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has attacked his ‘tone-deaf’ victory lap where he thanked Amazon staff and shoppers for paying for his space mission.
Bezos, who stood down as Amazon CEO in July, successfully flew to space Tuesday morning with his company Blue Origin on the first crewed flight aboard the New Shepard rocket.
The 10 minute flight celebrated a series of firsts, making Bezos the wealthiest man in space, while fellow crew members Wally Funk became the oldest and Oliver Daemen the youngest.
But not everyone joined in the celebrations with the world’s richest man quickly coming under fire from several Democrats as soon as he landed back down to Earth.
Several took particular issue with comments Bezos made in a press conference after the trip where he thanked ‘every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer’ for their part in making the space trip possible.
‘[I] want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer because you guys paid for all this,’ he said.
‘So seriously, for every Amazon customer out there, and every Amazon employee, thank you from the bottom of my heart, very much. It’s very appreciated.’
Bezos has repeatedly been accused of not paying his fair share of taxes while Amazon has come under the spotlight over its treatment of staff – particularly during the pandemic.
Bezos has said Blue Origin is paid for by him selling $1 billion in Amazon stock each year.
Jeff Bezos, who stood down as Amazon CEO in July, successfully flew to space Tuesday morning with his company Blue Origin. He is pictured at a press conference afterward
The 10 minute flight celebrated a series of firsts, making Bezos the richest man in space, while fellow crew members Wally Funk became the oldest and Oliver Daemen the youngest. The rocket is seen touching down to the launch pad
Sanders hit out the billionaire for spending his wealth on flying to space rather than focusing on paying his staff enough on Earth.
‘Am I supposed to be impressed that a billionaire went to space while he’s paid zero in federal income taxes some years and the workers at his company struggle to afford their medical bills, rent, and food for their kids?’ the Vermont senator tweeted.
‘Nope. It’s time to invest in working people here on Earth.’
Fellow Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren also took aim at Bezos over his lack of tax payments, retweeting a post quoting the billionaire’s comments during the press conference.
‘Jeff Bezos forgot to thank all the hardworking Americans who actually paid taxes to keep this country running while he and Amazon paid nothing,’ she tweeted.
In a follow-up tweet, Warren urged Americans to sign her three-step plan to change the nation’s tax laws.
‘I’m pushing for three changes to our tax laws—a #WealthTax, a Real Corporate Profits Tax, and long-term funding for the IRS to go after wealthy tax cheats—to make billionaires & mega-corporations start paying their fair share,’ she wrote.
Bernie Sanders (left) and Elizabeth Warren (right) both slammed Bezos Tuesday over not paying his share of taxes following his space flight
Elizabeth Warren said Bezos ‘forgot to thank all the hardworking Americans who actually paid taxes… while he and Amazon paid nothing’
Last month, a ProPublica report revealed that Bezos paid nothing in federal income taxes in 2007 and 2011.
Confidential tax documents filed with the Internal Revenue Service, seen by the publication, showed the world’s richest man avoided paying a dime those years by citing losing more than he earned.
Instead, he reportedly claimed and received a $4,000 tax credit for children.
This credit is supposed to be for families that earn less than $100,000.
While Sanders and Warren singled out Bezos’ taxes in their criticism, AOC took aim at the billionaire’s treatment of staff.
The New York congresswoman said Amazon workers had paid for the trip through poor working conditions while customers through the retail giant’s ‘market power.’
‘Yes, Amazon workers did pay for this. With lower wages, union busting, a frenzied and inhumane workplace, and delivery drivers not having health insurance during a pandemic,’ she tweeted.
‘And Amazon customers are paying for it with Amazon abusing their market power to hurt small business.’
AOC said Amazon workers had paid for the trip through poor working conditions
‘Yes, Amazon workers did pay for this. With lower wages, union busting, a frenzied and inhumane workplace, and delivery drivers not having health insurance during a pandemic,’ she tweeted
Other people also blasted Bezos Tuesday following his space flight and comments thanking Amazon staff and customers.
Assistant House Speaker Katherine Clark tweeted: ‘It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know it’s time for billionaires to pay their fair share.’
Rep. Adam Schiff called for companies to focus on lifting kids ‘out of poverty’ by paying fair wages as a priority ahead of space exploration.
‘Listen, I’m all for space exploration and it must have been an amazing view,’ he tweeted.
‘But maybe – and I’m just spitballing here – if Amazon and other companies paid their fair share in taxes, we could lift all kids — if not into space — at least out of poverty. Sincerely, Earthlings.’
Meanwhile one social media branded Bezos ‘tone-deaf’ and Stars & Stripes journalist David Choi simply wrote: ‘I’d like a refund.’
AOC has taken aim at Bezos and Amazon in the past over its taxes, working conditions and its plans to launch a HQ in New York.
Amazon drew scrutiny last year when workers protested the conditions at a Staten Island warehouse while COVID-19 cases soared.
While much of the nation went into lockdown and people switched to working from home, warehouse workers in Amazon’s fulfillment centers were classed as essential workers and continued working on the frontline throughout the pandemic.
Other people also blasted Bezos Tuesday following his space flight and comments thanking Amazon staff and customers
Staff staged walkouts amid concerns that they were not being offered enough protection from the virus.
In October, Amazon revealed more than 19,000 of its frontline workers had tested positive or been presumed positive for the virus in the US.
But while workers risked contracting the virus, Amazon share prices skyrocketed making Bezos richer as stay-at-home orders shuttered bricks-and-mortar stores and sent consumers to order online.
In Staten Island, warehouse worker Christian Smalls organized a walkout and was fired by the company – claiming he ‘violated a paid quarantine’.
Senators questioned Amazon about the incident and New York City announced a probe.
Amazon introduced a number of measures to better protect workers including daily temperature checks, enhanced cleaning, social distancing measures, disinfectant spray use, personal protective gear distributions and temperature checks.
In November, Smalls filed a class-action lawsuit against the tech giant, alleging thousands of minority line workers were put at risk of contracting COVID-19 while working on the frontline of the pandemic.
The following month, AOC ripped into Amazon calling its jobs a ‘scam’ after a Bloomberg report found more than 9,000 employees across nine states lived off food stamps.
The company has denied claims of poor working conditions at its facilities.
Bezos and his crew float weightlessly in their capsule during Tuesday’s landmark flight
Oliver Daemen, 18, Bezos, Wally Funk, 82, and Mark Bezos at the landing pad after they flew on Blue Origin’s inaugural flight
Jeff Bezos’ girlfriend Lauren Sanchez flashed an enormous diamond ring on her engagement finger on Tuesday
AOC was also among the biggest critics of the firm when Amazon announced it would launch it would choose between Washington DC and New York City for its new HQ.
The Democrat objected to the tax incentives the company was seeking to set up in Queens.
Amazon pulled out of the plans in February 2019 following the backlash, before announcing that December that it would open offices in New York City for its consumer and advertising teams – despite no tax incentives.
The criticism following Tuesday’s space flight didn’t seem to phase Bezos, however.
He told CNN after landing back on Earth it had been ‘very emotional’ to complete the landmark trip.
He said he and the crew ‘told each other we love each other’ before take-off.
‘It was a very emotional morning,’ he said.
Bezos also compared the moment to his early days with Amazon.
‘What we’re doing is the first step of something big, and I know what that feels like, I did it three decades ago, nearly three decades ago, with Amazon,’ Bezos said, reported ABC News.
Amazon drew scrutiny last year hen workers protested conditions at a Staten Island warehouse (a walkout at the plant on March 31 2020)
The staffer who organized the walkout Christian Smalls (above during a protest) was fired
‘Big things start small, but you can tell when you’re onto something, and this is important.’
The Amazon boss told NBC he had ‘no words’ to describe how ‘amazing’ the trip was as he said it reinforced his commitment to tackling climate change.
‘We have to build a road to space so that our kids and their kids can build a future,’ Bezos said.
‘We live on this beautiful planet. You can’t imagine how thin the atmosphere is when you see it from space.’
The New Shepard rocket soared from remote Texas on the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing – the date chosen by Bezos specifically for its historical significance.
He kept the date even after Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson moved up his own flight, which meant beating Bezos into space by nine days.
Unlike Branson’s piloted rocket plane, Bezos’ capsule was automated and required no official staff on board for the up-and-down flight.
Blue Origin reached an altitude of about 66 miles, which was more than 10 miles higher than Branson’s July 11 ride.
The 60-foot booster accelerated to Mach 3 or three times the speed of sound to get the capsule high enough, before separating and landing upright.
The passengers had several minutes of weightlessness to float around the spacious white capsule before returning back to Earth.
Joining Bezos on board was his brother Mark Bezos, Funk and Daemen.
Bezos’ girlfriend Lauren Sanchez was among those in the audience to hear him speak after the mission. She flashed an enormous diamond ring on her engagement finger on Tuesday, the second time she’s been seen wearing it, sparking speculation the pair are engaged.