Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
August 06, 2013

The Washington Post All About The Washington Post

Yesterdays sale of the Washington Post is exhibit one of what Washington DC is about. Washington DC is all about Washington DC.

Sure, the Washington Post is a prominent paper and while its purchase by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is certainly a legitimate news story it is not a worldshaking development that deserves extended frontpage coverage. But look how the Washington Post, which still believes itself to be some serious news outlet, reports on its change of ownership.

This is the current Washington Post homepage with 12(!) stories on the issue and very little else:


And here is the paper editions frontpage, again nothing else but its change of ownership:


Washington DC, to the politicians, lobbyists and media there, is all about themselves. How can one take a news media seriously when its obsession with itself trumps anything else that is happening in this world?

Even worse, in all the Washington Post coverage the real story and question is left out.

The growth of Amazon from a garage bookselling website into an online retail mammoth was heavily subsidized by the U.S. taxpayers. While local retail business had to pay local and state sales tax, Amazon and other "virtual" businesses did not do so. They could therefore offer lower consumer prices for their products than the local storefront retail businesses could.

The negative effects of this subside were threefold. Local storefront business could not compete with Amazon and had to close with their workers becoming unemployed. Sure, in some places Amazon also created some jobs. But those were concentrated rather brutal and low paying warehouse jobs instead of qualified local sales personal. States and local communities that relied on sales taxes had to make up the $11 billion shortfall per year elsewhere or cut back in their services. With online sales growing and local sales in decline Amazon, like Ebay and a few others, are gaining near monopoly positions which will allow them to press for lower wholesale prices while increasing their consumer prices.

The completely unjustified tax subsidy for Amazon has cost the U.S. public dearly. That leads to the question of why Jeff Bezos would buy a dying paper like the Washington Post. None of the pieces on its frontpage really analyzes that questions.

It could be that Bezos is looking for synergies between Amazon and a nation wide newspaper. But it might also be because he is simply buying a most effective lobbying shop that will allow him to influence in Congress and to have a say on how an internet sales tax, should it pass Congress at all, might get implemented. There are also some court cases in which a backing from the Washington Post might help Amazon to win.

Bezos is not a raider but a long term investor. But he is still seaking rofits not the public interest. It remains to be seen if he wants to makes these profits through a genuine interesting news product, the Washington Post of the Pentagon Papers and Watergate fame, or through using it for lobbying or as a byproduct for his main businesses.

The selfish coverage by the Washington Post of its change of ownership does not make one optimistic that a true journalistic route is in the offering.

Posted by b on August 6, 2013 at 12:54 UTC | Permalink


Very good points, b. I might add another, now that we hear that the CIA has offered a major cloud contract to Amazon.

My guess is the dying print papers as the government's mouthpieces have to be bailed out. Since an overt government subsidy would be out of the question, you can conceal it by asking a private company to buy a money loser like the WaPO in exchange for lucrative government contracts. Which I think is another aspect of what is happening here.

Ironic that Amazon now is lobbying FOR an online sales tax, so as to hinder smaller competitors. This after years of being against it.

Will the pro war neoconservative editorial line of the Post change? Maybe a little, since they need to gain at least a modicum of credibility. But not too much, I suspect.

Posted by: Lysander | Aug 6 2013 13:27 utc | 1

@1: "My guess is the dying print papers as the government's mouthpieces have to be bailed out."

Yep, just another venue for the corporate/government cabal to push for the "new world order."

Posted by: ben | Aug 6 2013 14:21 utc | 2

Undoubtedly local business were hurt by Amazon's pricing. But the difference is more than just the sales tax. Many businesses overprice their product, thus lowering their competitiveness. Going back to the sales tax, it is a very regressive tax. It has no place in a country that pretends to be a democracy. All tax entities have the right to use a graduated income tax. Most prefer to use the sales tax so they can suck more money from the less wealthy. The heart of the matter though is that Amazon no longer opposes an Internet Sales Tax. They support it.

Posted by: Greg | Aug 6 2013 15:15 utc | 3

This may have something to do with the visible and probably fatal degeneration of the GOP. Tarpley (who is sound enough on some things) expects the disintegration of the GOP, and the splitting of the Dems into two, a Wall Street party and a opportunist/populist one (though he would not be so rude about the latter). So, on the simple theory that each major national broadsheet directly represents a major political party (which is certainly true in England), the WaPo would have to position itself as the organ of the Wall Street Dems, and the NYT as the organ of the populist/opportunist Dems.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Aug 6 2013 15:21 utc | 4

The negative effects of this subside were threefold. Local storefront business could not compete with Amazon and had to close with their workers becoming unemployed. Sure, in some places Amazon also created some jobs.

A rather shocking fact for you. For Every 1 Job Amazon creates, it kills 4 Jobs in the retail sector. It is highly efficient, instead of having thousands of storefronts manned by shop assistants, have a few massive warehouses that churns out stuff directly. Also given that it is immune from the sales tax because its an online retailer it can afford to pay less tax than other stores.

Also Amazon drains money from local economies. If a store owner builds a store in a town, it creates jobs and the money recycles through the local economy (from building the store, to local suppliers, to staff spending wages in the area). The Amazon warehouse model takes that out. It runs 38 warehouses in the entire US, 5 in the UK, 7 in Germany so most local communities don't see any of the gain while there spending causes losses at the local level.

It's similar to IKEA though not as extreme, I went shopping in an IKEA "store" for the first time a few months back and it was a singularly soul-crushing experience. Basically have the customers become the warehouse staff and find what they want.

Posted by: Colm O' Toole | Aug 6 2013 16:33 utc | 5

A possible plus(I'm dreaming)is,as with the sale to John Henry of the Boston Globe,that non dual citizens are controlling MSM news sources.(Unless their bios are untrue)That might be very interesting,newspapers talking turkey instead of crow.As I say,I'm just dreaming,they may be just more wolves to sway our sheeple.
Who the hell buys lies anyway,which is of course,the main demise of the MSM,but those idiots just don't get that,as unfortunately,their stupid racist Ziobias clouds their minds.

Posted by: dahoit | Aug 6 2013 17:05 utc | 6

In relation to what I said in #4 about the disintegration of the GOP, this AFP article is interesting:

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Aug 6 2013 19:50 utc | 7

"A rather shocking fact for you. For Every 1 Job Amazon creates, it kills 4 Jobs in the retail sector. It is highly efficient, instead of having thousands of storefronts manned by shop assistants, have a few massive warehouses that churns out stuff directly.."

So its not all bad: retail sector jobs are tedious, they train people to become deferential to the moneyed customer not unlike domestic service.

And most retail stores are shockingly inefficient. I much prefer searching for books on-line, the choice is enormous and the prices are more reasonable. Most bookstores concentrate on heavily promoted "best sellers" and 50 shades of drivelling from conventional wiseacres. Instead of picking my way through their revolting stock, ordering what I want (and preparing to wait weeks) from some underpaid, clerk with managerial aspirations I can cut straight to the chase, order what I really want, instead of trying to convince myself that the least idiotic book in the store is worth reading, and wait until it gets here.

I'm in favour of efficiency. As to "jobs" I hate 'em. I've worked too often in ill paid, unsafe, mind numbing, stupid and ultimately wasteful jobs to wish anyone that sort of fate. The less work and the more freedom to do what we want the better.

Amazon needs to be nationalised and managed by the workers for the good of us all.

Posted by: bevin | Aug 6 2013 20:32 utc | 8

Workers' control vs consumers' control vs environmental considerations that cut across both of them vs also macro-economic considerations that everybody is in total disagreement about, to do with credit creation and distribution ... we're going to have such a maze of interlocking, overlapping and mutually subordinating Popular Committees, when the Revolution comes ...

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Aug 6 2013 20:37 utc | 9

I don't know how it is in other communities, but on-line book sales have spawned a number of second-hand bookstores in my neighborhood. This may reflect the fact that e-readers are not very popular here in Canada, which generates a sifnificant flow of used books.

Posted by: Knut | Aug 6 2013 21:52 utc | 10

'...on-line book sales have spawned a number of second-hand bookstores in my neighborhood."

And most of these second hand stores, some of which are actually warehouses without store fronts, are hooked into abe books or one of the networks. Then there are the charity stores...and the print to order places...

Posted by: bevin | Aug 7 2013 0:47 utc | 11

Re sales tax, Amazon in the US is hiding behind typical American self-induced technical issues. Unlike in Europe, where the VAT is national and Canada, where the GST is federal and the other sales taxes are provincial, the US sales taxes are either county or locality based. So how can Amazon or any other internet business possibly be expected to acquire and maintain the appropriate rates and be able to determine which rate applies?

As to sales taxes being regressive, in Canada people earning low incomes receive government monthly payments to fully or partially compensate them for the tax paid, depending on their income. Consumption taxes have the advantage of getting the big spenders, who have the ability to avoid income tax.

Posted by: Albertde | Aug 7 2013 1:24 utc | 12

I see no reason to criticize Amazon for not paying more extortion fees (i.e., "sales tax") to state governments than it has to. Seems to me the criticism would be more properly directed at those states where the brick and mortar stores deemed uncompetitive are forced to pay the extortion tax exorbitantly.

Posted by: Jeremy R. Hammond | Aug 7 2013 4:01 utc | 13

Assuming Bezos' biases will find their way into WaPo's editorial decisions, I expect a couple of things. If we're lucky, the paper might begin to actually do its job with respect to the out-of-control security state. Bezos is a libertarian and it would be logical for his paper to go hard after politicians abusing our rights. This may extend to the whole military-industrial complex.

On the other hand, WaPo will probably be bad when it comes to labor issues and reining in capitalist excess. Oh wait, it already is. Bezos' WaPo could theoretically improve in that they might report on areas where laws aren't being enforced fairly, but I wouldn't count on it. Again, that's no different than what they're doing now.

If Bezos is truly evil, he'll have his paper start doing hit pieces on whomever he perceives to be a serious threat to Amazon's quest for full domination of the internet retail space. Will it be WalMart, or Google, Who knows. Overall, there is reason to hope the paper might improve in some areas.

Posted by: Cynthia | Aug 7 2013 20:03 utc | 14

Bezos is looking like Kane
Some power he hopes to attain
Reporting our news
Distorting our views
His Rosebud will make him insane

The Limerick King

Posted by: Cynthia | Aug 7 2013 20:04 utc | 15

bevin @ 8 -- How are people supposed to, well, live and eat and sleep in rooms with a roof over their heads..without an income? Without jobs?

Re: brick and mortar stores -- I love the chance encounter with books I would have no idea about without seeing it, dipping into it, admiring the cover art, etc.

But I also found books I wanted to read while flipping through the now disappeared card catalogs in the libraries I used....

Posted by: jawbone | Aug 8 2013 14:17 utc | 16

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