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Obama Stands Against Greed, and So Do I: Boycott Amazon.com!

By June 29, 2011

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Kudos to President Obama for clearly calling out Republicans for opting for avarice over the basics of public good. In his press conference today, the President quite accurately observed:
"If we choose to keep those tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, if we keep the tax break for corporate jet owners, if we choose to keep tax breaks for oil and gas companies that are making hundreds of billions of dollars, then:
  • that means we've got to cut some kids off from getting a college scholarship.
  • That means we have to stop funding certain grants for medical research.
  • That means that food safety may be compromised.
  • That means that Medicare has to bear a greater part of the burden.
"These are the choices we have to make...

"If you are a wealthy CEO or hedge fund manager in America right now, your taxes are lower than they've ever been. They're lower than they've been since the 1950s. And you can afford it. You'll still be able to ride on your corporate jet. You'll just have to pay a little more..."

Damn right! In fact, giving in to greedy, pro-corporate Republican priorities would mean even more damage to the United States than President Obama listed, including:

  • continued crumbling of American infrastructure across the country,
  • further erosion of public education, and
  • higher and higher unemployment for middle-class jobs as teaching, law enforcement and fire fighting.

The President must feel incredibly frustrated in attempting to negotiate with "those reckless Republicans," as The Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel penned at the Washington Post.

I fully empathize with the President's astonished frustration at the dearth of responsible fiscal priorities for our country by so many corporations and their Congressional minions.

And I fully understand, as well, because this afternoon, I received unexpected email from Amazon.com that shocked me with its callous disrespect for public good... in this case, for the fiscally-troubled state of California.

Let me explain... For my longtime personal blog, I have an advertising arrangement in good standing with Amazon.com. I was stunned to receive the following shocker today from Amazon.com entitled "Notice of Contract Termination Due to Potential New California Law":

"For well over a decade, the Amazon Associates Program has worked with thousands of California residents. Unfortunately, a potential new law that may be signed by Governor Brown compels us to terminate this program for California-based participants. It specifically imposes the collection of taxes from consumers on sales by online retailers...

"As a result, we will terminate contracts with all California residents that are participants in the Amazon Associates Program as of the date (if any) that the California law becomes effective. We will send a follow-up notice to you confirming the termination date if the California law is enacted. In the event that the California law does not become effective before September 30, 2011, we withdraw this notice.

"... if you relocate to another state in the near future please contact us for reinstatement into the Amazon Associates Program. To avoid confusion, we would like to clarify that this development will only impact our ability to offer the Associates Program to California residents... "

I feel blackmailed by Amazon.com to support its placing corporate profits over the very welfare of the state of California, whose elected leaders have desperately sought and negotiated for a budgetary solution. Californians will sacrifice mightily to move forward fiscally... Californians who have supported Amazon.com for years with billions in annual sales.

I'm angry. Very angry. I absolutely refuse to give in to this greedy threat. I will not pressure Gov. Jerry Brown to drop his logical idea to tax online retail sales.

And starting right now, I will purchase from any number of retailer alternatives to Amazon.com. Further, I don't give one (expletive deleted) damn if they terminate my advertising agreement with them.

President Obama took a moral stand today against pro-corporate forces that are starving our nation of funding to remain a healthy country of the people, by the people, for the people.

I plan to emulate the President's courageous example by taking a principled stand against Amazon.com, which is attempting to place rich profits over the welfare of my beloved home state. It's time to draw a line against creeping corporate rule of this country!

Californians, I say BOYCOTT AMAZON.COM. Will you join me?

(Full Disclosure: I am serving my third two-year term as elected Delegate to the California Democratic Party.)

(Photo of Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com: Paul Hawthorne/Getty Images)


June 29, 2011 at 7:58 pm
(1) K says:

California is obviously not prospering anyway, whether Amazon chooses to sell there or not. Don’t worry, California will end up taxing Marijuana as it pours out of your state via illegal immigrants to stop “global warming,” then Obama will have Michael Moore create a movie on how the money it generated was his idea, but the problems it created were Bush’s fault. He might even blame it on those dang Christians too. Also, you keep bashing on Republicans, but I don’t hear rich Democrats complaining. I agree tax cuts for the rich are ridiculous and backwards, and that real change is needed, but your delivery is poor.

June 29, 2011 at 8:28 pm
(2) Anne says:

There’s always Powells affiliate program. I am under the impression that they are great at upholding social justice principles.

June 29, 2011 at 9:06 pm
(3) Jeff says:

Thanks for writing this piece. I received the same email from Amazon, and I wrote Amazon back essentially saying I thought it (Amazon) should be ashamed of itself for treating me and other Californians this way. I also stated that I saw no upside whatsover for Amazon to cutting off the affiliates (and associated sales) in California. How easy it would be for Amazon to work with this new law, rather than punish the affiliates.

You will likely receive lots of comments from folks bitterly complaining about how Gerry Brown has screwed over thousands of businesses in California whose livlihoods depend on the Amazon Affiliate program. The answer to that is simple: allow those affiliates to charge sales tax if they want to. How hard is that? I’m a computer programmer, and I can tell you that Amazon could *easily* arrange it. The fact that they won’t, is Amazon’s choice and therefore Amazon’s responsibility.

I’m with you on the boycott. I hope many people are as outraged as you and I.


June 29, 2011 at 9:42 pm
(4) usliberals says:

Thanks so much, Jeff and Anne. I appreciate your support.

Jeff, you write, “I wrote Amazon back essentially saying I thought it (Amazon) should be ashamed of itself for treating me and other Californians this way.”

I so agree with you. My husband and I, and our college-age daughter, actually buy quite a bit from Amazon. We will now take our business elsewhere.

Anne, I was just telling my husband: time to set-up affiliate arrangements with Powells, and to buy our books from there. Have visited Powells in Portland several times, and greatly admire their values.

My husband also suggested that from now on, we should only buy online from retailers who collect sales tax. Interesting idea for us all.

June 29, 2011 at 11:26 pm
(5) Victor says:

I suggest you start paying your use tax instead of boycotting amazon.

It’s unconstitutional for California to make out of state companies collect sales tax for the state. That argument is over. California is redefining out of state. Amazon is responding as it thinks is best.

This is would be a non issue if Californian report and pay use tax as required by law. Ask yourself if you can honestly do that before getting upset at amazon.

As usliberals say, buy only from someone who charges CA tax, or change the constitution.

June 30, 2011 at 12:04 am
(6) Victor says:

I had to add, I love CA, but it’s not the United State of California. I hate that Amazon doesn’t charge tax, as a 3p vendor from California, I end up having to pay CA tax for the end user anyways with per county adjustments mind you. Right now it’s a big fight between two children to see who needs who more, instead of working together to bring more jobs to California through negotiations. CA is still rank 50th out of 50th in business friendly category, and moves like this that will not raise that rank up. Amazon can end this by giving in, but I’m rooting for amazon.


June 30, 2011 at 2:25 am
(7) Elvis says:

Ah, commentary such as this entices to buy even more from Amazon. Common sense would suggest that California would do everything possible to attract more business, not the exact opposite. Maybe one day you guys will wake up and realize your state government has basically spent its way into oblivion. Blame Amazon and/or republicans all you want, but it won’t balance the budget!

June 30, 2011 at 11:34 am
(8) Highwater Filters says:

I’m boycotting Amazon. They have become the Walmart of the Web. They are too big and they are bullies.

June 30, 2011 at 3:01 pm
(9) Jeff says:

I live in Seattle, where Amazon hires lots of people, but I’m with you on this. I don’t like the fact that they don’t collect taxes in most states (obviously they do here) and I don’t like their arrogance. I don’t buy from them anymore. It’s a shame they helped put Borders out of business, because now there’s even less choice locally (though to be fair, Borders is responsible for their poor choice).

The thing that was nice about them in the beginning is that you could get almost any book from them – they’d do fine even if they competed fairly, so this tax evasion isn’t even necessary.

The nice thing about California standing firm is that it might encourage other states to do the same. Hopefully the US Congress will revisit the 1992 law in question, because there’s no doubt it’s no longer “burdensome” for Amazon to have to collect sales tax for all sales/

June 30, 2011 at 4:09 pm
(10) GregN says:

Ummm, Those jet-tax breaks for the rich were proposed by the then sitting President, and passed by the Congress.

President was one B.H. Obama.
Senate Majority Leader: Reid
Speaker of the House: Pelosi.

Wascally Wepublicans.

As for Amazon greed: I suppose Ms. White would continue doing something even if the rules changed, turning something that made her money into something that cost her money. Being a non-greedy person herself, I’m sure she would continue going to work if she had to pay to do it rather than being paid to do it.

After all, that’s what she expects Amazon to do.

July 1, 2011 at 1:02 am
(11) Victor says:

You can only evade tax if you owe tax.

Be very clear, Amazon does not owe taxes, Californians do.

The state of California is trying to force Amazon to be their tax collector.

Can no one see that’s wrong?

Just because California can force local businesses to do their dirty work, and we’ve come to accept it, doesn’t mean they will have the authority ever to make out of state companies do that.

There is nothing to revisit. The US Supreme court has made it very clear.

July 1, 2011 at 12:04 pm
(12) BloggerCali says:

Glad there is actually someone who is pointing out Amazon is slightly stingy in this scenario. So many have been railing against this tax, but fail to realize how Walmart and Amazon have put so many small enterprises out of business.

July 1, 2011 at 12:42 pm
(13) Gerry says:

You are an ignoramus. I know – since you describe yourself as a liberal, that’s no revelation.

Barry extended tax breaks for corporate jets in his own Shamulus, which, of course, has failed miserably.

July 1, 2011 at 4:34 pm
(14) Gary says:

California needs to fall off the map already. You chase all these corporations out because your state is a safe-haven for extreme liberals an their absurd regulations . Its not surprise nobody wants to do business with you. Stop acting like America loves liberalism . You already chased our billions in the firearm industry .

July 2, 2011 at 2:08 am
(15) mike says:

Tax breaks for millionares?? the people paying the tax are the people of california. I believe we are taxed enough in this state! Why do we have to pay more because our leaders fail? Amazon does not owe tax, and we should not pay tax for out of state transactions. Who is going to suffer ? the tax payers I would buy everthing from amazon if i could , the greed of this state , and huge retailers that are fighting for this makes me sick!!!

July 2, 2011 at 4:10 pm
(16) Emily says:

You’re an idiot, almost as dumb as the governing class in California. You are getting no revenue increases from this law. You are losing revenue as small businesses will either lose profit or leave the state. There is no upside to this bill for anyone.

July 2, 2011 at 4:39 pm
(17) BarbaraB says:

I do a lot of business with Amazon but I plan as of today to stop buying through Amazon and Overstock. Californians who purchase from these companies are only harming themselves until these corporate entities again do business with California companies. The jobs that Amazon takes may be yours. Wise up

July 2, 2011 at 9:29 pm
(18) Jeanne says:

I was also an Amazon Affiliate in California, and now I am boycotting Amazon. I don’t appreciate being used as a pawn in their political battles. I have switched all Amazon Affiliate links on my personal blog to IndieBound affiliate links, which support local and independent booksellers.

July 3, 2011 at 12:11 am
(19) BloggerCali says:

I agree with Jeanne. However, I feel like Amazon used me for three years to get a lot of traffic to their site, and I only got about twenty dollars out of it. Oh well, I just feel silly I did not stop using Amazon affiliates sooner. They are greedy, I was naive.

July 3, 2011 at 1:11 am
(20) Emily says:

I agree with you about the Amazon.com affiliate program. I think it’s ridiculous they are going to punish California affiliates. I have been a big buyer of their books and I now will never buy another book of theirs. Is there a website being setup to deal with a boycott against Amazon?

July 3, 2011 at 6:24 pm
(21) Lorene says:

Great piece…and exactly my sentiments. That’s why I am BOYCOTTING Amazon. I suggest we all take the ABA (Anywhere But Amazon) Pledge: I will not do business with Amazon or its affiliates through the Amazon website until Amazon honors the tax laws passed by each individual state and honors its agreements with its affiliates within that state.” Who’s with me on this?

July 4, 2011 at 5:33 pm
(22) Darkitec says:

It would appear that the greedy entity here is not Amazon, but the state of California.

If I were to boycott anything it would be Californian businesses.

July 5, 2011 at 10:22 am
(23) Joe says:

Uh, nope, I won’t join you. California, despite the best weather, mountains, wine, beaches, and natural resources, is FUBAR. Why? Let’s see…out of control government spending, high taxes, unions, the welcoming and supporting of illegals, out of control government regulation. Those are the same reasons why corporations, people, small businesses have flown the coop in droves over the past 10 years.

Please don’t be surprised when companies leave any state that imposes higher taxes. It’s just like when you buy Slim Fast. If it is $5 at CVS and it is $3 at the walgreens next door, you go where you get the best deal. Why should a corporation act any differently?

And last….about those corporations…you know, the EVIL, GREEDY ones…those are the places where people work and make a living. Those are the places that are owned by YOUR 401k, IRA, Roth, and your pension funds. People work at them and people own them. And people go hoorah for corporations when…now follow this…their expenses go down, their profits go up, which in turn makes their stock price go up, which makes your 401k, IRA, pension fund, mutual fund go up.

And that is why corporations LEAVE high tax, high-cost states like CA, IL, NY, MI, OH and set up shop in places like FL, TX.

July 5, 2011 at 7:16 pm
(24) Mandy says:

Gee, they cancelled the NY program a few years ago — did you cancel or boycott in solidarity then? Or is it only when they target YOUR bookstore?

July 5, 2011 at 7:54 pm
(25) erik says:

oh here we see the conservatives whining as usual when they actually have to do something…you are right K and Gerry just sit back don’t do anythiong and continually live off the backs of the poor because they are the only ones doing anything… but dont worry k just listen to rush limbaugh and sean hannity and have Fox news tell you waht to think because i know how stressful it is when you on the right have to actually do something for yourselves. Do not worry america still loves the marioneete rich that srtill controls this country…go back to sleep america, we would not you to waste your time with such trivial concepts as fairness and empathy…

July 6, 2011 at 1:22 am
(26) Diane McCarthy says:

You’re all behind the times. Those of us who live in Illinois, including several major media pundits received that email last year!! I’ve felt for a long time that the lack of sales tax collection on the internet is one area states can reclaim some lost income. Too bad they didn’t make it illegal for the big corps to kick out their affiliates just because they are too lazy to add a few lines of code into their shopping cart programs to account for sales tax. I regularly buy online from national corporations that collect tax And the consumers pay it for all 50 states with out blinking an eye. Every business should be required to collect the tax from all sales anywhere.

July 6, 2011 at 4:39 pm
(27) Notumbus Bumbus says:

Much misinformation within these comments, so let’s get real here:

1. Of course it would be up to the on-line retailer to collect the sales tax and forward it to the proper agencies – that is what happens everywhere taxes are collected by retailers. This artificial distinction between on-line and brick-and-mortar is outdated and self-serving – for the on-line giants.

2. Amazon and Overstock (to name the two biggest cheaters out there) are biting off their noses to spite their own bottom lines – cutting off their affiliates will do greater damage to over-all sales, and to their PR with the public at-large. I can buy what I need from bricks-and-mortars until these Bezo-itos grow a brain, so it won’t hurt me, only them.

3. Uh, for all you who think its clever to disparage California – it is and will likely remain the largest consumer market in the US. So by all means, blow it off. Just don’t get all weepy when the cost of goods sold by these on-line leeches mushrooms to account for the inevitable drop in demand. Econ 101.

4. Drop the slams on liberals – it just makes you look even loonier. There is nothing anti-capitalist in having everyone, yes, even the uber-Rich, pay into the general kitty that keeps things running. You know, like roads? Clean water? That sort of stuff? Of course, if you want to build your own roads, be my guest.

5. (back to #1 for a minute,) Yes, I do pay my taxes when I make a purchase in a store. That’s how it works. And now that the trial period is well past its due-date for the on-line marketplace, its time they began behaving like grownups. This stunt by Bezos, et. al., is beyond childish -it’s my bat, and I’m not going to let you play with it unless we play by my rules.

Well, good for you. I’ve decided to not play with you anyway, so take your bat, and return it to its upright position, in the dark.

July 6, 2011 at 11:20 pm
(28) Victor says:

re: Notumbus

1) Your thinking to much inside the box. Out of state retailer – online, mail order, or phone based will never need to collect CA sales tax. You can’t make them. Our politicians can’t make them.

2) Amazon will still sell to CA with no tax without affiliates.

3) CA will still remain the largest consumer market for a lot of out of state stores.

4) Arguing about taking from the rich give to the poor? It’s a good topic. The jury is still out on whether or not that’s a good idea.

5) Good for you. Amazon will still sell to California without collecting taxes. As will hundreds of other out of state online stores. The law accomplishes nothing useful outside of creating a factitious 200mil revenue that makes for a good budget where the politicians can finally get paid because it’s approved. Smoke and mirrors.

Unless out of state stores volunteer to take on the burden to collect California state tax, things won’t changes. You can get this done with business incentives as other states have, not laws.

Affiliates are mad, but really, Amazon can’t keep you because of a new law that adds burden to them for advertising through you. A version of this law has been vetoed many times before, for the reasons mentioned. This should not be a surprise. Just move on.

July 7, 2011 at 2:09 am
(29) John Croizat says:

I agree that Amazon is acting irresponsibly and will boycott them. I sent an email to them today.

Californians are obligated to pay “use tax” (that is, sales tax) when they buy goods used in California — regardless of where they are bought. You are supposed to report and pay use tax as part of your annual income tax filing. Many people don’t report their use tax obligations, and it is tough for California to enforce. By failing to collect sales tax at the point of purchase, Amazon is facilitating tax cheating and taking unfair advantage of in-state retailers. A fine example of selfish, unscrupulous corporate behavior. Shame on Amazon !! Especially, since they don’t need to cheat to be successful — they have a great website and excellent service. Really very, very disappointing.

July 12, 2011 at 12:21 pm
(30) Ellen Childress says:

I am a democrat. In fact, I have considered myself to be a member of that dying breed called “yellow dog democrats” here in Texas. But if the democratic party is calling for taxing online retail sales, then I’m sorry, I have to disagree. Texas tried to tax Amazon, and protests were loud and long, including mine.
Sales taxes are not going to save this country’s fiscal life, and I believe most people know that. And taxing internet sales is going to keep a lot of people, including me, from being able to purchase items that we need for less money that we would have to pay in our local shopping markets. Sales taxes are regressive taxes. They hurt lower income people, the unemployed, retirees a great deal more than they hurt the wealthier folks. When the democrats start trying to balance the local, state, and federal budgets by costing the working poor, the unemployed, older people on fixed incomes more money then I am going to have to look closely at whether I want to be aligned with either party in this country.
Tax Amazon; don’t tax its customers. Close the tax loopholes for all corporations and force them to pay taxes and close the loopholes that allow them to take their business to foreign, cheap-labor countries. I am horrified at what has become of fiscal commonsense in both major parties, and quite frankly, as a retiree on a fixed income, I am growing afraid of both parties and of my president who doesn’t appear to be able to stand his ground in the face of this “tea party” attack in Congress.
When a so-called democrat comes along and says that online sales ought to be taxed, which would harm my budget even more, then I have to see that the democratic party does not have my best interests at heart either.

July 13, 2011 at 5:33 pm
(31) Theresa M. says:

As a long time Californian (40 years) I operate a web site which has not seen any sales since Amazon took over the web. I market until I am blue in the face, but few shoppers will buy from me; they would rather buy from Amazon. I would like to point out that I don’t charge sales tax from my customers either, but pay it to the tax authority from my own profits, and sales have been very slow so I don’t get to pay much. I sell the same books and ebooks through Amazon programs but there haven’t been any sales there, either. Since Amazon made the announcement of this idiotic tactic which will come back to bite them, I have removed all buy links to Amazon from my site. If you want to read good books and buy affordable jewelry, visit my site and buy from me directly, tax and shipping free. I do honor my legal obligations wherever possible.

July 17, 2011 at 4:33 pm
(32) Dianne says:

Amazon? So what! Don’t shop with them. They exist in cyberspace so it’s an easy move. Shop at local retailers or if you prefer shopping online try Buy.com which is in California, does pay taxes, and has a nice interface.

I’m switching all of my affiliate program stuff to Buy.com and other affiliates housed at CJ, LinkShare, etc. Amazon’s move hurt lots of individuals who needed those affiliate dollars to make a difference between sink or swim. At one point the owner said he would pay state taxes when his business became profitable. Really? Define “profitable.”

I’m trying to find out how much money is lost to individuals because of Amazon’s greedy move! Of course, I’ll let you know (lucky you).

Again, really simple. DO NOT SHOP THROUGH AMAZON. If his bottom line suffers, then perhaps he will reconsider his position.

Amazon also systematically takes clients away from their affiliates and moves them into their own direct sales machine. It is possible to get “too big for your own britches,” as Mom used to say.

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