Jeff Bezos space flight: Backlash after world’s richest man thanks Amazon customers and staff for paying for his trip
Billionaire Jeff Bezos has thanked Amazon employees and customers for paying for his maiden voyage to space – but his remarks have prompted criticism from politicians and celebrities.
During a news conference following his space flight aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard, Mr Bezos said: “I also want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer because you guys paid for all of this.”
But critics were quick to point out that Amazon workers have complained of poor working conditions, long hours and low pay, while also accusing the company’s founder of not paying his fair share of taxes.
US representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said on Twitter: “Yes Amazon workers did pay for this – with lower wages, union-busting, a frenzied and inhumane workplace and deliver drivers not having health insurance during a pandemic.
“Amazon customers are paying for it with Amazon abusing their market power to hurt small businesses.”
And Senator Elizabeth Warren accused the Amazon founder, who recently stepped down as its CEO, of not paying taxes, calling for a “wealth tax”.
“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 said.
“I am pushing for three changes to our tax laws…to make billionaires and mega-corporations start paying their fair share.”
And Representative Earl Blumenauer called for a tax on space travel.
“Space travel isn’t a tax-free holiday for the wealthy. We pay taxes on plane tickets,” he wrote.
“Billionaires flying into space – producing no scientific value – should do the same and then some!”
Mr Blumenauer expressed his concerns about the environmental effect of space tourism flights and said he has introduced legislation aiming to make passengers on such flights pay taxes to offset the pollution impact.
Mr Bezos was also criticised by politicians outside of the United States, with the leader of Canada’s New Democratic Party, Jagmeet Singh, calling for the “ultra-rich to pay their fair share” of tax.
He wrote: “Jeff Bezos’s space flight lasted 11 minutes. During the pandemic, every 11 minutes he got about 1.6 million dollars richer.
“All while, Justin Trudeau allowed Amazon to pay $0 in taxes.”
The Daily Show, which is hosted by comedian Trevor Noah, highlighted the working conditions of Amazon workers after Mr Bezos’s flight.
“Jeff Bezos was in space for five minutes – or as it’s known at the Amazon warehouse, your allotted break time for a 16-hour day,” they said.
According to the non-profit investigative journalism organisation ProPublica, Mr Bezos paid no income tax in 2007 and 2011.
Mr Bezos travelled aboard his Blue Origin rocket on 20 July with his brother mark, pioneering woman astronaut Wally Funk and recent high school graduate Oliver Daeman, 18.