Quoting a friendly consultant:

“The general perception is companies thinking, Oh, great, finally a level playing field,” Rossman says. “But other retailers are going to regret the day. Sales tax was one of the few things impeding Amazon from expanding. Now it’s like wherever Amazon wants to be, whatever Amazon wants to do, they are going to do it.”

As Peter Elkind and Doris Burke’s investigation earlier this year in Fortune showed, Amazon’s tax avoidance strategy was not marginal to the company, but part of its very DNA, from Bezos originally plotting to start Amazon on an Indian reservation to avoid collecting taxes forward.

It was gaming the tax system that was key to Amazon’s ability to launch its new same-day initiative. Manipulating the tax system does not mean you are a better retailer. That is not innovative. That is old school. It calls to mind what Ida Tarbell wrote about John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil in her memoir more than 30 years after her epic series on the monopoly:

I never had an animus against their size and wealth, never objected to their corporate form. I was willing that they should combine and grow as big and rich as they could, but only by legitimate means. But they had never played fair, and that ruined their greatness for me.

But all that aside, there’s no inkling whatever that there might be some downside to Amazon’s march to victory, no sense of misgiving along the lines of this bit from Whoriskey’s story:

“To this day, whenever I walk into a bookstore I like, I hang my head in secret shame,” said one of the earliest employees, who for personal reasons asked that his name not be used.

And I wonder, even if Amazon is successful, whether the “entire retail experience” is really so very important in the scheme of things as Fast Company makes it out to be.

Still, whatever qualms you might have about this story, it does at least have the merit of providing, if inadvertently, any number of excellent reasons why it would be better to have someone other than Jeff Bezos owning the most important newspaper in the nation’s capital.

Since the topic here is journalism reinforcing elite power, it’s worth flagging that properly criticized (item 3) New York Times profile of Katharine Weymouth. As Ryan Chittum soberly points out, Weymouth is part of the team that shares no small responsibility for a paper with real potential to survive the digital onslaught instead staggering blindly for years before collapsing into the arms of Rockefeller Bezos.

Let’ s just call it “Exhibit B,” and leave it at that.


Dean Starkman Dean Starkman runs The Audit, CJR's business section, and is the author of The Watchdog That Didn't Bark: The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism (Columbia University Press, January 2014).

Follow Dean on Twitter: @deanstarkman.