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Is the enemy of our enemy our friend?

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Amazon may be not only one of the most loved companies in America, but also one of the most hated. One of the great things about Amazon – and also about it archrival, Barnes and Nobles – is that their websites each list almost any book you might be looking for.
During the last few days, President Trump has joined the millions of Americans who viscerally hate the company. He has accused Amazon of two huge transgressions – that it doesn’t pay its fair share of taxes, and that it takes advantage of the U.S. Postal Service by grossly underpaying for its bulk shipping.
There’s a lot to dislike about Amazon, but both the president’s charges don’t even come close.
Years ago, Amazon – like the vast majority of online sellers – did not charge sales tax, especially to out-of-state buyers. But today, Amazon collects sales tax in every state that charges it.
Amazon does have an unusual shipping arrangement with the Post Office. Rather than have the P.O. sort its packages multiple times as they move towards their ultimate destinations, the company delivers many of those packages to the postal sorting facility closest to where they are to be delivered. Amazon is then charged the same lower rate that is paid by other bulk shippers.
There are plenty of things to hate about Amazon, but the imagined sweetheart deal that it has with the P.O. and its failure to collect sales tax are not among them. Let’s look at some of the really despicable stuff that Amazon does.
The company has been responsible for the closure of thousands of independent bookstores serving communities across the nation. Of course, that’s of no concern to someone who reportedly barely reads at all.
Amazon has also driven hundreds of publishers out of business, and it has made it much more difficult for tens of thousands of book authors to make a living. But the fact that the company is becoming a monopoly not just in book-selling, but in book-publishing as well, is not something that our president would even notice, let alone care about.
However wildly inaccurate, the president’s charges have done Amazon some serious damage – at least in the short run. But that leaves even the most rabid Amazon-haters with what might be an unanswerable question: Is the enemy of our enemy our friend?

About the Author
Steve Slavin has a PhD in economics from NYU, and taught for over thirty years at Brooklyn College, New York Institute of Technology, and New Jersey’s Union County College. He has written sixteen math and economics books including a widely used introductory economics textbook now in its eleventh edition (McGraw-Hill) and The Great American Economy (Prometheus Books) which was published in August.


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Steve Slavin

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