Oct 5

2022

Podcast: How Amazon wins tax breaks

Author and journalist Alec MacGillis talks with J. Dale Shoemaker about Amazon's history, public subsidies, and impact on host communities.

On today’s Investigative Podcast, reporter J. Dale Shoemaker sits down with journalist and author Alec MacGillis to talk about Amazon’s expansion in Western New York, the future of Rust Belt cities like Buffalo and MacGillis’s book, “Fulfillment: America in the Shadow of Amazon.”

MacGillis’s book explores how Amazon and other large companies have transformed American cities and exacerbated wealth disparities. Cities like Seattle, for example, where Amazon is headquartered, have no shortage of high-paying jobs in tech, but are rapidly becoming unaffordable except for the very richest people. Meanwhile, cities like Buffalo and Niagara Falls have experienced steep population decline and are left struggling to attract good-paying jobs for those who are left.

MacGillis published his book last year and has since returned to his day job as a senior reporter for ProPublica, where he writes about government and politics.

In their discussion, Shoemaker and MacGillis explore Amazon’s history, how it became a behemoth in part due to public subsidies and how the company offers a useful lens for looking at “winner” cities and “left behind” cities in America. The pair then discuss what the future may hold for “left behind” cities like Buffalo, especially once Amazon has come to town.

“My sense of it is that Amazon will just take as much as they can get,” MacGillis said, speaking of Amazon’s numerous tax subsidy deals. “They’ll assess the level of desperation and they’ll shoot for the moon. They’ll get as much as they can.”

You can find MacGillis’s journalism here, and you can buy his book via a local bookstore here.

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