SATIRE: published October 12, 2018
(In no way am I suggesting that any federal agency would threaten the life of a poor defenseless data cloud in order to leverage a multinational corporation into paying its workers enough money to eat food and pay rent. THIS IS JUST AN EXPLORATION of a funny idea I had for a sketch.)
Ring ring [sound of a telephone ringing]
Bezos: Yes, secretary?
Secretary: It’s the CIA for you, sir.
Bezos: Oh. Ok, put them through … [sound of a call being connected] this is Jeff.
CIA: Nice cloud you have there, Jeffrey. Be a shame if something happened to it.
Bezos: It is. A very nice cloud. I can’t tell you how thankful I am that the CIA chose Amazon to create and maintain it instead of a competitor.
CIA: Don’t thank us. Thank the American taxpayer. Plus, we like to keep abreast of who’s buying pressure cookers & nails.
Bezos: Uh, great. Glad I could help.
CIA: Back to the American taxpayer.
Bezos: Not the post office thing again.
CIA: Oh no, the President is going to get you for that.
Bezos: I hate it when he calls; it’s like talking to an AK-47. Jesus.
CIA: Yes, the man of miracles. Which is what you’ll need if our cloud goes down.
Bezos: My overwhelming preference would be to do whatever it takes to prevent that scenario.
CIA: Agree, agree! Well, Senator Bernie Sanders drafted a really interesting bill. Even named it after you.
Bezos: He’s a socialist commie.
CIA: Which is it: is he a socialist or a commie?
Bezos: Does it matter? He wants the government to mandate my business practices.
CIA: The Stop BEZOS Act — or Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies — would require multi-million dollar companies to cover any cost of government aid programs like SNAP or subsidized housing their workers receive. Guess you could just pay your employees enough money to pay for their own food & rent.
Bezos: Forcing private enterprise to pay the federal government millions? It’s what any good strongman would do.
CIA: In the last year alone, the DC Housing Authority provided more than $130 million in rent payments to the landlords of low income families who can’t afford housing costs. That’s all federal money — siphoned out of middle class American taxpayers’ income and into Section 8 Housing. Want to know how much of that $130 million went to Amazon & Whole Foods employees who live in Washington, DC?
Bezos: No, but I imagine you’re going to tell me.
CIA: Yes, we’ll email you a breakdown by all 50 states plus the District of Columbia. You’re quite the welfare king.
Bezos: Do you know how much prices would increase if I paid everyone enough to get off the dole?
CIA: They wouldn’t have to. Instead of making billions, you’d only make millions. Sounds like you’re the one who feels entitled to the handout.
Bezos: This isn’t even communist! It’s fascist! The CIA is calling me threatening to take my cloud away to extort me!
CIA: Our cloud. It’s our cloud. OUR cloud that you enjoy the privilege of maintaining. You’re welcome. And if you don’t like it, you could always set up shop in Cuba. And we can take our business to IBM.
Bezos: No thanks.
CIA: Well, you wouldn’t have to offer health insurance as a benefit there since Cuba has single payer healthcare.
Bezos: Yeah, and only the rich & well-connected get access to the best doctors. Look, I know what this is: it’s blatant redistribution of wealth. This is all Bernie Sanders’ doing.
CIA: It’s not redistributing anything. You get to keep the billions you’ve already made. Look, I made a cool $90k last year & if I died tomorrow, I’d be happy & know I lived a good life serving my country.
FBI: He doesn’t feel joy, CIA. He’s not capable of feeling contentedness so don’t go down that road.
Bezos: Who’s that?
CIA: Oh, that’s just the FBI. Their profilers told us to use pride & your compulsion to avoid societal shame since you don’t feel guilt or empathy like a normal person. But … we’re not going to waste time on that profiling BS. We’re going straight to force.
Bezos: The FBI is on the line!? What?
CIA: They’re always on the line.
FBI: Yeah, PATRIOT Act. Just kidding. FISA Amendments of 2008.
FBI: ha ha
Bezos: I grew up poor! What about that?
CIA: Lots of people grew up poor. They don’t grow up to be parasites that exploit every loophole in the War on Poverty known to man.
FBI: Yeah, you’re a sociopath.
Bezos: I’m not a sociopath. I’m a philanthropist!
CIA: I’m about to break this cloud.
FBI: Lol, most philanthropists are sociopaths. Although some are narcissists. But, not Bezos.
Bezos: You’re talking about me as if I weren’t here. I can hear you.
NSA: We can hear you.
Bezos: Who the hell was that?
CIA: Ohhhhh. Soooo sorry. That’s now how this works. We ask the questions. You answer them! See? Here’s one I just came up with. What date are you going to start paying your employees a living wage? I have a calendar here. I’m looking at it now. Let me know if you need help. I can help you, Jeff.
Bezos: No, I’m not done asking questions. What’s next? A Basic Income?
CIA: Nope. Even Bernie knows that’s a nonstarter.
FBI: Yeah, that is wealth redistribution.
NSA: if I could just interject with some math
CIA: God, yes, more math! Give us the numbers, you little math lover.
NSA: Um, ok. The ratio of CEO pay to average worker was 42:1 in 1980. As of 2013 it was roughly 300:1.
FBI: That’s out of hand.
CIA: Why do we let a handful of CEO’s take advantage of our people this way? Our countrymen?
FBI: Congress. Those scoundrels.
CIA: What a bunch of rapscallions. And the amount of porn they watch, good grief.
NSA: And the type of porn they watch.
Bezos: What the fuck is this?
CIA: What is what? I’m pulling the plug on Mr Cloud. Who doesn’t love the scent of autumnal rainfall, am I right? Tell me I’m wrong. Singing in the rain!
Bezos: Oh my God, the CIA is threatening me!!
FBI: That sounded more like a promise than a threat to me.
NSA: Yeah, definitely a promise. You shouldn’t have been mean to your workers.
FBI: We know what you did.
Bezos’ Lawyer: You don’t speak, Jeff. Not another word.
CIA: Oh, this is ridiculous. Just pay your workers, for God’s sake. It’s not like we’re sending in the DOL with guns blazing. On a DOL tank.
FBI: No one is being charged with any crime. And there aren’t typically Department of Labor tanks.
DOD: Not that we couldn’t retrofit one for a special occasion.
CIA: Like, for example, storming Amazon headquarters.
Amazon General Counsel: Just exactly how much of a wage increase are we talking here?
CIA: $15 an hour is a good start.
Amazon General Counsel: Jeff, it’s not a terrible demand. We can make it work.
CIA: Do you know how many macrame invisibility ponchos we could make with a billion dollars?
CIA: Oh, so fewer than I thought.
Bezos: So to recap, you’re holding the cloud hostage until I pay my workers $31,000 a year?
CIA: $31,200. Which won’t even be enough money to get them off the dole in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, LA or Washington, DC. Would you rather Bernie’s law passes and you can repay every dime of public assistance your workers receive? We can make that happen.
Bezos: $31,000 a year for entry level work?!?
CIA: $31,000 a year for work. Lol, “entry level” work. That’s like saying “conspiracy theorist” to refer to someone who presents a fact-based narrative regarding events of historical import in order to encourage the pursuit of truth and accuracy in the face of unanswered questions. It costs what it costs to live. The government subsidizing the price of food, rent & healthcare has artificially suppressed the cost of labor for decades. Again, this won’t be retroactive. So look on the bright side.
NSA: um, if I could … there’s some more math that might help
CIA: More math, yes, please. The magic word! Everyone loves math.
NSA: In the 1950s, a typical CEO made 20 times the salary of their average worker. Last year, CEO pay at an S&P 500 Index firm was 361 times more than the average rank-and-file worker, or pay of $13,940,000 a year. Meanwhile, the average US production worker earned just $38,613.
CIA: The bottom line is that it costs what it costs to live. We’d rather covertly force one bad actor to do the right thing, and then sit back and watch free market competition among firms cause wages to rise because the other bad actors are now forced to offer higher wages in order to compete in a tighter labor market, rather than pulling the subsidy rug out from under an artificially depressed minimum wage suddenly, impacting all firms simultaneously.
Bezos: So it’s personal.
CIA: In a word, yes. In other news, the floor plans of your new $23,000,000 house in DC look nice.
Bezos: Yeah. The property taxes are going to be through the roof.
CIA: Well, the streets don’t sweep themselves. Look, even if some day on the off OFF chance Amazon was forced to break into pieces under anti-trust law … in the rare instance that monopoly-combatting laws were ever enforced … even if you never made another dollar, you and your family would be set for life, many many lifetimes.
FBI: Again, you might as well be trying to teach a pack of wolves to take a break from gorging on their fresh kill. He’s a broken person. He’ll never feel satiation: he can’t. Neurologically. The neuropathways just don’t connect that way. They never did.
Amazon General Counsel: That’s enough. What do we have to do to end this call.
CIA: What are you willing to do?
Amazon General Counsel: Pay Amazon and Whole Foods workers $15 per hour starting January 1, 2020.
CIA: How about November 1, 2018?
Amazon General Counsel: How about January 1, 2019?
CIA: Ok, November 1, 2018 it is. Have a great day. Bye.
CIA: Hang up.
DOD: You hang up.
CIA: No, you.
DOD: You first.
CIA: No, you.
NSA: Everyone is getting disconnected now. At the same time. You two — get a room.
CIA: No, you know what’s unbeLIEVable? Bilking the American taxpayer for millions of dollars ANNUALLY and then jibber jabbering about free shipping. There is NO SUCH THING AS FREE SHIPPING. The consumer is paying for it. How do people not know this?
NSA: It’s because we don’t teach logic in the schools. Also the fluoride in the water probably doesn’t help.
FBI: Don’t forget no one’s parents are home after school to help with homework.
CIA: Ok, who’s calling Bernie to tell him the good news?
[FADE TO BLACK]
Author’s note: Bezos changed his tune quite literally overnight. From doubling down on his anti-Bernie messaging through his paid shills on twitter to announcing (in a little over a month!) that a wage increase would be implemented (fewer than 30 days later!). I’m not saying any federal agency had anything to do with it. But if they did, good.
Amazon fires back at Bernie Sanders’ ‘inaccurate’ claims about its warehouse working conditions and low wages and workers’ dependence on SNAP (food stamps); from Aug 29: https://www.seattletimes.com/business/amazon/amazon-fires-back-at-bernie-sanders-inaccurate-claims-about-its-warehouse-working-conditions
Bernie Sanders doubled down on his war with Amazon by introducing a bill named after Jeff Bezos; from Sept 6 https://www.businessinsider.com.au/bernie-sanders-has-introduced-a-stop-bezos-bill-2018-9
Amazon announces $15 minimum wage for all U.S. employees, October 2! https://www.bizjournals.com/washington/news/2018/10/02/amazon-announces-15-minimum-wage-for-all-employees.html
THAT WAS FAST!
Interesting relevant tweets from the past:
(I called it)
Interesting subsidized housing info (mainly this: more than 1.5 million US households receive housing subsidy):