On Tuesday evening, Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez issued a series of tweets defending her role in ultimately killing the Amazon HQ2 deal — which would have brought 25,000 jobs to her district and nearly $30 billion in tax revenues to the state — and emphatically asserting that she does "understand" how tax incentives work.
The defensive thread was prompted by criticism from Crain's New York Business editor Erik Engquist, who said that while he usually defends the democratic socialist congresswoman as intelligent, her troubling comments about the state "invest[ing] those $3 billion" instead of supposedly giving it to Amazon have left him speechless.
"If we were willing to give away $3 billion for this deal, we could invest those $3 billion in our district ourselves, if we wanted to," the freshman congresswoman said last week. "We could hire out more teachers. We can fix our subways. We can put a lot of people to work for that money, if we wanted to."
"I’ve been telling @AOC critics that she is smart, but what do I say when she says nonsense like 'we could invest those $3 billion in [@amazon tax breaks] in our district. We could hire more teachers. We can fix our subways, we can put a lot of people to work for that money,'" tweeted Engquist.
Ocasio-Cortez responded forcefully and at length: "Not sure how many pundits talking about Amazon even read the deal or where it was going. $500+ million of the deal was *capital grants.* $2.5 billion in tax breaks. It’s fair to ask why we don’t invest the capital for public use, + why we don’t give working people a tax break," she wrote in a series of tweets.
"Frankly, the knee-jerk reaction assuming that I 'don’t understand' how tax giveaways to corps work is disappointing. No, it’s not possible that I could come to a different conclusion. The debate *must* be over my intelligence & understanding, instead of the merits of the deal," she wrote.
"There’s NO WAY that this deal - one of the biggest giveaways in state history - could possibly have been bad, right?" she added sarcastically. "Surely there can’t be anything wrong with suddenly announcing a massive restructuring & pricing out of a community without any advance notice or input from them."
"There’s no CHANCE that the speculative insider real-estate buys that were creating immediate spikes in rent in one of the most rent-burdened communities in NYC could have possibly been unpopular?" she tweeted, linking to an article by Business Insider.
"Or that a technology giant of big-brother-esque potential was selling (notoriously flawed & racially biased) facial recognition technology to ICE while trying to move into 1 of the most immigrant-dense areas of the world?" she added, linking to a Washington Post piece. "No, it must be because I’m dumb."
"Folks handling the failed deal treated community w/condescension+disdain for their legitimate concerns," she concluded. "I warned early to any & all that surging NYC costs+failing subways are creating major political forces to be reckoned with. But I don’t know what I’m talking about, right?"
Among those criticizing the Democratic opposition to the deal is Democratic New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who slammed "a small group of politicians" who "put their own narrow political interests above their community — which poll after poll showed overwhelmingly supported bringing Amazon to Long Island City — the state's economic future and the best interests of the people of this state."
"The New York State Senate has done tremendous damage," Cuomo said Thursday. "They should be held accountable for this lost economic opportunity." Full statement below:
Amazon chose to come to New York because we are the capital of the world and the best place to do business. We competed in and won the most hotly contested national economic development competition in the United States, resulting in at least 25,000-40,000 good paying jobs for our state and nearly $30 billion dollars in new revenue to fund transit improvements, new housing, schools and countless other quality of life improvements. Bringing Amazon to New York diversified our economy away from real estate and Wall Street, further cementing our status as an emerging center for tech and was an extraordinary economic win not just for Queens and New York City, but for the entire region, from Long Island to Albany's nanotech center.
However, a small group of politicians put their own narrow political interests above their community — which poll after poll showed overwhelmingly supported bringing Amazon to Long Island City — the state's economic future and the best interests of the people of this state. The New York State Senate has done tremendous damage. They should be held accountable for this lost economic opportunity.
The fundamentals of New York's business climate and community that attracted Amazon to be here - our talent pool, world-class education system, commitment to diversity and progressivism - remain and we won't be deterred as we continue to attract world class business to communities across New York State.