From groceries and streaming subscriptions to web servers and Alexa, Amazon has become one of the most powerful economic forces in the world. And after Jeff Bezos returned from his brief flight to space on Tuesday in a rocket built by his private space company, Blue Origin, he made remarks that drew attention to the vast wealth the company had created for him.
“I also want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer because you guys paid for all of this,” Mr. Bezos said during a news conference after his spaceflight.
Mr. Bezos’ comment prompted swift critical reactions, including from a member of the House of Representatives who serves on the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee.
“Space travel isn’t a tax-free holiday for the wealthy,” said Representative Earl Blumenauer, Democrat of Oregon. “We pay taxes on plane tickets. Billionaires flying into space — producing no scientific value — should do the same, and then some!”
Mr. Blumenauer expressed concerns about the environmental effects of such space tourist flights. He said he had introduced legislation he called the Securing Protections Against Carbon Emissions (SPACE) Tax Act, aiming to make passengers on such flights pay a tax to offset their pollution impact.
He wasn’t alone in connecting Mr. Bezos’ spaceflight with concerns about how Amazon’s business practices have affected his company’s employees as well as small businesses.
“While Jeff Bezos is all over the news for paying to go to space, let’s not forget the reality he has created here on Earth,” Representative Nydia Velazquez, Democrat of New York, said on Twitter. She added the hashtag #WealthTaxNow on Tuesday morning and included a link to an article about how much Amazon’s employees had been paid.
While those congressional Democrats offered criticism, the message from the White House was more welcoming.
“This is a moment of American exceptionalism,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said when asked about the flight during a Tuesday news conference.