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President Biden is feuding with one of the world’s richest men, owner of a space rocket company, in a fight that is playing out on Twitter.
No, not Elon Musk.
It’s Jeff Bezos who is sniping at Biden over inflation and corporate taxes and accusing the White House of “misdirection.”
There’s a backstory here. The president, who wants to raise taxes on corporations and the wealthy – a proposal that is going nowhere – has often whacked Amazon like a pinata.
And maybe Bezos, whose tweets tend to be rather earnest, is a teensy bit envious of all the media attention Musk is getting for his pursuit of Twitter.
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After Biden tweeted (without mentioning Amazon) that it would tame inflation to “make sure the wealthiest corporations pay their fair share,” Bezos bit back:
“The newly created Disinformation Board should review this tweet, or maybe they need to form a new Non Sequitur Board instead.”
White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates responded with a sharp statement:
“It does not require a huge leap to figure out why one of the wealthiest individuals on Earth opposes an economic agenda for the middle class that cuts some of the biggest costs families face, fights inflation for the long haul, and adds to the historic deficit reduction the president is achieving by asking the richest taxpayers and corporations to pay their fair share. “
And – bingo – Bates added: “It’s also unsurprising that this tweet comes after the President met with labor organizers, including Amazon employees.”
That sent Bezos back to his Twitter:
“Look, a squirrel! This is the White House’s statement about my recent tweets. They understandably want to muddy the topic. They know inflation hurts the neediest the most. But unions aren’t causing inflation and neither are wealthy people.
“Remember the administration tried their best to add another $ 3.5 TRILLION to federal spending. They failed, but if they had succeeded, inflation would be even higher than it is today, and inflation today is at a 40-year-high.”
As The Hill put it, “While tackling inflation has vexed the White House, a public spat with Amazon is one the administration would seem to welcome.”
Biden’s targeting of Amazon is no accident. One report says the e-commerce giant has paid a federal tax rate in the last four years of 5.1 percent on $ 78 billion in income in the US Who wouldn’t like that rate?
And Pro Publica has reported that Bezos personally paid no income tax in 2007 and 2011.
Meanwhile, the owner of another space exploration company is raising new questions about whether he’ll back out of his $ 44-billion deal to buy Twitter.
I had leaned towards the view that Musk is just trying to negotiate the price down. After all, he offered $ 54 a share, and the stock price has now sunk to $ 37, wiping out the earlier gains and meaning he would pay a much higher premium. So Musk seized on a challenge to Twitter’s claim that fewer than 5 percent of its accounts are spam or fake.
But now Musk has tweeted that “this deal cannot move forward” without more information on the bots. He said the spam accounts could be as much as 20 percent, and when one user suggested more than half the accounts were fake, Musk retweeted it: “Exactly.”
What’s more, at a tech conference, the multi-billionaire said: “The more questions I ask, the more my concerns grow. So you know, at the end of the day, acquiring it has to be fixable with a reasonable time frame and without revenues collapsing along the way. “
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Twitter insists its figures are accurate. CEO Parag Agrawal put up a detailed explanation of its calculations and said the firm had shared an “overview of the estimation process with Elon a week ago.”
Musk’s response? A poop emoji.
Juvenile? Yes. Who over the age of 12 does that? It’s the equivalent of a middle finger. But the grossness was also funny. And it helps explain why Musk has 90 million Twitter followers and Bezos has 4.3 million.
But breaking up is hard to do. Musk is legally required to pay a billion-dollar breakup fee if he backs out, although that, like anything else, could be litigated. And where would it leave Twitter’s bosses with their company devalued and no other suitors in sight?
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As part of his free speech crusade, Musk has lately taken shots at Donald Trump (he does not favor the former president in 2024) and Biden (elected not to transform the country but because people wanted “less drama”).
With Elon Musk, there’s always more drama. That’s his default setting.