The backlash at Jeff Bezos and his trip into space Tuesday emerged long before liftoff – and worsening during his post-flight press conference when thanked his Amazon employees for financing the trip.
“I also wanted to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer because you guys paid for all of this,” Bezos said following the inaugural peopled flight of his private space tourism company, Blue Origin.
The comment added fuel to the already fiery questions about whether Bezos’s space exploration is truly a moment of American exceptionalism to be celebrated, or a billionaire vanity project of the sort that will now become easily accessible to some of the wealthiest people on the planet, and no one else.
On more than one occasion, Bezos has claimed that Blue Origin will create a far more consequential legacy than Amazon. The jury on that statement is still out, and likely will be for a while, though Amazon is currently valued at $1.8 trillion and growing.
Some lawmakers prefer to recenter focus on Bezos’s earthly pursuits.
Progressive Democrats frequently fume at Bezos for the perceived wealth inequality that Amazon has created. Some Republicans join the pile on when it comes to criticizing the amount of taxes – or lack thereof – that the massive company pays.
“Space travel isn’t a tax-free holiday for the wealthy. We pay taxes on plane tickets. Billionaires flying into space – producing no scientific value – should do the same, and then some!” said Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon), a member of the Ways and Means Committee.
The comment also drew criticism amid complaints among Amazon employees about low wages.