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New Yorkers were right to oppose the Amazon deal | USA

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Two hundred thirty-eight cities vied for Amazon’s new headquarters. Or partial headquarters. They competed with offers of support. That got cut down to 20.

At last, a choice was made! New York. Plus one other. In a two-way split.

Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill DeBlasio were very proud. They proclaimed that it was a triumph. It would bring 25,000 new jobs! They would be good jobs! Grand jobs! With salaries averaging $150,000! Plus the “campus”. 

The city and state together had come up with a three billion dollar subsidy package. They claimed that it was performance based. Even better, that it would generate $27bn in taxes, a return nine times greater than the giveaways.

Then, somehow, the deal dissolved. Amazon walked away. The exact cause is muddy and obscure. It seems to boil down to attitude. New Yorkers were not sufficiently obsequious, humble, and gracious for the largess about to be bestowed upon them. They asked questions.

Would the physical plant and these 25,000 new high-salary employees eat up the housing stock and drive out the current residents? What about public transportation, parking, schools, fire stations and police? What about Amazon’s anti-union policies and actions in a pro-union city?

Some cheered the demise of the deal. Alexandria OcasioCortez was the most visible. She said, “… a group of dedicated, everyday New Yorkers and their neighbours defeated Amazon’s corporate greed, its worker exploitation, and the power of the richest man in the world.”

“Morning Joe” is a news and talk show on MSNBC, as liberal a news network that we have. The host is Joe Scarborough. He used to be a Republican congressman. His revulsion against Trump and the ratings to be had ranting about him have moved Joe to leave his party and declare himself an independent. He surrounds himself with semi-liberals, especially his co-host Mika Brzezinski, who is now his wife. Well, they were just agog and aghast

Steven Rattner, journalist, financier, and adviser to Obama, said Ocasio-Cortez’s remark “may be the most economically ignorant statement I have ever read.” “NYC wasn’t handing cash to Amazon. It was an incentive program based on job creation, producing tax revenue. There isn’t a $3 billion pile of money that can now be spent on subways or education,” added Andrew Ross Sorkin, financial columnist for the New York Times, as he grumbled that, “There is a financial [illiteracy] epidemic in America.” Susan Del Percio, a Republican political consultant, said, “What’s shocking to me is yet once again she shows how little she understands, about not just economics, but even unemployment”. Even Mika, usually the most liberal of the lot, wanted to tell Alexandria, “You don’t know what you don’t know and you’re going to step in it if you’re not careful,” and that she should “follow some of the more successful more mature members. I would suggest Nancy Pelosi would be a great example,” picked out because she wasn’t enthusiastic about the Green New Deal. Joe, himself, went on at length to explain how Amazon’s jobs would have a multiplier effect as other business would spring up and grow to service them.

None of these impressive and very well-credentialed people seems to have done any research beyond reading the press release.

They all referred to the $150,000 jobs, or “high-paying jobs” in a general way, leaving the impression that the jobs would pay that much.

That should have been suspect. Most Amazon employees race around warehouses looking for goods, then put them in those custom Amazon boxes, with computer printed labels, then take them to the loading dock, constantly under the pressure of clocks that say they have to fill so many orders an hour. According to Glassdoor.com, Warehouse Associates make $14 an hour. If they work a 40-hour week, 50 weeks a year, that’s all of $28,000. An area manager makes $56,000. There are different levels of software engineer, receiving salaries around $110,000 and $135,000. There are a few job categories that get up in the $150,000 range or past it. However, the median income of an Amazon employee is down there with the $14 an hour folks, it’s just $28,446.

Working at UPS is probably quite similar, though a lot of their employees get to go outside and drive trucks. Their median income is nearly double Amazon’s. UPS has a union. Amazon does not and is dedicated to keeping it that way.

Median is the point that half the people are above and half below.

“Average” is a much trickier idea. A fairly standard illustration is that there are 10 people sitting in a bar. For simplicity, each has a net worth of $10,000. That means their average net worth is also $10,000. Jeff Bezos, head of Amazon strolls in. Now there are 11 people in the bar and their “average” net worth has soared to $12bn, though none of the original 10 is any richer and Jeff is not a penny poorer.

If the median Amazon salary is $28,446, how could the 25,000 new jobs at the new facility average $150,000? Would there be 100 executives making $35,100,000 each? Or 10 mega-executives making $351,000,000 each? Even if this was going to be a super-duper research and development centre full of engineers, that only gets things up to the $100,000 range. You still have to pump in one billion, two hundred fifty thousand dollars – somewhere to some people – to create an average of $150,000.

The claim of 25,000 jobs averaging $150,000 is somewhere on the sliding scale of impossible, down through extremely unlikely, to deliberately misleading.

At the same time, two other pieces of news came out.

Amazon had become the second company in America to be worth over a trillion dollars!

Amazon made $11.2bn in profit in 2018. And paid $0.0 federal income tax.

That was profit. Not revenue. Not gross. Profit. Nor was that an aberration. “From 2009 to 2018, the company earned roughly $26.5 billion in profit and paid approximately $791 million in federal taxes, for an effective federal tax rate of 3.0 percent.”

Whatever the specifics of this particular deal may have been, the idea of giving three billion dollars in incentives to a trillion-dollar company, that made an $11bn profit and paid no income tax, makes Amazon the Poster Corporation for all that’s wrong with fiscal policies. It reveals the competition between states and between localities to bring in businesses to be a race to the bottom. The idea that citizens should pay companies for jobs, instead of businesses paying the community for the physical and social infrastructures that make their businesses possible, is a perversion and in the long run, it’s destructive.

The opposition to the deal may have been wrong in detail. But it is right in principle.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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Ottawa transit commission hopes to prioritize COVID-19 vaccines for OC Transpo workers

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Ottawa’s transit commission is pushing local and provincial health officials to recognize the role OC Transpo operators have played in keeping the city running during the COVID-19 pandemic, hoping to bump train and bus drivers in the vaccination queue amid a recent surge in coronavirus infections affecting transit workers.

More than 100 OC Transpo staff across the entire organization have tested positive for the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, according to an update at Wednesday morning’s transit commission meeting.

Of those cases, 26 employees are currently recovering from the disease in self-isolation.

OC Transpo has seen a recent jump in COVID-19 cases, with Ottawa city council receiving reports of eight operators testing positive for the virus over a recent eight-day period.

Transit commissioner Sarah Wright-Gilbert attempted to find out how many of the total cases are traced to workplace transmission, but OC Transpo boss John Manconi said he’s been advised by medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches that he can’t share that information for privacy reasons.

Transit operators are listed in the second priority group of essential workers as part of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine sequencing plans, but several commissioners speaking Wednesday wanted to get the city’s bus and train drivers bumped higher in the order.

Councillors Riley Brockington and Glen Gower both put forward motions looking to get front-line OC Transpo employees prioritization in vaccine sequencing, but others pointed out that the much-debated public health topic of who gets the vaccine and when is well beyond the scope of the transit commission.

“We are not in a position in transit commission to be decreeing, or making an edict, about what group of essential workers is more at risk than others and should be prioritized. That should be left up to public health experts,” Wright-Gilbert said.

Knoxdale-Merivale Coun. Keith Egli, who also chairs the Ottawa Board of Health, reflected on the board’s four-plus-hour meeting on Monday evening, during which vaccine sequencing and prioritizing essential workers dominated the conversation.

“Vaccine sequencing is obviously a very difficult maze to get through,” he said.

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COVID-19: Ottawa police announce end of 24-7 presence at Ontario-Quebec border

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Less than two days after the Ontario government’s latest COVID-19 restrictions came into effect, calling for non-essential traffic to be stopped at the province’s borders with Quebec and Manitoba, the Ottawa Police Service has announced it is stopping its 24-hour checkpoints.

According to a statement issued by the service Tuesday evening, the around-the-clock border checkpoints were set to end as of 8 p.m. on Tuesday in favour of rotating checkpoints across the city throughout the day until Ontario’s temporary regulations end.

“Since the onset of the border operations, the OPS has been working closely with Ottawa Public Health (OPH) along with local stakeholders and interprovincial stakeholders (the City of Ottawa, the City of Gatineau, the Ontario Provincial Police etc.) to assess any local public health, traffic and safety impacts. The assessment resulted in today’s operational changes,” the statement said.

“The operational changes announced today are designed to better ensure the health and safety of all, to minimize delays and/or hazards for travellers and to ensure essential workers can get to their places of employment on time.”

The statement also said the police service, while working to comply with the provincial order, was focused on education and enforcement actions that “support improved public health outcomes and respect the concerns of our most marginalized and racialized communities”

Officers said they will be conducting daily assessments on border crossings and that there could be further changes.

In a statement to Global News, a spokesperson for Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said that the border closures are ultimately subject to the discretion of local police enforcing the regulations.

“Local police services are best positioned to determine the operational deployments necessary to ensure the continued safety of their communities,” the spokesperson said, noting that the order’s regulations still apply to individuals entering the province.

The temporary order restricts Quebec residents from entering Ontario. If prompted, individuals must stop when directed by an enforcement officials and provide their reason for entering the province.

The main exemptions to the restrictions include if the person’s main home is in the province, if they work in Ontario, if they’re transporting goods, if they’re exercising Indigenous or treaty rights, if they need health care or if there’s a basis on compassionate grounds.

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COVID-19 vaccines in Ottawa: Nearly half of all residents in their 60s have at least one dose

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OTTAWA — Ottawa Public Health’s latest COVID-19 vaccination update shows that nearly half of all residents 60 to 69 years old have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, a figure that has all but doubled in the past week.

OPH’s COVID-19 vaccination dashboard shows 58,000 residents 60 to 69 have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, accounting for 49.3 per cent of that age group’s population in Ottawa. Last Wednesday, OPH reported 30,000 residents 60 to 69 had had at least one dose, which was 25.4 per cent.

As age demographics get younger, the population grows larger and the coverage by percentage may appear to grow more slowly, even if clinics are vaccinating greater numbers of people. For example, the latest figures show that 83 per cent of people aged 70 to 79 have had at least one dose. By raw population that’s 60,000 people, only slightly higher than half of all people in their 60s.

Vaccinations are open through the Ontario portal to anyone 60 and older and, this week, the AstraZeneca vaccine was approved for administration at pharmacies and primary care clinics to anyone in Ontario 40 and older.

OPH reported a new shipment this week of 25,740 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. To date, Ottawa has received 305,130 doses of COVID-19 vaccines from the provincial government.

The number of eligible residents (i.e. 16 and older) with at least one dose of a vaccine is now up to 28 per cent.

Tuesday was Ottawa’s second-busiest day for vaccinations overall, with the OPH reporting 9,729 shots administered. Last Friday saw 9,887 shots administered in a single day.

QUICK STATS

  • Ottawa residents with at least one dose: 248,668
  • Ottawa residents with two doses: 26,722
  • Percent of eligible population (residents 16 and older) with at least one dose: 28 per cent
  • Percent of eligible population (residents 16 and older) with two doses: 3 per cent
  • Percent of total population with at least one dose: 24 per cent
  • Percent of total population with two doses: 3 per cent

VACCINATION COVERAGE BY AGE FOR OTTAWA RESIDENTS WITH AT LEAST ONE DOSE

  • 10-19: 1.6 per cent (1,804 people)
  • 20-29: 8.3 per cent (13,452 people)
  • 30-39: 9.5 per cent (14,999 people)
  • 40-49: 12.9 per cent (17,350 people)
  • 50-59: 28.8 per cent (40,320 people)
  • 60-69: 49.3 per cent (58,627 people)
  • 70-79: 82.9 per cent (62,808 people)
  • 80-89: 87.5 per cent (29,358 people)
  • 90+: 89.2 per cent (7,893 people)
  • Unknown age: 2,057 people 

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