Dear Mr. Bezos: Have I got a deal for you
Dear Mr. Bezos: Jeff (If I may),
I write to you not only as an employee of the Amazon Washington Post but also as one of your most faithful customers. I currently spend 110 percent of my salary on Amazon and all of my retirement savings. In the past week alone Amazon boxes have arrived on my doorstep containing everything from a New York Mets baby bib to a large inflatable spider, from Pokémon cards to prosthetic body parts (for Halloween, I promise). I am now browsing for kombucha by the case and an electric pole saw.
I mention my loyalty so you trust me when I say: HQ2 must be in Washington. This is not to take away from the offer by Stonecrest, Ga., to rename part of its city "Amazon," nor the sandwiches Pittsburgh offered nor the cactus sent by Tucson. But that's not as generous as what we can offer you for HQ2: Amazon can have Washington -- all of it.
I'm not talking about the 75 percent under the jurisdiction of the District of Columbia, known for its world-leading production of parking tickets. On offer is the 25 percent of Washington controlled by the federal government -- 9,683 acres, to be exact. Under the Trump administration, federal Washington has ceased to function. It would be much more productive if it were turned over to Amazon.
Your proposal suggests that "an urban or downtown campus" might be desirable. As the new owner of the Mall, you would find your headquarters conveniently located in a place that hosted the largest audience ever to witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe.
Locating HQ2 in Washington would immediately give you the most overeducated and underemployed workforce in the world: the 535 members of the U.S. Congress. They barely work two days a week, and in the past 10 months have produced nothing of importance. They would be better used writing product descriptions, processing orders, etc., for Amazon. I only suggest that you don't put them in charge of finances.
The nine justices of the Supreme Court, likewise, have abundant free time to help out at HQ2. In recent years they have taken on only half as many cases as they did a few decades ago, and they vacation from late June until October. That leaves them plenty of time to handle returns and complaints for Amazon.
The Trump administration has essentially halted the functions of a large swath of the government: the Environmental Protection Agency, the Education Department, the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, most of the State Department, the Office of Government Ethics and anything at the Energy Department that mentions "science." This has idled tens of thousands of the best brains in America -- all at your service. And because you are interested in drones, you should know the government employs thousands of them, too.
Everywhere you turn there is available talent. The Washington Nationals are consistently available after the first round of the baseball playoffs. Thousands of skilled journalists are biding their time writing about the latest tweet from the president.
The president! I almost forgot. President Trump spends much of his time visiting Trump properties -- he was quoted but denies calling the White House a "real dump" -- and even when he is in town spends much of the day watching Fox News. Nobody will get in your way if you run Amazon from the White House.
Above all, Washington offers something none of our 237 competitors does: You can buy it -- cheap! You mention employing as many as 50,000 people with total compensation averaging more than $100,000. But in Washington, that same $5 billion can buy you much more than workers. A few years ago, the Sunlight Foundation found that $5.8 billion spent by corporations on lobbying and campaign contributions earned them $4.4 trillion in federal business and support -- a return on investment of $759 for every dollar spent.
If you use $5 billion to "buy" Washington instead of hiring workers, you can expect a return of about $3.8 trillion -- nearly 10 times Amazon's market value and about the size of the federal budget. With that wad, you'd have no problem eliminating all taxes on anything Amazon sells or does, turning over NASA to Amazon, and giving Amazon drones priority over all commercial and military aviation. You'd end up with enough money to build HQ2, HQ3 and HQ4.
Other cities may be open for business, but only Washington can be purchased as easily as a case of kombucha. Buy now with "1-click."
Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter, @Milbank.
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