Cyber-security: hybrid threat underestimated, United States and Europe still lagging behind

In a recent interview on the current state of affairs in the field of cyber-security, Pentagon’s consultant Michael Bayer stated that these are times of “declared cyber war” and that, at the moment, the United States is “losing that war”. Although the US cybernetic systems are capable of projecting beyond their virtual space and adapting to threats generated by Russia and China, at the level of information security they are, in fact, quite defenseless. Whether it is the case of a direct attack on the mainframe of a specific Pentagon contractor or the diffusion of fake news on the main social media, Security Info Watch explains, the United States (and its allied countries, it should be added) is far behind in developing specific countermeasures and, above all, in acquiring the maturity, in terms of political support and leadership, that such a threat would require. In this regard, South Dakota Senator Mike Rounds, chairman of the Senate Subcommittee Armed Services on Cybersecurity, has argued that there is still a long way to go.
Too many obstacles stand in the way of a full awareness of the cyber threat: bureaucratic elephantiasis, monopoly of the traditional military apparatus, inability to fully understand the cultural context in which the new strategic dimension represented by virtual space is born and operates.
On this last point, the opinion of Mike Gallagher, member of the House of Representatives for the State of Wisconsin and co-chairman of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission, must be analyzed. Gallagher argues that “Ultimately our success or failure in cyber will come down not to algorithms or technology but to human beings”.  It will be up to the individual user to play a leading role in this new geopolitical scenario. Not by chance, in 2014 alleged Chinese sources attempted (and succeeded) in hacking more than twenty-two million employees’ accounts of various American federal agencies, gaining full access to health, family and economic information.
Such information can be the best source of access to the main government databases.
Even Pentagon authorities had to admit that the main attacks conducted against the computer network of the Department of Defense of the United States of America have been carried out exploiting low severity vulnerabilities, such as improper use of passwords, erroneous disabling of firewalls in specific server rooms, infected USB keys and the non-use of encryption systems.
In other words, it is the cyber culture that is missing, not the tools to conduct the cyber war or to implement cyber security. The US government, last April, complained that there are more than 310,000 vacancies in the field of domestic cyber-security and that in the government structures there is a lack of advanced IT personnel. There is an underlying economic motivation: highly qualified workers, with a precise computer background, are more easily hired in private companies in Silicon Valley, where there is a higher economic reward and greater freedom to act and to build a career.
Rather than focusing the public debate on the spectacularization of ransomware, malware infiltration and attacks on specific public institutions, then, perhaps the time has come to bring to the attention of individuals the need to create computer awareness. Is this not the greatest strategic weakness? Despite a renewed interest on the part of the Trump administration in cyber matters, there are still too many obstacles to the equalization of the virtual dimension with the different traditional geopolitical dimensions. By way of illustration, the US government’s budget for fiscal year 2020 provides for only 2% of the total resources to be dedicated to the costs of implementing and improving the cybernetic sector; conventional weapon systems seem to still be the main focus, almost as if the collective opinion was convinced that there is a greater possibility of territorial

Stefano Ricci

*The author is currently working as a data analyst for a major Italian import-export company and as a freelance cyber-security analyst. In the field of cyber studies, he is also author of the book Cyber-Warfare – Towards a New Strategic Paradigm

** A version of this article was originally published on the Italian website Vision & Global Trends

Facebook above the regulations: potentially ineffective fine

According to the Financial Times Facebook may be fined up to 5bn by the US Federal Trade Commission resulting from an ongoing investigation related to privacy violation. The FT reports such fine could be a record and ‘the largest civil penalty ever imposed by regulators’.

Although a fine of $5bn may appear high, it also may be totally ineffective and small compared to the magnitude of Facebook’s finances. In 2018 (fiscal year) Facebook reported Revenuefor $55.8bn, net income $22.1bn, cash $41.1bn, total asset $97.3bn.
The potential fine, is equivalent to about 22.6% of its net income and 12.1% of its cash. If we consider:

  • the exceptional circumstances of the current investigation
  • the impact that the investigation may have on privacy and data management
  • how unusual such type of investigations are the revenues generated through the breach of regulations

we may say that

  • even the largest fine ($5bn) may be ineffective
  • there would be no adequate incentive for FB not to act against regulations anymore
  • Facebook`s (and large corporates) size and influence may raise to an even more concerning level

Regulations seem to be ineffective for Facebook and large corporations that have significant influence on regulators that monitor them, Senator Elizabeth Warren explained in 2014. Furthermore, she ‘reiterated President Theodore Roosevelt’s warningsregarding powerful corporate entities that threatened the “very foundations of Democracy”’.

Also Adam Smith was critical to some aspects of corporate activity. In his famous book the Wealth of Nations, the “bible” of capitalism, he described corporations as working to evade the laws of the market, trying to interfere with prices and controlling trade etc.

Big corporations and big government go hand-in-hand. Washington Examiner writer Timothy Carney states that“as the federal government has progressively become larger over the decades, every significant introduction of government regulation, taxation, and spending has been to the benefit of some big business.”

Zeno Leoni
Teaching Fellow
Defence Studies Department
@MultipolarOrder

Is the US economic development really unfair?

President Trump’s policies diverge from the ones put in place by Obama over the decade before. And, even though Trump is being criticised in the media all over the world for the turn of this divergence, a critical analysis rarely underlies such opinions. So, is the president actually allowing a US development that is unfair? Before answering this question, the characteristics of the US economic development need to be defined. Firstly, protectionism and low-immigration policies are a major feature. With the rise of tariffs to stop other countries from “taking advantage the US”, and the quasi propaganda and measures against Mexicans, making business in the US has been made harder for foreigners. Secondly, the darkening of relations with trade partners is another defining characteristic,which could shape the US development even after Trump’s presidency. Even though the situation is getting better with the talks of a trade agreement with China, the US president keeps representing his country as one that is disappointed by its historical trade partners. Thirdly, within the US, the Trump administration has put a stop on federal job creation. The government steps back internally to leave place to private endeavours. The final feature is the low constraint on internal job and business creation which,combined with low taxes for the rich, provides important incentives for agents to start new economic activities. Judging all of this to be fair or unfair depends on one’s definition of fairness. Using Aristotle’s simple classification, one that sticks to the view that justice is in place when every agent receives equal part would certainly not judge the US economic development as fair. If anything, the US is developing unequally under Trump: the richest have been more better off than the poorest, from observation of the income evolution over the period.However, one who sticks to the definition of distributive justice, that everyone in society should receive a part which is proportional to their effort, could judge it fair. Indeed, with low internal constraints on job creation and relatively low taxes for high income earners, domestic agents can be the object of redistributive justice. The last definition of fairness by Aristotle, stating that corrective justice is one that allows more to be given to the poorer than to the richer, does not deeply characterise the US economic development. With a tax system that allows centi-billionaires, a weak health system, some of the world most expensive university tuitions, the US would not really fit in this last definition. Hence, the judgment put on the US development under Trump effectively depends on one’s viewpoint. There is no such thing as one truth correctly revendicated by a biased journal.

Matthieu T. Duchesne
Department of Political Economy, King’s College London
matthieu.duchesne@kcl.ac.uk
@matthieudcn

Aid policy plays politics

In March 2019, the current US president continued to wield aid policy to play politics with his supporters in government and his voter base. He expanded the Global Gag Rule (GGR), otherwise known as the Mexico City Policy, to further block funding to organisations that sub-grant to other organisations that provide abortion healthcare.
Under Bush and Reagan, the GGR barred funding of approximately USD 600 million to organisations which provide abortion healthcare. Under this administration in January 2017, the GGR expanded to bar USD 9.5 billion in funds to those same organisations. Now, this administration goes one step further to bar funds to third party organisations that indirectly support abortion healthcare providers.
Aid money has long been a mechanism for international relations, diplomacy, defence and negotiating tactics, principally engineered to benefit the donor state above all. It is about exuding power and influence over recipient states to maintain a traditional international status quo. Not to say that aid money doesn’t work – sometimes it does, if it is given with results-based disbursement policies, to NGOs instead of to governments, or to grassroots organisations rather than expatriate staff.
The GGR is an interesting case to pick apart aid policy and power politics in two ways. First, some Republicans are single issue voters on abortion. Second, never has any aid policy done so much damage to human life.
This administration’s GGR is essentially an exercise in massive domestic pork-barrelling. The state knows it has a base of voters that do not support any Republican policy except anti-abortion policy. Therefore, the more noise it makes about ending abortion, the harder it grips onto thissingleissue voter’s ideology. By expanding the GGR, the state can profess to ending access to USD 9.5 billion for abortion healthcare providers – thus, of course, ending abortion. For the most part, this isnot true.
Even without the GGR in any context, US aid funds cannot be designated to abortion healthcaredue to the Kemp-Kasten amendment. So, a generic healthcare provider may designate US funds to HIV and youth health campaigns, while offering abortion healthcare through, for example, EU funds. This is the first woolly blanket to pull away from single issue voters. US aid money never went to abortions anyway.
Moreover, by cutting funding to healthcare providers who offer abortion, this US president has not ended abortion. Instead, he has ended access to essential HIV testing and treatment for 32 million people worldwide. He has forced the closure of massive numbers of clinics and health facilities across the world. He has ended capacity building programmes to help community health workers in the most rural and hard to reach areas from gaining valuable skills in condom and contraceptive distribution. Some health providers affiliated with International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) lost half of their annual funding.
Despite not actually funding abortion, the GGR still has catastrophic effects on abortion healthcare access. By forcing clinics to close, women no longer have safe and legal access to abortion. To end unintended pregnancies, they are given no choice but to turn to unsafe methods, risking permanent injury or death. IPPF and Marie Stopes estimate that nearly 300 million women will be forced to seek out unsafe abortion. This is catastrophic damage to human health and prosperity. All in the name of aid policy playing politics.
But, in their political interests, Republican administrations will never actually end abortion. If they did, it would end their powerful hold over single issue voters.

Antoinette Hage
MA Political Economy,
Department of Political Economy,
King’s College London
antoinette.hage@kcl.ac.uk

Great Recession / We are still not prepared for the next financial crisis

According to the International Monetary Fund, as reported in a recent article on the FT (https://www.ft.com/content/2d2c31b2-5532-11e9-a3db-1fe89bedc16e), many economies are not resilient enough. Christine Lagarde adds that high public debt and low interest rates have left limited room in the eventuality of another downturn. As the global economy is in a delicate state, the IMF is concerned with the high debt of several countries.

Monetary policies may not provide sufficient stimulus. Unfortunately, after the 2008 Financial Crisis governments may have not created enough fiscal space that could give room for actions during slumps. In theory, during periods of growth governments tend to `recover` from the bad times, however after the Great Recession, governments did not do so.
The IMF’s perspective considers the important concept of `economic cycle` that can be defined according to Investopedia.com as `the natural fluctuation of the economy between periods of expansion (growth) and contraction (recession)’. In simple terms, this means that the economy can`t always grow therefore periods of growth alternate periods of recession. The length of the economic cycle may be set approximately between 5-7 years.

Zeno Leoni
Defence Studies Department
@MultipolarOrder

What “international standards”? Huawei ban, US-China industrial competition and the hegemonic test*

5G is the upcoming new network of wireless technology, a more powerful and efficient broadband compared to 4G. At the moment, the most refined of this kind of technology is owned by Chinese companies – Huawei. This is the cause of several security concerns.
The Internet is becoming a world economy infrastructure with the Internet of things (IoT),  and everything from smart cities to hologram calls will run through 5G. This means that control of this new space is going to intersect with geopolitical wrestling between great powers. Currently, there is a broad opposition to the adoption of a China-led 5G with the widespread concern that Beijing will be able to gather great quantities of data or attack Western public infrastructures. The US has convinced Japan, Australia and New Zealand not to buy Huawei technology.

To what extent, however, the thesis of the “China threat” is justified? And what does this mean for American world hegemony?

To understand the rhetoric of the “China threat” thesis one has to go back to the fundamentals of American hegemony. The historical uniqueness of the US imperial experience is that rather than occupying and alienating countries, it managed to create a global sphere of influence – an oxymoron to 19th century geopolitical thinkers. This means, a sphere of influence allegedly dethatched from any territorial formation, within which the United States claims to pursue an international interest: that is, the interest of all.
Because the US was very successful at doing this, if Washington, D.C. argues that a China-led 5G does not respect the “international standards”, many governments agree with that.
However, rather than being a matter of standards this is a matter of industrial policy and geopolitical competition to the extent that those international standards – free-market, peace, and democracy – have historically favoured the competitive American economy.
As China is catching up on I.T., robotics, and other technologies – those technologies that allow the US to keep its hegemonic edge – the US is logically flexing its diplomatic muscles. However, this article’s author do not find the China “threat thesis” credible since there is plenty of evidence about the dangers of using Facebook, Google, and other online platforms. Because these are not directly funded by the American government, there is a tendency to perceive them as independent and benevolent, contrarily to Huawei. But substantially the these monopolistic actors play the same game for their respective governments.

The second issue that is worth highlighting is that the US opposition to 5G is a crucial test for Washington, D.C. international hegemony. According to The Washington Post, the US strategy to dissuade a Chinese 5G “is facing a chilly reception among European allies”. In particular, while everyone is aware that there is a degree of risk in adopting 5G, European allies believe that this risk can be contained. This could be seen, for instance, in the UK. As reported by The Guardian, the “National Cyber Security Centre” has stated that the security risk is “manageable”. The Washington Post instead revealed that in February only “in defiance of the U.S. warnings, carriers [companies] in at least six countries, including U.S. allies Iceland, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, entered 5G partnerships with Huawei”. Germany is at the forefront of this opposition as its government considered the Huawei ban “legally impossible”.
Given that the current world order is facing a historical transition of systemic magnitude, the opposition of European allies signals the increasing difficulty for the United States to keep together the Atlantic front. Its main rival, China, has become an indispensable economic partner for many Western countries. But the number of countries facing the dilemma of moving economically closer to Beijing while maintaining the military ties with the US is much higher than that. Only the time will tell how such a tension will be resolved.

Zeno Leoni
Teaching Fellow
Defence Studies Department
@MultipolarOrder

*Article originally published for the website Vision & Global Trends

POVERTY&TRADE / Reducing extreme poverty in the US: what if Trump’s protectionism was the solution?

Being in extreme poverty is characterised by having less than $1.25 to live every day, according to the World Bank. However, there are many ways to define it. Still, in their 2014 paper, Shaefer and Edin reveal that, by appreciating extreme poverty in different manners, it results that this condition has been rising in the U.S. over the past fifteen years.
For recall, the two U.S. presidents having run the country over the first one and half decade of the 21st century, Bush and Obama, were overall pro-free trade. So, what if Trump’s protectionism was the solution to the problem? His policies are destined to protect the U.S. economy against competition from other countries. The purpose of such measures is to develop the domestic industry. Indeed, because national producers face less competitors, they can more easily develop their activity. Also, the incentives to start new businesses are increased inside of the borders. A conclusion of this is an increase in net job creation, which is observed today in the U.S. So, can protectionism reduce extreme poverty? In fact, even though it is a necessary condition that some sectors are protected, it is not sufficient. Indeed, those suffering from this condition are those with low or no qualification at all. They are those who can be replaced by machines the easiest. They are those who are, today, not even called unemployed but inactive. For the U.S. to reduce extreme poverty, it must not only protect its industry, but also ensure that its development is not so capital-intensive to threaten less qualified people’s status. Training and schooling solutions, easy access to the labour market, and low minimum wages therefore become crucial. Indeed, these factors would increase the incentives for an economic inclusion of the sufferers from extreme poverty. These conditions seem to be known by the Trump administration, from observation of its policy. Hence, the U.S. government is indeed treating the issue. Using the complexity policy frame, the influence of such policies on the economy will for sure impact extreme poverty. If the government provides an economic framework in which labour-intensiveness is more fostered than capital-intensiveness through the measures seen above, the emerging property should, in some measure, display a reduction in extreme poverty through employment. In the scenario in which no measure reducing the incentive for capital-intensiveness accompanies the protectionist policy, restructuration of the taxes and benefits system at their advantage could well be the last hope of those suffering from this poverty situation. It seems, however, not to be on the agenda of President Trump.

Matthieu Duchesne,
Student in Economics
Department of Political Economy
Matthieu.Duchesne@kcl.ac.uk
@matthieudcn

EVENT / “India-America Relations (1942-62): Rooted in the Liberal International Order”

The Dept of International Politics invites you to hear Dr Atul Bhardwaj discuss “India-America Relations (1942-62): Rooted in the Liberal International Order” on: Wednesday 13th March, 2019 at 5.30pm-7.00pm.  
Venue: DLG19, Rhind Building, City, UoL

The discussion will be followed by light refreshments.

All welcome, please register here

Abstract

Atul Bhardwaj discusses his  new book – India – America Relations (1942-62): Rooted in the Liberal International Order.  He will present India’s encounter with the post-war hegemon and address why America occupies limited space in India’s postcolonial historiography.  He rejects the conventional orthodoxy that assigns a limited role to America and challenges narratives which neglect the natural asymmetries and focus on discord and differences to define India-America relations. He provides a fresh perspective that indicates a deeply embedded Indo-US strategic relationship in which China looms large. He argues that both India as well as America’s reticence on the depth of their bonhomie in the Nehru era resulted from the political and strategic compulsions imposed by the arrival of communism in China.

Power asymmetries shaped the early diplomatic engagements between India and the US. The American dealings with India, in the 1940s, were guided by the compulsions of saving China from Japan and later in the 1950s by its experience of ‘loss of China’. Nehru was considered to be America’s best bet against advancing communism in Asia. However, the American establishment was careful not to weaken the nationalist forces in India by making Nehru look resemble Chiang Kai-shek, Bhardwaj argues that India’s movement towards the Soviet Union and away from China in the mid-1950s was not antithetical to American strategy focused on causing the Sino-Soviet split. He argues that both India’s support to American covert operations in Tibet and the 1962 Sino-Indian war aided the process of Sino-Soviet split. 

About the Speaker

Atul Bhardwaj is a strategic affairs scholar. He is currently Hon. Research Fellow in the Department of International Politics, City, University of London and an Adjunct Fellow, Institute of Chinese Studies (ICS), New Delhi. He writes a regular column on strategy in Economic and Political Weekly. He has a Ph.D. in history from Ambedkar University, Delhi. He is a former Indian Navy officer, holds a graduate degree from National Defence Academy (NDA) Pune and a master’s degree in War Studies from King’s College, London. He has been a Senior Fellow, Indian Council of Social Science Research and Research Fellow at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses New Delhi. He is a member editorial board of  the Maritime Affairs Journal  of the Maritime Foundation of India.

IRAN / Zarif’s resignation signals domestic frustration with the US, but it may be soon to talk of a crisis.*

While the resignation of Iran’s Minister of Foreign Affairs was not expected, it is easy to see the frustration that led to this decision. Mohammad Javad Zarif’s exclusion from a meeting in Tehran with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was only the last straw. In fact, the main reason why the position of Zarif has increasingly become an uncomfortable one is Donald Trump’s hawkish agenda towards Iran and the shredding of the Nuclear Deal.
Zarif was one of those Iranians who pushed for the Nuclear Deal but at the time he faced the attacks of hardliners, particularly from the pages of the newspaper Kayhan. While during the negotiation there was a high degree of consensus that kept the voices of hardliners low, Trump’s turncoat makes Zarif look like a fool and allows anti-American groups to become more vocal.

It is not clear, however, whether Zarif’s decision signals or will bring to a political crisis between the Rouhani presidency and the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. At the time of the deal, Khamenei had been explaining for some time that apart from Israel, there is no reason why Iran should not have friendly relationships with other countries including the United States. This was evidence that also the Supreme Leader found the Nuclear Deal somehow convincing. But if Trump’s move is perceived as cheating, this could have consequences and open a domestic debate between those advocating for more integration within the global order such as Rouhani and Iran’s entrepreneurial class, on the one hand, and the guardians of Iran’s politico-religious identity – and therefore security – such as Khamenei and the Pasdaran. While it makes sense to believe that the Pasdaran will be strengthened by this crisis, Khamenei will have to sign or not the resignation letter. Because many argue that the Supreme Leader has a positive relationship with the Zarif, he may reject the request and actually strengthen the position of the government.

The outcome of this tension will largely depend on how insistently the European Union and UK, France, Germany, and Russia – together with China – will advocate for a restoration of the agreement – while hoping that in 2020 Trump will not be re-elected. At the moment, they are urging Teheran to stick to the deal and eventually look for alternative routes to bypass Washington, D.C.’s sanctions.

Ultimately, this leads to the broader issue of world order. The current turmoil is a chance for the European bloc – in particular, the Franco-German alliance – to prove that is increasingly willing to accelerate with regard to a project of European defence. This is important in light of the post-2008 transition in American foreign policy. Both Obama and Trump in their national security strategies have indicated that in the Middle East the regional allies will have to become more responsible for their security, and this has coincided with a steep increase in armaments spending in Saudi Arabia. However, Trump’s current stance towards Iran is incoherent with the new strategy of off-shore balancing. This may be explained by the need for Trump to create a scarecrow and to make the Israel lobby happy, although Washington, D.C. will monitor the increasing cooperation between Moscow, Teheran and Beijing.

*Article originally appeared on www.vision.gt-r.eu

Zeno Leoni
Teaching Fellow
Defence Studies Department
Lau China Institute
@MultipolarOrder

AMAZON / The Withdrawal of HQ2 from New York Proves the Entrepreneurial City is Still Alive and Well

In an episode of HBO’s Silicon Valley, ‘Hooli’ CEO Gavin Belson heads to North Carolina to celebrate the opening of a new factory. He delivers a not-so-rousing speech to a job-hungry community just before presenting a list of impossible demands to the local mayor. The absurdity of the situation would be hilarious if it didn’t feel so true to life.

Watching the cringe-worthy procession of city bids for Amazon’s HQ2 was painful. It was hailed by Slate as a ‘pageant of civic debasement’, a humiliating display of just how low local authorities will bow before the power of corporations. So the public outcry against Amazon’s HQ2 in Long Island City and their subsequent withdrawal feels almost like a reclamation of some semblance of public dignity. To see grass-roots organizations and local councils stand up to the richest and most powerful company in the world and win? Finally.

It’s almost enough to hope that this indicates a change – that the era of the city as ‘growth machine’ is coming to an end.Undoubtedly, it reveals a growing rift within the Democratic party between the socialist leanings of Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders and the pro-business predilections of the majority of the Democrat establishment that will surely be a point of contention in the 2020 primaries. At the very least, the airing of shows like Silicon Valley and John’s Oliver’s indictment of public subsidies seems to indicate a growing public awareness of the expectations placed on city governments to pave the way for business at the expense of public services.

However, it would be easier to believe the tide was turning if the situation in New York hadn’t ended like it did – with Amazon’s departure. The best outcome for New York would have been for Amazon to stay but without the $3 billion in government subsidies and with a concession to agree to work with local labor unions. Instead, they left. And rather than stating plainly that they were leaving because they didn’t want to pay taxes or allow employees to unionize, they placed the blame firmly at the feet of local councils who were unwilling to “work with us to build the type of relationships that are required to go forward.”

So, while perhaps the ‘growth machine’ ethos may be flagging among leftist progressives, we are still living with what David Harvey described as ‘entrepreneurial urban governance’ where cities are required to do whatever it takes to lure capital into town because they are competing with every other town in the global marketplace for jobs and a tax base. The competition for Amazon HQ2 is entrepreneurial governance alive and well. This is not to say that new capital is inherently bad for cities. But Harvey warns that unabated urban entrepreneurialism can mask serious social and economic problems in cities behind the veneer of ‘economic development.’

The only reason New York was able to push back was because it had the luxury to do so – it didn’t really need Amazon. Instead, Virginia struggling to come back from the loss of thousands of government jobs and signed over $750 million in state subsidies, $23 million in local subsidies, and $195 million invested in infrastructure developments. Urban competition is a fight to the bottom for city governments and, unless corporations want to start paying for their employees’ trash collection, is unsustainable. Any real solution which would require companies to start playing fairly would have to apply to every city everywhere at the same time.

There is, however, a victory to be celebrated. By challenging Amazon’s patronizing promises to ‘work with the community’ and ‘develop positive partnership’, councils and grassroots groups forced Amazon to show their true colors. It is difficult to work with a community when your labor practices are so reputably terrible and to develop positive partnerships when your idea of a partnership is to hold a city hostage.

Spokeswoman Jodi Seth said: “We’re focused on engaging with our new neighbors….Whether it’s building a pipeline of local jobs through workforce training or funding computer science classes for thousands of New York City students, we are working hard to demonstrate what kind of neighbor we will be.”

These promises are hard to get excited about for two reason. First, as Rutger Bregman called out at Davos, the idea that billionaires and huge companies are allowed to avoid paying taxes by acting like philanthropists is unfair and delusional. Second, of course Amazon wouldn’t mind plugging money into programs that build their labor pipeline. Unless Bezos offers to pour the same amount of money into fixing New York’s desperate subway system, it’s difficult to see Amazon as a good neighbor. 

Overall, public awareness (and outrage) seems to be growing at the idea that local governments should subsidize the largest companies in the world. Gianaris was right when he said “we are dealing with an era of unprecedented corporate power in this country. This Amazon deal represents a tipping point that is going to set the stage for what this country is going to be going forward.” While the situation may not have turned out perfectly, it’s not too much to hope that if New York starts sticking up for itself, soon other cities might start as well.

Stephanie Walton
MSc Sustainable Cities
Department of Geography
stephanie.walton@kcl.ac.uk