The exchange began Friday when Biden tweeted, without directly referring to Amazon: “You want to bring down inflation? Let’s make sure the wealthiest corporations pay their fair share.”
Bezos responded to Biden’s tweet by accusing him of “misdirection,” arguing that there’s no link between inflation and corporate taxes. Bezos wrote: “Raising corp taxes is fine to discuss. Taming inflation is critical to discuss. Mushing them together is just misdirection.”
Consumer inflation rose at a hotter-than-expected 8.3% pace in April, more than the 8.1% Dow Jones estimate and near the highest level in more than 40 years.
Bezos further criticized the Biden administration’s approach to inflation in a tweet Sunday. He said the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which Biden signed into law last March, contributed to a spike in inflation. Bezos also asserted that inflation is most harmful to the poor.
White House spokesperson Andrew Bates responded in a statement that “it doesn’t require a huge leap to figure out why” Bezos, the world’s second-wealthiest person, would oppose Biden’s proposal to hike taxes on the ultra-wealthy and corporations.
“It’s also unsurprising that this tweet comes after the President met with labor organizers, including Amazon employees,” Bates said in a statement.
Bezos responded to the White House’s statement in a tweet, accusing the Biden administration of trying to “muddy the topic.”
“They know inflation hurts the neediest the most,” Bezos wrote. “But unions aren’t causing inflation and neither are wealthy people.”
Earlier this month, Biden appeared at a meeting with labor organizers, including Chris Smalls, the president of Amazon Labor Union, a grassroots group that in April succeeded in organizing an Amazon warehouse on New York’s Staten Island, marking the e-commerce company’s first union in the U.S.
The Twitter spat represents Bezos and Biden’s first public clash. Bezos was a frequent target of former President Donald Trump during his time in office. Trump criticized Amazon for its use of the U.S. Postal Service, and falsely claimed that The Washington Post, which is owned by Bezos, is a “lobbyist” for the online retail giant.
While Biden didn’t call out Amazon specifically in his tweet Friday, he has repeatedly criticized the company’s tax history. Amazon has benefited heavily from tax credits and deductions, and the company paid no federal income taxes in 2017 and 2018. Bezos, who stepped down as Amazon CEO last year, has also become a recurring target in Democrats’ discussions of wealth inequality in the U.S., given his immense fortune.
Biden also recently voiced support for unionization efforts at Amazon. During an address at a trade union national conference, he appeared to boost attempts to organize Amazon warehouses, remarking: “The choice to join a union belongs to workers alone. By the way, Amazon, here we come.”