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November 06, 2017

WATCH: John Oliver warns against cities using tax incentives to lure Amazon's HQ2

'Last Week Tonight' host pokes fun at New York, Birmingham and tiny Georgia town, but Philly spared comedian's wit

With hundreds of proposals submitted to Amazon by hopeful cities wishing to claim the Internet giant’s second headquarters as their own, there has been  no shortage of shameless tactics employed to woo the company – or obscenely lucrative tax-break offerings.

HBO’s John Oliver recognized this, poking fun at cities seemingly obsessed with getting the headquarters and the promise of all the jobs it could bring.

Oliver calls out New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio for lighting up the Empire State Building in so-called “Amazon orange,” Birmingham for scattering gigantic Amazon boxes around its parks, and Georgia for offering to re-name an entire city to Amazon, GA.

Economically speaking, Oliver delves into what Amazon actually cares about in selecting its next city: tax incentives. In New Jersey, Oliver notes, $7 billion in state tax breaks for Amazon are on the table.

Though Philly and it's Amazon pitch avoided Oliver's pointed ridicule (at least this time around), we know that the Amazon bid process did cost the city a pretty penny. According to a report from Philadelphia Weekly, the price tag attached to the bidding war cost the city $245,000, plus $85,000 in advertisements from Visit Philly that ran in Seattle, where Amazon is headquartered.

Though Mayor Jim Kenney did not discuss tax incentives during Philadelphia’s formal proposal unveiling last month,  some reports say the state of Pennsylvania will offer Amazon $1 billion in tax incentives if the company sets up shop here.

“I know that accounting for the total economic impact of anything is tricky, but we are gambling billions of dollars on little more than faith,” Oliver said. Despite the promise of jobs that tax incentives could bring, Oliver points out many studies and nationwide cases where that logic is failing. 

Watch the full clip below.