Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Here we go again...

So a watered-down version of the online retail sales tax bill did pass in Colorado. This bill required Amazon, among others, to ask its in-state affiliates to report and pay sales tax. Note: Amazon itself does NOT have to pay a dime. However, even this toe-in-the-water version of the bill was enough to have Amazon remove itself in a huff from Colorado, leaving its affiliates high and dry with no warning whatsoever.
I am sorry for the affiliates who had the rug yanked out from under them. I find Amazon's actions to be greedy and selfish. Amazon does have a history of doing a scorched earth policy during disagreements with publishers, so I guess I'm not surprised.
When I visit our newspaper online forums, I see many posters who are pretty libertarian/anarchist in their views, at least from the comfort of their homes. They are against ANY taxes, ANY government, and feel it's every man for himself. I find this point of view to be laughable, immature, selfish, and sad. These people are welcome to go off the grid, make their own power, cut themselves off from roads, grow their own food, weave their own clothes,and educate their poor children in the privacy of their own homes, I suppose.
But it does make me sad. The customers who come to our store come because they want to be part of a community, and understand that doing business with us helps us to remain a center for readers, writers, and anyone who wants to hang out with books. You can't browse aimlessly on Amazon. You can't pick up an unexpected find and walk out with a treasure. You can't talk to staff who will give you honest opinions about what NOT to buy, if it comes to that. You can't get authors like Sandi Ault, C.J. Box, and Margaret Coel to come and talk to you in person, smile at you, and sign your book.
Communities understand that society benefits from schools, roads, police, parks, and arts and culture. These things are all worth something, and everyone pays their share.
Some of our staff have spent time in countries that don't have the benefit of stable government or help for those in need. If you look at the Indian slums, sub-Saharan African civil wars, or post-earthquake Haiti, you can see what happens if there is no government or leadership.
Distrust of government and anti-tax cries have become the rallying point of those who are short-sighted enough not to see where this could end. Sure, there's government waste. There's waste in private companies too, that never account to share-holders. Inefficiency is part of the human condition, just like entropy. We still need someone to be there to fight fires, teach kids, and care for our natural resources.
I guess this is really just a long way of saying: look, I pay my taxes. Gladly. I know what we get from them, and don't begrudge the money for needed work and help to the needy. Amazon is not Robin Hood- quite the opposite. They deserve boos, not cheers, for abandoning their affiliates.
And thank you all, who choose to spend here when you could get it cheaper somewhere else (at least short-term; we have incentive programs that do give you money back). We're glad you're here and will do our best to earn your money.

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