With Amazon's mistreatment of workers at its subsidiaries and subcontractors once again occupying space in the headlines (thanks in no small part to the efforts of Sen. Bernie Sanders and his Stop BEZOS act), Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is leveraging his immense wealth to try and whitewash his reputation as a ruthless - and the world's wealthiest - capitalist with some good-old-fashioned philanthropy.
After soliciting suggestions for his first charitable initiative last year, Bezos on Thrusday unveiled the "Bezos Day One Families Fund" and "Bezos Day One Academies Fund". Both initiatives will be overseen by an entity that Bezos is calling the "Bezos Day One Fund," which he will seed with $2 billion from his personal fortune. The funds will out grants to organizations focused on helping the homeless, while also "creating a network of new, non-profit, tier-one preschools in low-income communities."
The fund's vision statement - "no child sleeps outside" - comes from the charity Mary's Place in Seattle, according to Bloomberg.
Adding a dash of irony to the statement, Bezos vowed to use "the same set of principles that have driven Amazon" to ensure his charity's success. Indeed, at Bezos funded preschools, "the child will be the customer."
As Bloomberg points out, before the launch of Day One, Bezos had been a nonentity in the world of philanthropy. Even his Bezos Family Foundation was started largely with wealth accrued by his parents, who were early investors in Amazon.
Until now, Bezos has made only small initial steps into giving. The Bezos Family Foundation, which is best known for its support of children’s education, has been largely funded by his parents from Amazon holdings they acquired as early investors in their son’s enterprise. Outside of that, Bezos and his family’s known donations have included gifts to Princeton University and Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy.
To be sure, Amazon has launched programs to help the homeless in Seattle, recently renovating a vacant building to serve as a homeless shelter. But these efforts have, at best, merely offset the bump in homelessness that Amazon's headquarters has inadvertently caused by drawing tens of thousands of well-paid corporate workers to the city. What's worse, the company also successfully pressured the city council to repeal an employee head tax earlier this year that would have been used to fund programs for the homeless.
And while we'd like to believe that Bezos' intentions in launching this effort are nothing but pure, it's worth considering that Amazon Web Services is presently jockying for an immensely lucrative contract to convert the Pentagon's IT infrastructure to the cloud. That contract could be worth as much as $10 billion over as many years.
On Twitter, Michael Krieger put it best...
Jeff Bezos is getting into preschools to help kids to the same extent he got into the Washington Post to help news.— Michael Krieger (@LibertyBlitz) September 13, 2018