Damn Right Amazon Runs a Fucking Deficit and So Should America
You've heard of Amazon, right? Twitter? Google? Basically every major tech-powered industry in America that politicians now point to when they talk about American ingenuity, innovation and progress?
You know the other thing most of these companies have in common?
Technically, all of these companies run deficits. They do not balance their budgets. Sure, they generate a ton of revenue but they don't actually make a profit. They constantly run in the red.
Because they are trying to enterprise.
To put this very simply, they are quite literally banking on the presumption that they will come up with new things people will want the longer they stay alive. That they can roll the ball up the hill indefinitely.
All venture capital is based off convincing someone you can keep the ball of enterprise rolling so eventually my gamble to trade you capital in exchange for shares in your hopefully ever-expanding company will pay interest on my investment.
If my shares in your company remain highly valued, I don't care if you run a deficit. People will trade me capital for my shares in your company not because my shares are inherently worth anything, but because other people recognize the value of your company and are willing to pay me cash money for my percentage of it it.
At the simplest level, we are brokering in faith.
There are very, very wealthy people in America who do not care if a company is running at a loss to want to invest in that company. Their shares continue to accumulate value so long as faith is maintained.
Does it sound like kumbaya bullshit?
Because it is at some level.
Sure, there's more nuance that boring people who get paid lots of money to complicate this can add to this conversation but at the fundamental level this is all entrepreneurship and investing really is.
But like in terms of cash on hand, Amazon is broke. Worse than broke, even. It owes people money.
How can this be, you ask? They generate so much revenue!
That's absolutely true. They generate an absurd amount of revenue.
So why are they broke?
Because not only does Amazon cannibalize profit into self-investment instead of paying out dividends, they also borrow even more money on top of that to keep going.
Now, Amazon, as a company could fire like 90% of its staff tomorrow, dispense with all its R&D, and undoubtedly run a huge profit. Massive. Honestly, if they were to actually do that, it would be a huge market upset. I cannot even imagine how ridiculous an economic event Amazon suddenly deciding to adopt corporate austerity to pay out dividends would be.
But they won't.
Because they aren't stupid.
Figuring out how to get Amazon to make money is not the hard part here. I mean everyone knows how it makes money.
But if they were to try to make profit off of what they do, they would cease to be competitive. The idea of Amazon isn't an industry secret.
But people aren't investing in Amazon because it's good at delivering books and gummy bears.
Amazon invests in its own enterprise to stay competitive. If they were to try and balance their budget, it would mean cutting the lifeblood that is ensuring the only thing about themselves that people are actually invested in seeing succeed: its own future.
For Amazon to balance its budget, it would have to liquidate its long-term potential for short-term gains solely to appeal to idiots who like the sound of the phrase "balanced budget." They'd run profit for a brief window of time, making current investors a ton of money before they are invariably skullfucked by a competitor who doesn't care about balancing budgets because the idea of balancing budgets when you're trying to innovate solutions and grow as a business is absolutely stupid.
The weird thing is really stupid people think the Government, which is a nothing but the biggest public enterprise, should balance its budget because they like the sound of that. They think that the reason America is Bad is because we're running a deficit.
Or worse still, they think the reason the economy is bad is somehow related to the public deficit.
No, even conservative economists agree that the economy is bad because of a lack of regulation regarding trading derivatives that allowed a housing speculation bubble to burst. No one denies this. The public deficit has nothing to do with that market failure.
So why do stupid people want to balance the budget?
For the same reason investors who think in short-term profits want Amazon to turn a profit: they don't care about the vitality of the enterprise.
They don't care if America is skullfucked by competitors.
A lot of people say they want to elect a President who thinks like a CEO, which I think is frankly absurd because America is not a marketplace and to imagine it as being such is intellectually reductive. But years of garbage media like CNBC have people thinking business leaders know more than the rest of us about what will save us from ourselves.
LOL BUT NOT IF THEIR ONLY SOLUTION IS BALANCING THE FUCKING BUDGET.
Why? Because a President's job is to secure the union. Literally. That's in the exact job description.
There is really only a simple mission statement for the office of the President and it's don't let America die.
So you can't manage America like a startup where the board can one day decide to liquidate your assets and call it a day.
But that's basically what very rich people want America to do when they say America needs to resolve its deficit.
They have decided that there's nothing the American government can do as a public enterprise to generate value so it should jettison as much of its duties as possible via privatization, and, as Rand Paul would have it, shrink the project small enough so that he can snort it.
People like this think the private sector will do a better job of managing America's future than a democratically elected government.
But America has survived for almost 250 years.
This makes it one of the oldest and long-lasting enterprises of all time.
The American government is one of the oldest democratically elected governments in world history.
It has yet, technically, to fail.
Historically, America has always run staggering deficits in order to survive. Hell, we owe the American Revolution to the French who financed our militia and underwrote our expenses. If you want to think about Western Democracy as a startup, the French were our VCs. They believed in us that much.
And America is an enterprise. It started because some people thought it'd a worthwhile thing to do, even though no one was paying them to do it. Sure, our nation's founders were invariably independently wealthy white guys who had time to kill since most of them owned slaves, but it's not like the the industry of revolting has ever been a profitable endeavor. And the house odds in 1776 of America winning against the British Empire were not in our favor. Really, the French were morons to believe in us.
Ok, but seriously, running a deficit in and of itself is not a bad thing if your goal is enterprise. Investing assets into your future production is really smart business strategy if you want to grow and manage long-term prosperity. You create jobs that way because you're building the infrastructure for entirely new horizons. You cultivate talent that wants to stay with you because they believe in your enterprise and want to spend their time and energy helping it succeed. If you're fostering the right kind of environment, if they do leave, they want to create new enterprises that work with rather than against you.
Managing an enterprise the size of America and ensuring that it remains the envy of the free world is so hard to do that we have entire bureaucracies who do so many things a day you do not understand like make sure all the traffic lights are working.
I'm glad someone is employed by the American enterprise to do that.
I'd fuck it up.
I'm also glad people are employed by the American enterprise to teach kids how to read. I know there are private teachers who can be hired to do this, but I think the future of America rests on all kids being able to read and not just the rich ones.
And talk about the perks, I mean America has free national parks I can basically just like walk into and shit myself in awe as one does. I mean Mountain View is nice and all, but have you actually seen Crater Lake? God damn.
I'm glad that young kids believe in the American project so much that they enlist in our national defense and submit their corporal will and safety to the idea that America is an idea worth protecting.
I'm glad there are people who drive the buses and recycle the cans and patrol the crosswalks so kids don't get run over by cars. Life is a lot less sad this way.
The thing is, lots of people are actively investing in the idea of America despite the fact that it does not run a profit. (I mean, seriously, the reason our real estate market in cities like New York and San Francisco is the ridiculous nightmare it is is because foreign millionaires are investing in us too much and driving out American property owners. That's how much they believe in America.)
I may have feelings about how the existing American bureaucracy is currently designed to benefit certain groups more than others, but I'll be damned if you think handing over the keys to the same kinds of shitbrains that came up with Comcast is better for the future of America.
The idea of telling America to stop investing in itself so it can balance its budget is the intellectual equivalent of saying America has no future potential. That after 250-some years, America has somehow failed as an enterprise and should liquidate its assets to balance the budget, cash out now and pay off its investors.
But anyone who invested America is by now both French and dead.
What America does have, however, is a very ripe population of vulnerable people that some shitbrains are thinking could help them turn a quick profit by forcing the government to liquidate anything not bolted down, creating an overnight reserve army of precarious labor who will have to do anything to make sure their children aren't taken away by the police state.
Because in order to balance the budget, the most basic thing basic people think to do is austerity, cutting funding for public programs.
Now, economically, this doesn't work. Government debt is inversely related to private spending, meaning that government spending is usually the only way capital remains in circulation during bad economic times. Which is crucial if you're in the enterprise of ensuring your national project survives economic downturns like global depression. Market failures in the private sector are expected and unavoidable in a late capitalist regime riddled with contradictions. That's why we have unemployment insurance.
So austerity is just really just entrepreneurial suicide. It's like if Amazon were to decide to cut all of its research and development tomorrow to make a handful of shithead investors happy and stopped innovating new products that allow people to continue to take interest in their company and invest in its future, Amazon would be committing industrial suicide.
But this is what we do every time we close a public school.
We pull out public funding and we kill the collective enterprise.
Austerity is like inviting people in to skullfuck America.
The people who want us to balance the national budget? They don't actually care about the American enterprise. Why would they? They wake up every day and pledge allegiance to being a corporate shithead who fully recognizes that they care more about money than they do the fate of the nation becausethat's their job.
And those are the monsters who finance super PACs. Who then advise candidates to say crap like we need to balance the national budget to help the economy. That we need to resolve the deficit. That we need to raise the retirement age. That we can't have universal healthcare. That the economic collapse was not caused by a predictable speculative finance bubble but because of government being too generous to its citizens. None of this is how economics works. This sounds right only if your entire understanding of the world comes from the mouth of an entry-level finance bro at Lehman Brothers.
But defending the union? That's the government's job.
That's the American enterprise.
What these hambones don't want you to think about is if America invested in itself the way Amazon invests in itself, we could actually make America great (though not again, because America is historically awful).
Did you know that every dollar invested in Headstart, a government program, generates seven dollars for the economy? It's true.
Because that's how investing in yourself works. That's how you build a successful enterprise. You create an enterprise people believe in and people invest in you.
Successful CEOs actually know this.
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