Stuff that matters

Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man, has thanked his employees and customers for ‘paying’ for his trip to space. The Amazon CEO successfully completed an 11-minute ride to the cusp of outer space on Tuesday aboard a rocket built by his company Blue Origin. After his historic space flight, Mr Bezos, wearing a blue space suit and a cowboy hat, attended a news conference where some of his remarks drew swift backlash on social media.

“I also want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer because you guys paid for all of this,” Mr Bezos said during the news conference after his space flight. “So seriously, for every Amazon customer out there, and every Amazon employee, thank you from the bottom of my heart, very much. It’s very appreciated.”

Though his comment seems to have been in jest, many on Twitter were less than amused. Critics pointed out that Amazon workers have repeatedly complained of dangerous work conditions and grueling hours that force them to skip meals and even bathroom breaks, while the company’s founder – Mr Bezos – is the world’s richest person.

“Yes, Amazon workers did pay for this – with lower wages, union busting, a frenzied and inhumane workplace, and delivery drivers not having health insurance during a pandemic,” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Twitter. “And Amazon customers are paying for it with Amazon abusing their market power to hurt small business,” she added.

US Senator Elizabeth Warren repeated her call for a “wealth tax” as she accused the Amazon CEO of not paying taxes.

Jagmeet Singh, leader of Canada’s New Democratic Party, echoed the sentiment. “Jeff Bezos’s space flight lasted 11 minutes. During the pandemic, every 11 minutes, he got about 1.6 million dollars richer,” Mr Singh pointed out.

Reactions to Mr Bezos’s remarks were largely negative on Twitter, where many accused the billionaire of being tone-deaf.

Jeff Bezos and his brother, Mark, were joined on the space flight by the oldest as well as the youngest astronauts ever. Pioneering woman aviator Wally Funk, 82, and recent high school graduate Oliver Daemen, 18, were the two others who went to space along with Mr Bezos and his brother. Blue Origin plans for two more New Shepard passenger flights this year, reports Reuters.

Mr Bezos said his company is working “ferociously” toward being able to reuse New Shepard vehicles at least 100 times. The one used on Tuesday, twice previously flown to space, scored a bulls-eye landing on a nearby pad.