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Nick Hanauer, big business
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Early Amazon investor on why big business needs to ‘pay their fair share’

Nick Hanauer. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

With Seattle again embroiled in a debate over taxing big businesses, Seattle-based entrepreneur Nick Hanauer thinks that now is the time to finally balance the scales.

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“Creating more wealth for anyone who’s been left behind by the last 40 years of neo-liberalism comes down to really two simple things,” Hanauer told KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross. “The first is requiring businesses to pay people enough to live in economic security and dignity; the second thing is asking the wealthiest citizens and the biggest corporations to pay their fair share of taxes.”

Hanauer — who was one of Amazon’s earliest investors, and is a member of progressive think tank True Patriot Network — was one of the driving influences behind Seattle’s $15 minimum wage legislation.

He sees measures like that as part of a larger movement to shift the balance of power away from big businesses, and into smaller, middle class business interests. With that balance shifted, the hope is to create a more even playing field for everyone.

“The world would be better if our economy was dominated by small and medium sized companies, not big ones,” he said, pointing out how the Northwest’s many regional retailers have dwindled as companies like Amazon have risen to prominence.

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Those larger businesses have managed to thrive, as the GDP in the United States has risen every year for decades. And yet, as Hanauer notes, the spoils of that success have only been distributed among the country’s wealthiest residents.

“The only people who have benefited from that economic growth over the last 40 years have been the top 1%,” he said. “The bottom 90% of workers have been entirely excluded from the benefits of economic growth, and that is the problem. And so the rich get ever richer and everyone else falls farther behind.”

Ultimately, Hanauer hopes that having companies like Amazon pay into the system more equitably will benefit big businesses and middle class workers alike.

“When you pay workers more, they buy more stuff and businesses then hire more workers and pay more taxes — everybody is better off.”

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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