Obama's Visit to Amazon: An Open Letter from Mike DeSanto

Wake up, Vermont: Amazon sells everything, not just books. Many local authors publish through CreateSpace, owned by Amazon, runners buy running shoes from Zappo's, owned by Amazon, your babies’ diapers come from Diapers.com, also owned by Amazon - and the list is endless. Those sales all come out of the economy of our community. Now, the president is endorsing internet sales at the expense of all bricks & mortar retailers. My question is, could Amazon buy a president and would they sell him at a discount?

Seriously though, I am writing about an appearance by President Obama at an Amazon warehouse in Tennessee, where, independent booksellers believe, he will equate Amazon with innovative, job-creating business that helps the middle class.The utter absurdity of that comparison is breathtaking. Without going too deeply into this, I ask, since when did $11 per hour become a middle class wage? ($11.50 is the average wage paid to Amazon warehouse workers.) Since when does a money-losing company become a poster child for success?

What depresses me the most? Is it the man I voted for twice helping to tilt the competitive playing field in the favor of Amazon? Is it the Wall Street Oligarchs hypocritically voicing support for free market capitalism while creating monopolies left and right and in the middle? Is it Amazon brazenly pricing at a loss in order to harm competition, which once upon a time was thought to be illegal? Is it a recent Justice Department lawsuit against publishers on behalf of Amazon? Or is it my president apparently going along with it? Amazon doesn't surprise me. The president, however, is the greatest political disappointment of my life. I see him as a thief in the night, scurrilously sneaking up and stealing my hard earned business right from under my nose and giving it to Amazon in order to further his illusions of economic growth. More to the point, by endorsing Amazon he completely undercuts our own Local First Vermont program, helps destroy our city centers, encourages non-payment of state and local taxes, and furthers Amazon’s extremely monopolistic agenda, to say nothing of implicitly encouraging the entire population of the country to shop online.

Sadly, it seems that President Obama is desperate to leave some sort of economic legacy in his waning years - even if it means destroying the small business legacies of countless others. I tell my children I will not leave them my bookstore when I die, because I love them too much to do that.

I used to believe that a president of the United States was a president for all citizens. Today, I think he shills for Amazon.com. Today is a day that I question how I can continue to "love" America. For the first time in my life, I fear where our society is heading. For the first time I feel our country is "for sale" to the highest bidder.

This comes after I have served my country in the US Army for 4 years, worked for Senator Hubert Humphrey and Senator Muriel Humphrey for 4 years, lobbied on behalf of small businesses for 20 years and owned them for another 18 years. I used to believe in the dream and now, with the help of my own president, it appears to have been a mirage and even a nightmare. How sad I am, and how powerless I feel. Yet, tomorrow - despite this betrayal of trust - I will open the doors of the store and continue to fight this fight. I hope you will join me.

Sadly, yet with hope,
Michael DeSanto
Co-owner,
Phoenix Books, Essex & Burlington