skip to main content
caption: Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket launches carrying passengers Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and space tourism company Blue Origin, brother Mark Bezos, Oliver Daemen and Wally Funk, from its spaceport near Van Horn, Texas, Tuesday, July 20, 2021.
Enlarge Icon
Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket launches carrying passengers Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and space tourism company Blue Origin, brother Mark Bezos, Oliver Daemen and Wally Funk, from its spaceport near Van Horn, Texas, Tuesday, July 20, 2021.
Credit: Tony Gutierrez / AP

'You guys paid for all this': Seattle politics enter a new frontier this week

Stop me if you've heard this one, Seattle: A couple of billionaires launch themselves into suborbital space.

Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson soared to the edge of space this week — in two separate missions — thanks to their respective aerospace companies, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic.

The ramifications and the politics were felt down on Earth, especially in Seattle, home of the Bezos online retail mothership, Amazon.

Amazon customers got a shout-out amid the excitement, though it was not welcome by all.

"I want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer because you guys paid for all this," Bezos said.

You can probably guess how critics felt about that, says Joni Balter, political analyst and contributing columnist.

Less-than-enthused observers suggested the money used to build the rockets could have been used instead to combat the ongoing climate crisis or any number of other problems facing humanity, like making life easier for Amazon warehouse employees, Balter says.

It could be that Bezos couldn't have gotten this quite "right" even if he'd tried, she adds.

After his short voyage, Bezos announced donations of $100 million each to chef José Andrés and TV analyst Van Jones' causes of choice.

"What this shows me is that Bezos and the PR team thought about how the reaction would be," Balter says. "That there would be people saying this is a guy who likes to dodge taxes, he's sometimes not doing his fair share, while trying to dazzle folks ... They were trying to get ahead of that."

In the more earthly realm of city elections, campaigns are opting for more modest aircraft and cherry-picking candidates' bona fides in response to polls forecasting a tough road ahead for city insiders.