eBay Goes Political

I had no idea that eBay was a topic on the presidential campaign trail.

Earlier this month, Vice President Dick Cheney was stumping in Cincinnati when he brought up eBay as an example of why economic data isn’t fully factoring in a robust recovery. “That’s a source that didn’t even exist 10 years ago,” he said, pointing out that the data munchers aren’t accounting for the fact that “400,000 people make some money trading on eBay.”

Sensing that it was something worth pouncing on, the person angling to replace Cheney as the country’s VP took aim. “He said people are selling a lot of stuff on eBay,” John Edwards said. “When we count the bake sales and lemonade stands, we’ll have a roaring economy.”

Nice sound bite, Senator. I can almost hear James Carville in the background, madly scribbling away on little yellow post-its and shoving them to the guy running the teleprompter.

Unfortunately, it’s a very inaccurate sound bite (again, Carville comes to mind). Bake sales and lemonade stands are run by PTA members and children. eBay, on the other hand, has moved $30 billion in merchandise over the past twelve months. It boasts more than 114 million registered users, 48 million of whom have been active in the past year. The Motley Fool also reports that sole proprietors and small companies have opened up more than 121,000 domestic eBay stores.

But wait, there’s more.

Let’s not forget to sing the praises of eBay’s PayPal, either. The financial-transaction specialist claims 50.4 million accounts, and this past quarter it helped speed up $4.4 billion in payments. Closing on deals and transferring funds faster and safer mean that the proceeds are being made available sooner. Do you think that kind of monetary turnover is helping the economy? You bet.

Yet one of eBay’s greatest contributions to this country is that it is such an efficient high-margin machine that it will pay out more than $300 million in income taxes this year.

If that’s Sen. Edwards’ equivalent of a bake sale, perhaps he should take a hint from Dan Rather and use the internet instead of just mocking it.

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