Patriotism, Business, and Political Points of View

What is patriotism? What is the first image that pops into your head? For people of my end of the generation, born pre to 1970, the vast majority will have images of the flag, Statue of Liberty, the Norman Rockwell paintings of patriots marching in a colonial day parade, etc. We witnessed the bicentennial in all its glory. In high school it would be of the space shuttle, Olympic teams, or he demolition of the Berlin Wall. Fast forward 10 years and was the military might of operation Desert Shield/Storm or the unstoppable American economy. This is a very personal question that will generate different responses depending on your political leanings.

The above is typical of what you would get from middle of the spectrum to right leaning individuals, but not the left. No to the patriotism conjures images of the press taking down Nixon, rightfully so, the triumph of the Civil Rights movement, the removal of overt religious connotations from official and public institutions, rainbow coalitions, Sarbanes Oxley in the fallout from Enron, an ever increasing powerful EPA, etc. Up until the Clinton presidency patriotism was about freedom, but viewed from different angles. What is the difference between the patriotism of someone celebrating the determination, grit, and never give in attitudes of the miracle on ice Olympic win over the Russian hockey team or the inclusion and political might of the rainbow collation? They are both born of the same system, and 20 years ago there would be no big difference because the merits of each was acknowledged and legitimate by the opposing political side. Those days age gone.

Burger King has sparked off a firestorm of public lashings over its business decision to buy out a Canadian bakery. This would allow them to move the corporate headquarters to Canada and reduce their tax burden from 38% to 26%. 12% is a huge amount when your annual income is in the tens of billions. This is money Burger King can invest in future expansions into emerging markets, hiring more employees, updating its logistic supply chains, efficiency improvements, etc. It’s also not like Burger King would no longer be paying taxes, each store, employee, and supplier located in America would be paying the same as they did last year, but the global income portion of each store would no longer be taxed here. So is this patriotic or not?

If our country is a regulation nightmare choking off business and stagnating growth and innovation, a tax hell with the highest corporate tax rate globally hamstringing businesses that have oversea operations, and laws that unfairly shift the burden of individual life sustenance from the individual to business well, how patriotic is it to support this system? How are business supposed to combat this? Lobbyists were the ways of the past but the effectiveness of this isn’t fixing anything for them anymore, look at the Affordable Care Law, which keeps getting enforcement illegally pushed back. Is it more patriotic to languish and drown in a defective and broken system, or is it more patriotic to apply pressure and power in the most visible and meaningful way possible? I would say sitting by and letting foreign firms with protectionists governments shielding and subsidizing their assent is unpatriotic.

I work for a Fortune 500 that moved its official listing to Ireland, prior to the recession they experienced in the early 2000’s. We were able to weather the financial crisis quite well and had very few layoffs, we were also among the first in the nation to aggressively hire again, in 2009 hiring 1500 in the Chicago area alone. The tax savings allowed this to happen, 800 million dollars is a lot of money and can hire a lot of people, allow the company to replace equipment further employing manufatorers, supply chain companies, and maintain a workforce with minimal loss. Our share holders were able to continue to receive dividends both individual investors and mutual fund investors who used this to fuel their customers quarterly interest returns. So who is more patriotic? How is supporting a system that is hostile to you, everything you stand for, and hampering you at every turn beneficial?

Operating a business in America today is akin to being a leper. The cost of operation skyrockets with no end in sight as government spending grown into insanity levels, American poverty grows, society collapses, and infighting goes from verbal sniping to brutal full frontal violence. Supporting this decomposing dysfunctional schizophrenic system is unethical, insane, and against every corporate code of ethics and mission statement. Business have obligations to their owners, private or publicly traded, to operate honestly, fairly, and profitably. They take on the responsibly of being good corporate citizens with charity, sponsorship, and partnerships with local organizations. Burger King is looking to grow, expand, and compete effectively on the global market. Why are they demonized for this? They are going to be adding stores, suppliers, and dividends to fuel American economics as well as give opportunities to those in many countries the same. They are voting with their feet on the effectiveness and reality of the current business climate in America today. Look at California and Illinois companies moving to Texas, same thing just smaller scale. A strong and growing Burger King is good for everyone, in the least it pushes Americana into new markets and is an unofficial ambassador to our values and standards in many places, like here in China, where we are elevating the local markets with better standards and wages giving local workers better choices.

The sad reality is those decrying Burger King are just useful idiots in an ideological struggle for the heart and soul do America. The descriptions of patriotism are no longer aligned into like for like examples. Today the patriotism of one side is viewed as criminal, obscene, and worthy of extinction by the other and vice versa. We now have a situation where the old guard is struggling to maintain some facet of control within the political system pitted against a new guard. People of old faiths are struggling against converts to a new religion, one they are writing the doctrine to each passing day. These useful idiots are unaware of their own rationale or where their actions will lead them. Burger King is making a stand and should be lauded for their move. They are calling attention to and shedding light upon what is now fundamentally wrong with our governance.

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