Opinion » Bill Cope

Boycotting Burger King

Even if you don't eat burgers, protest corporate greed

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I'm giving up Burger King.

Ah, the truth is, I'm not exactly giving up Burger King. I haven't had a Burger King burger for, best guess, 25 years. As I remember it, the last Burger King burger I ever bought ended up with all of its component parts slipping out of the bun like they couldn't stand to be in the same place together. It tasted fine--as burger-y as you would expect from just another patty of charred cow parts in just another white bread bun--whenever I could get a bite that didn't result in a special-sauce-soaked slice of tomato in my lap or a pickle dangling off my chin. I decided from then on, if I just had to have a burger, I would get it someplace where I didn't have finish it with a fork.

But the point being, I can hardly give up something I don't really have. So including myself in on any boycott of an American fast food joint that's taking its mailing address out of America is meaningless, in terms of what effect that renunciation would have on their bottom line. Still, I'm declaring myself part of the Burger King boycott, hoping that if enough Americans make it known they are disgusted with the behavior of any corporation that would remove itself to another country to avoid its responsibility to help the rest of us pay for this thing we call our homeland, then maybe the next board of directors contemplating such a move will reconsider.

As you know, this particular tempest arose last month when Burger King--which, according to the wisdom of Mitt Romney and the dictates of the U.S. Supreme Court, we must now consider to possess all the rights and privileges of "personhood"--announced it was buying a chain of Canadian donut shops, a deal recognized to be a scheme to relocate their headquarters to Canada.

All well and good. I suspect the average levels of decency, honesty and respectability in America would rise considerably if more corporate upper-floor dwellers would go dwell in places other than America.

However, this takeover wasn't because Burger King's CEO and entourage had a hankering to go live amongst the hosers. Burger King was only diving down a wormhole opened by other companies--pharmaceutical giants in particular--which have been buying foreign companies and taking their financial operations elsewhere to take advantage of lower corporate tax rates. It was also widely suspected that if Burger King got away with it--and there was no legal reason they wouldn't--more and more other U.S. companies would follow the example.

This trend didn't get the attention it deserved until the Burger King announcement, I think because far too many people couldn't name a giant pharmaceutical corporation if it were slithering up their leg. How many Americans even know who is producing the pills they pop? (I don't know about yours, but mine come, via the pharmacy, in little brown bottles with aggravating caps and instructions for how many I should take and when I should take them. Not a word about who made them, or where. Seriously, I could be taking something concocted by Nazi Pedophiliac Super-Asshole, Inc., headquartered in Hell, and not know it.)

Republicans would argue--and, of course, do--that our corporate tax rates are too high in the U.S., and that the solution to this corporate exodus to sunnier tax climes would ease, if only we were to bring those rates down to Canadian (or Irish, or Bahamian) levels.

Poor corporations. Poor, poor corporations. Still having to cough up 35 percent here in the States, when they might be paying only 15 percent in Canada (or Ireland, or the Bahamas). In spite of U.S. rates having dropped significantly... and in spite of 30 years of an upward cascade of wealth pouring into the insatiable maw of the one-percent who already own 50 percent of everything... Republican politicians insist that the answers to all our woes is to give their corporate sugar daddies anything they want, or off to Canada (Ireland, the Bahamas) they go.

What's missing in this grand old plan of theirs is that this is the U.S. of A., not Canada. Not Ireland. Not the Bahamas. If Canada (or the rest) were to suddenly decide to build the most powerful, most sophisticated military in history, then play avenging traffic cop to the rest of the world, watch what would happen to their tax rates then.

If Canada were home to 350 million citizens, all of whom need and expect some government involvement in schools, jobs, food, housing, transportation, cities, agriculture, medical matters, environmental protection, law enforcement, etc. etc. etc., instead of their current population--one-tenth of ours--watch what would happen to their tax rates then.

If Canada was leading the global charge on preventing pandemics, playing godfather to half the Middle East, feeding the starving masses, etc. etc. etc., watch what would happen to their tax rates then. Eh?

The truth is, ours is a big, complicated, densely populated, complex and powerful country, and it also happens to be the leader of the rest of the world in about every endeavor that needs to be funded in some manner to keep going. Corporations want that status to continue, I'm sure, but at somebody else's expense. Which is precisely why our taxes don't ever change much, but theirs have been dropping like rocks, why our standard of living is languishing in the doldrums and they're out in billion-dollar yachts enjoying the smooth sailing.

If indeed corporations are people, they are proving to be lousy, greedy, and--dare I say it?--disloyal people.