To have been paying attention to the news recently is, most likely, to have heard reiteration of one of the Obama Administration’s most fundamental attacks on the state of the free-market system – his notion of “economic patriotism.” In speech upon speech, fundraiser upon fundraiser, the President has consistently called for companies who either invest or relocate assets overseas to arbitrarily surcease such activities, noting these decisions negatively affect the health of the United States’ domestic economy. Although conservatives have been quick to reply with the obvious economic truism – that a harsh corporate tax rate serves as an almost automatic impetus for companies to move operations abroad, to areas with more receptive codes – President Obama deliriously maintains it is unpatriotic for an American corporation to deprive its homeland of its business, no matter how poorly that corporation perceives its government’s policies.
Now, aside from the fact that it is the President’s own refusal to entertain a lowering of the corporate tax rate that has brought about the very activities he decries, what exactly causes his argument to reek of insincerity and of an outright infatuation with control? Is it his and his administration’s greed, their lust for tax collection? Is it the fact that his ultimate goal behind excessive taxation is to grow government and, indeed, to subsidize dependency? Perhaps, but on a fundamental level, what seems to me most egregious about President Obama’s “economic patriotism” is its cheap championing of the collective over the individual – its vague expectation that groups of people violate their own self-interests in order to fund his own destructive utopian ideals.
In the most basic sense, the “economic patriotism” argument fails because it is based upon an unreasonable assumption of civic duty, an assumption that has never truly been considered part of the American framework. According to the President, a corporation actually owes its successful existence not only to American citizens but also to the U.S. government, for being so kind as to not outright seize the benefits of economic exchange. It’s the same idea behind his “You didn’t build that” speech – less focus on innovation and on personal striving in order to accentuate the need for dependency. In reality, the only failure of duty that has occurred when a company decides to invest overseas is that of lawmakers who persistently refuse to create an economic environment in America amenable to business activity. That’s the true travesty; the one that President Obama ignores when he levies his all-knowing attacks on supposedly immoral businessmen.
The immediate solution, then, is clear, at least to someone who actually believes in the free-market system: provide a positive economic environment by slashing tax rates and enjoying the fruits as corporations from all over the world invest and create jobs – here. After all, don’t companies – especially large ones – have the immediate obligation of producing growth for their shareholders and investors? What happens to that retired woman’s 401K when the company in which she’s invested loses profitability as it returns to the States, cowering under the President’s scolding finger? The bottom line is that it is both fruitless and indiscriminate for the leader of the free world to employ such an earnest, emotional accusation in this situation: fruitless because of economic reality and the shareholders’ perspective and jointly indiscriminate because companies are simply playing the cards that have been dealt them by the current administration.
However, as has been previously suggested, there is a more fundamental issue with President Obama’s stance on “economic patriotism” – that is, his belief that a company should be expected to subvert its personal advancement or even its profit motive so that the government can collect more tax money. A business exists to generate revenue, not to charitably or unnecessarily shed profits into the deep mire of big government. As members of a distinctly American society, we ought to desire and expect this type of prioritization from profit-seeking companies. Furthermore, we should understand the extent to which we benefit once corporations have been granted the leniency to breathe – to create, to expand, and to energize. Under this realization, the notion that, in the world of business, fairness equals a thorough subversion of individualism in order to uplift the collective welfare, grows more and more senseless and foreign. Yet, it seems to be the very core of the Obama Administration’s exhaustive war on “evil” corporations, its proponents always loath to express tolerance for essential aspects of business operations. The modern liberal not only demands that corporations resist their profit motive in favor of a more idealistic sense of community, but he or she also associates the very notion of profit-making with a type of draconian manipulation. A dangerous idea, indeed – to demand self-sacrifice in a marketplace subservient to all things collective. This seems to be the President’s true assertion, revealed by his continued commentary on “economic patriotism”: from all appearances, he believes in the destructiveness of individualism and in the illuminating power of the collective. Frighteningly, he prefers the public toll to the private marketplace.
And so, this issue serves as one of the main delineations between modern-day conservatism and liberalism: while liberals envision thousands of people ravished by exploitative companies, conservatives understand the need to use free-market principles to attract the advantageous presence of those same companies; while liberals characterize corporations that chase the profit motive in a demeaning and hysteric light, conservatives understand that profit leads to economic growth, the increased accessibility of wealth, and job creation – the very foundations of the American economy.
Thus, the President’s ridiculous galvanization of corporations which, frivolously associates patriotism with an illogical willingness to contribute excessive funds to a bloated central government, is wanting of sense. He should understand the necessity or reforming the tax code so that businesses can rationally operate within the United States; he should realize that companies have obligations to themselves and their shareholders and that following one’s profit motive ultimately encourages growth and innovation; and, he should know that it is antithetical to our country’s original vision to systematically prefer the collective to the individualistic. It is my guess, however, that these realization will never dawn, for all things – self-interest, economic development, common sense, to name but several – eventually fall at the wayside of wealth redistribution.