On Wednesday, Glenn referred to the push for so-called “economic patriotism” as a “virtual Berlin Wall.” In an effort to thwart corporate inversions (i.e. when companies that conduct at least 20% of their business overseas incorporate in another country to avoid the U.S. tax burden), Senate Democrats like Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) would like President Obama to act unilaterally to toughen the threshold.
Earlier this week, commentator Jonathan Alter published an article on the Daily Beast in which he took this concept a step further. In a piece entitled, “The United States Needs Corporate ‘Loyalty Oaths,’” Alter argues for a “scheme” that would have companies “sign non-desertion agreements” and – in turn – “embed a tiny American flag or some other Good Housekeeping-type seal in their corporate insignia for all to see.”
While Alter seeks to evoke the image of a Depression-era America, in which businesses that agreed to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s recovery plan placed an emblem in their shop window, Glenn found the plan to be more in line with McCarthy-era loyalty oaths.
On radio this morning, Glenn explained he appreciates Alter’s candidness and proceeded to break down the argument and why it represents “dangerous thinking.”
“Honestly, I thought [this] was like a parody,” Glenn said of that article. “I thought it had to be Jon Stewart – no one could seriously be considering this. But it's serious.”
In the article, Alter refers to companies like Walgreens and Chiquita that have recently renounced citizenship as “unpatriotic,” and he suggests the media adopt a new phrase. Instead of “corporate inversion,” Alter would like to see the media “routinely” refer to the practice as “corporate desertion.”
“If 47 companies have now left and renounced their citizenship, that should tell you something,” Glenn said. “We're doing something wrong. People have always come and wanted to set their businesses up in America. If American companies are saying, ‘I can't do business here,’ we're doing something wrong… We can't build walls to keep people out. But they are building walls now figurative walls to keep American citizens in.”
After blaming Republicans in Congress for their unwillingness to deal with this issue, Alter makes this bold declaration:
So it’s time for red-blooded Americans to take matters into our own hands. My answer is to make every corporation sign something.
So what does Alter propose these businesses sign?
Because oaths and pledges are a little creepy, this effort needs something else—something that comes out of the legal and business worlds: a contract. More specifically, an NDA.
Non-disclosure agreements are common in corporate America, where tens of thousands of senior managers and employees sign contracts promising to keep all sorts of information confidential. It’s often a condition of employment.
Now it’s time to change the “D” and expect the same from boards of directors—a “non-desertion agreement” with the John Hancock of every board member and CEO in the United States.
Companies that fail to sign non-desertion agreements would face the kind of public shaming that has gone out of fashion but could come back with a vengeance: boycotts, petitions, angry shareholder meetings full of the language of patriotism.
Read the entire article HERE.
“What a dangerous statement that is,” Glenn said. “He is making the case for a loyalty oath, but what he's saying is, ‘Yeah, we look at those dark days, but let's not forget they were really, really effective.’”
Ultimately, Alter believes the power of the Internet will allow the American people to put pressure on corporations, which will lead to widespread compliance.
“With viral online organizing, the idea of non-desertion agreements could spread quickly,” he writes. “Then American corporations will learn that if they want to enjoy this country’s bounty, they’ll have to be good citizens and pay taxes like the rest of us.”
Much like the way he responded to the alleged blacklists in Hollywood, Glenn is glad to see Alter being upfront with his intentions, but that does not make his thinking any less “dangerous” in Glenn’s eyes.
“America, run for your lives. This is really dangerous. You have people who are openly saying that they want redistribution of wealth. That is socialism,” Glenn concluded. “When a country is so mishandled and misrun that they have to build walls – be them virtual or literal walls – to keep… people from going out that is a sign a country is about to go very dark.”
Front page image courtesy of the AP