July 4, 2009

Declare YOUR independence

By walterh
Topics:
opinion

You know what?  I’m sick.  I’m sick to death of corporatism.  Everywhere you look is either a “made in China” sticker, or some corporation that has no ties to your local community wants you to come spend your money at their establishment – so they can suck that money out of your community and send it to their corporate headquarters, be it across the country or around the world.  Spend your $8 for a quickie meal at McDonalds and have the money sucked out of your local economy and sent to Illinois, though at least it’s still in the US.  Go to Wal-Mart or Target to get stuff for your Independence Day get together?  Those companies actually suck tax dollars out of your local community because local jurisdictions lure them in by cutting them tax deals (which makes YOUR taxes go up).  Then Wal-Mart skims off their bit and sends it to their Alabama headquarters while Target skims off their bit and sends it off to their Minneapolis headquarters.  But the VAST majority of your money gets funneled off and sent to CHINA.  Or The Phillipines.  Or Taiwan.  Wherever they can pay people ten cents per hour in crappy conditions to make that doodad gadget that you just couldn’t live without.  Maybe you’re paying your bills, and as you write your check to ADT for your security system, you don’t know that it is a corporation that is actually owned by a company called Tyco that is headquartered offshore in Bermuda.  Yeah, they don’t have to pay their US taxes like you and I do.

It goes on and on.  But why?  Why is it that companies like Wal-Mart or Tyco get so big, and suck the money out of our local cities, only to send it overseas?  We Americans are responsible for somewhere between 50% and 67% of the economy of the United States; do we want our money going to huge, multinational conglomerates that don’t care about your local economy, the local workers, or anything beyond their corporate tax havens overseas?  And why is it that the United States Government gives contracts to the likes of Accenture millions of our tax dollars, if they are not headquartered here?  In the period between October 1st, 2001 and September 30th, 2002, The United States paid $662,000,000 to Accenture for accounting purposes.  Why?  Yes, they’re a big company.  But they are headquartered in Bermuda.  Check out their company info, including the address of their post office box in Bermuda, and then check out the map.  Wow, how many hundreds of miles offshore is that?

Yeah, well I’m fed up.  I have had it.  It makes me sick to see people lined up waiting to get into corporate chains like Outback or Chevys or Hardees or The Cheesecake Factory.  You know why?  Because there is absolutely nothing that is distinctive about that restaurant.  You can eat a meal in California at PF Changs, then go halfway across the country and eat the same meal and SURPRISE!  It tastes EXACTLY the same!  So what did you get?  You get corporate food that was designed in a lab in New Jersey (read Fast Food Nation if you don’t believe me) and then designed to be cookie cutter.  No surprises, no differences, no distinction.  Why the hell would you want to do that?  Are people that much of a pushover that they prefer corporate food to a local chef at a mom-n-pop place down the street?  You’d be surprised…

Think the food in your local grocery store is safe?  Think again.  Pick up a frozen breakfast or lunch entree and look at the ingredients.  Those aren’t even the HALF of it!  There’s one entry called “Spices”; did you know there can be dozens of ingredients all lumped into that one little word?  A report on NPR from last year said that dozens of spices come from hundreds of suppliers all over the world, so even if you think you’re buying some food that should be safe because it’s “made in America”, it includes spices that come from halfway around the world.  And we all know how safe foodstuffs and goods coming from China are.  How many pets were killed because of tainted Chinese pet food?  How many babies got sick, and how many died from tainted Chinese milk?  Who thought it was okay to use lead based paint, and paint that had the compound that was the equivalent of a date-rape drug IN CHILDREN’S TOYS?  Oh yeah, that would be China again.  And you know what’s even fucking scarier?  That the United States Consumer Protection Agency doesn’t even have the staff to test even 1% of the food, drugs, toys, and consumer goods that are shipped in from overseas.

Feeling scared yet?  How about pissed off?  Hells yeah, I’m angry!  But as I’ve heard from people before, “But I’m just one person.  What I do can’t affect the rest of the world”.  My response?  BULLSHIT!

Instead of going to Target or Wal-Mart, how about finding a local chain that provides goods and services that are comperable?  Here in the Pacific Northwest, we are blessed with our own little employee owned box store chain called BiMart.  They have everything that we would get at a Wal-Mart, Target, or Walgreens.  But you know what?  The money stays right here in the Pacific Northwest.  In California, instead of going to Home Depot or Lowes, how about the California household building supply company OSH (Orchard Supply)?  A lot of the same stuff as Home Depot and Lowes, but again, the money goes into the local community.  Hell, in many a town around this great nation, at least where Wal-Mart has not killed competition, there are still mom-n-pop general stores that you can go to.  Sure, maybe you’ll pay fifty cents more for a screwdriver, or a dollar more for a hammer.  But you’re keeping not only local people employed, but a local business’ doors open, and the money stays in your community.

Here in the Portland, Oregon metropolitan area, we had a great local group of restaurants called Stanfords.  They had good meals, good drinks, and everyone was happy.  They did so well that some corporate group from out of state came in and bought them out.  That was good, until the changes started coming.  See, Stanfords used to take their food seriously.  Their chefs perfected a veggie burger that was made on site, in the kitchen.  They had fresh produce that they did a multitude of ways.  And they had a wide-range of other dinners that were simply delicious.  Then, the corporatist beancounters came along and said, “Well now; if we standardize, we can squeeze a few more pennies out of every dollar for profit!”.  Gone went the house-made veggie burger.  They did away with spinach cooked 4 different ways and standardized on one.  Away went the multitude of cuts of steak and they went down to two.  Why?  Not because of customer demand, but because the beancounters wanted to squeeze out more profit.  One night at Stanfords, when I received a veggie burger, I challenged the waitstaff, saying they changed the recipe or something.  They flatly denied and went and got me the corporate recipe – which called for 1 Morningstar Farms Garden Veggie Pattie.  Gee, that’s not brown rice, black beans, cheese, and spices mixed together by hand and cooked delicately, is it?  Hell no it’s not.  But that’s corporate food for you.  A steak at Outback Steakhouse is going to be the same whether you buy it in Tigard, Oregon or Orlando Florida.  How about you find a local independent steak house to try instead?  Know why you can never get your home made french fries to taste like McDonalds?  Because the essence of the fry was developed in a lab in New Jersey and is standardized.  Are you standardized?  Hell no.  You’re an individual.  And as an individual, you deserve REAL food, not corporate food!

Concerned about your food, and all the preservatives and additives that come from around the world, only to end up in your digestive system?  Become a locavore.  Your local non-corporate restaurants already do – you should, too.  There are butcher shops that still exist outside of the local megamart grocery stores.  Gee, you aren’t going to be able to get White Out and Juicy Fruit Gum when you buy your hamburger, but you’re going to have DAMN good hamburger, that’s a hell of a lot fresher, if not healthier than your local megamart grocery store.  And hell, as I write this, it’s the middle of Summer.  Know what is in season near you?  You should.  And how can you?  Find out at LocalHarvest.  They tell you what’s in season, and where your local farmer’s markets are.  Sure, there are going to be people peddling crap that they get drop-shipped from China, like socks and stuff.  But there are going to be other people there from local farms that have the most delicious produce, the freshest herbs, the best cheese, and the best treats.  And quel surprise, it’ll be just about the same price – or cheaper – than what you pay for at the megamart!

You know what I want to get this country for its 233rd birthday?  I want to see the drive through at Burger King to be empty, and the local burger joint to be packed.  I want Texas Roadhouse and Outback Steakhouse to be closed due to lack of customers that night and the local steak, chicken and bar joint to have a line out the door.  I want Kohls and Sears and Wal-Mart to have an empty parking lot, and for people to get their crafts from local stores and vendors, or from ordering their goods from companies that STILL manufacture things here in the United States.

We can be our own best friends, or our own enemies.  You make the choice every day when you purchase goods and services.  Will you choose to help your fellow American?  Or will you toss our future away by sending our money, and our jobs, overseas?