culture war

Colin Kaepernick Just Showed How We Can End Corporate Welfare

Photo: Nike

America needs corporate welfare reform. By some measures, our government spends upward of $100 billion on subsidizing big business every year (a figure that doesn’t include the various forms of government spending that indirectly boosts private firms’ profitability, such as public investments in infrastructure, education, basic research, and pro-business foreign policies, or the externalities that Uncle Sam graciously declines to bill corporate America for, such as the actual costs of environmental degradation).

A significant portion of these handouts derive from a “race to the bottom” between U.S. states. Although corporate subsidies rarely pay off economically, the spectacle of new investment and jobs coming to a state or district can benefit incumbent officeholders politically. Thus, prestigious companies can secure all kinds of advantages — from tax breaks to immunity from environmental regulations — by forcing states into bidding wars for their investments.

Both parties play this game. But Republicans play it with a bit more enthusiasm. For movement conservatives, the “race to the bottom” is a feature of federalism, not a bug: The necessity of attracting capital disciplines state governments and forces them to maintain broadly business-friendly policies. In recent months, efforts to rein in corporate welfare have cropped up in blue states, but Republican state governments remain as committed to “corporate socialism” as ever. And so long as that’s the case, it will be difficult to prevent some Democrats from participating in abominations like the “Amazon sweepstakes.”

Fortunately, Colin Kaepernick just showed us a way out of this lose-lose competition.

On Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Nike had planned to release a new sneaker adorned with Betsy Ross’s early American flag (the one with 13 white stars in a circle) in celebration of Independence Day. But then, former NFL quarterback — and current Nike spokesman — Colin Kaepernick persuaded the company to cancel the shoe, arguing that “the Betsy Ross flag is an offensive symbol because of its connection to an era of slavery.” Notably, Kaepernick isn’t the only one who sees the flag in this light — various white-supremacist groups have reportedly appropriated the symbol in recent years, precisely because they see it as celebrating a more innocent time, when dark-skinned people were pieces of property who could be raped and murdered at their owners’ whim.

Regardless, Doug Ducey is having none of it. On Tuesday morning, Arizona’s Republican governor announced that, in light of Nike’s disrespect for Betsy Ross, he no longer supports needlessly sending taxpayer money to the multibillion-dollar company:

Words cannot express my disappointment at this terrible decision. I am embarrassed for Nike. Nike is an iconic American brand and American company. This country, our system of government and free enterprise have allowed them to prosper and flourish.

Instead of celebrating American history the week of our nation’s independence, Nike has apparently decided that Betsy Ross is unworthy, and has bowed to the current onslaught of political correctness and historical revisionism. It is a shameful retreat for the company. American businesses should be proud of our country’s history, not abandoning it.

Nike has made its decision, and now we’re making ours. I’ve ordered the Arizona Commerce Authority to withdraw all financial incentive dollars under their discretion that the State was providing for the company to locate here. Arizona’s economy is doing just fine without Nike. We don’t need to suck up to companies that consciously denigrate our nation’s history.

This isn’t the first time that Republicans have canceled corporate welfare to punish a corporation for getting “woke.” Shortly after last year’s mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, Delta Air Lines canceled its discount program for members of the National Rifle Association. Georgia’s Republican state legislature responded by nixing a tax exemption for jet-fuel costs that had been proposed primarily for Delta’s benefit.

The way forward, then, is clear. To get the GOP to call a truce in the race to the bottom, progressives must simply persuade every recipient of corporate welfare in the United States that they can increase their popularity with millennial #influencers by undergoing far-left rebrands. Here are a few pitches to get the conversation started (all subsidy data comes courtesy of Good Jobs First’s subsidy tracker):

General Motors ($6.4 billion in combined state, local, and federal subsidies since 1985).

Dunkin Brands ($103,386).

L’Oréal ($25 million).

Intel ($6 billion).

Nike ($2 billion)

Illustration: Intelligencer.

That last one might seem unnecessary. But once Delta’s policy on NRA discounts fell out of the headlines, Georgia Republicans restored the airline’s jet-fuel tax break. So, the safest bet is to have Nike steadily heighten the contradictions. Future rebrands may include, “Just Do Ecoterrorism (Before It’s Too Late)” or “Justice Requires the Submission of Yakub’s Demon Spawn.

Colin Kaepernick Just Showed How to End Corporate Welfare