Freedom: The American Silo
You know you are out of your element when you feel a cringe in your stomach, a knot in your chest, or maybe a slight headache. If you think these feelings are unnatural or unwanted, embrace them. Many entrepreneurs, innovators live off of the feeling, because the moments that make you feel uncomfortable are often the experiences that make you grow. However, it’s becoming increasingly more common to not take the risk or the challenge.
Do you know why? Freedom.
Huh? What? That’s right, Freedom.
America was built on this cool thing called freedom, and it’s pretty awesome until we decided to get lazy, and this “freedom”, basically has become justification for us to only stick to what we know and like, but expanded to the point where it justifies what we don’t do, and that’s bad. In fact, that sentence I just wrote was lazy, and my high school English teacher would scream from the use of cool, pretty, awesome, and bad all in the same sentence as if there weren’t better adjectives to use.
So Freedom IS the power or the right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint. Yet, our sense of freedom to act, beyond expressing disagreement (as discussed in last week’s blog post) is stagnant. I believe that’s some of the befuddlement by the actions in Ferguson, is that the community is standing up, protesting, and challenging the status quo; many have asked them to wait. Wait for an investigation. Wait for due process. Wait for justice. You might not like the way they are doing it, but when did speaking out and protesting ever become an un-American thing to do. They used their freedom to act.
One of the biggest glaring examples, over the past few years, where Americans are using freedom in exchange for not taking the difficult steps to act: Tax inversions. “More big U.S. companies are incorporating abroad despite a 2004 federal law that sought to curb the practice. One big reason: Taxes” (source: WSJ)
Sound complicated? It’s a deal (merger) between an American company and a non-American company to avoid or lessen U.S. taxes. To some degree, and in certain circumstances, I agree this practice is perfectly responsible for American companies, and my libertarian part of my brain is all for it. What bothers me is the implication that not allowing companies to pursue better tax options overseas on non-American soil is anti- American, because they have the right to choose (freedom) is just plain lazy. I’ve really heard pundits making the comments that this is what America was built on, freedom, the freedom to move and make more money and that is true, but it’s more than that.
The real issue is that the tax code/system needs to be rewritten and revised. There are opportunities to take a look at our current policies and alter them to effectuate a change that would make companies WANT to stay here; but no one wants to have the conversation, no one wants to act. I mean there are a few scholars, tax nerds, and a small number of legislators that do, but the majority of people who have the power and influence to do so, but really don’t want to. They would rather not get awkward, get a little dirty, and avoid the knots in their stomach because it’s simply uncomfortable.
Companies, banks, and wealthy individuals have leveraged congress on policies with less importance and less effect on the American public. American companies continue to leave American soil and take away American jobs in the name of Freedom. (craziness, right?)
The actions of the companies are so suspicious that Burger King’s recent announcement of their merger with the Canadian- based Hortons, was immediately questioned as to their motives. And at first glance, their explanation seems reasonable, because the fast food market is losing money, and the market is more competitive as Americans are attempting to eat healthier (and rid the world of gluten). ”We don’t expect our tax rate to change materially,” said Burger King CEO Daniel Schwartz. “This transaction is not really about tax, it’s about growth” (source: WSJ)
Then you look at the numbers! I didn’t even know Burger King was doing so well, they are 4th in overall sales, after McDonalds, Subway and Starbucks. Then you see the reason everyone is giving them the big *sideeye*
This is not an attempt to oversimplify a critical, multi-layer problem within our system, but I would argue that we’ve masked our laziness, our fears, behind Freedom, and the American spirit is built around creation, innovation, MAKING MISTAKES, and figuring out a better solution. case and point: Kentucky’s Kynect. Do you know why Kentucky’s Kynect system has been so successful in promoting Obamacare?
So the Democrats got the legislation passed, won the war. Republicans were upset, and understandably vocal against legislation that they believe would cripple the system. Disagreement is good, but failing to ACT is futile. The leaders in Kentucky had one responsibility: create a solution for all Kentuckians. Not only for one segment of the population, and that would include making the benefits attractive to Republicans. And that’s where they truly won, and conveyed what America is all about. They executed their job to meet the law, and made it work for those who did not see their vision (and continue to hate Obamacare), and to me that is real freedom.
Freedom is our right as Americans to think, argue, and disagree as we so choose. But Freedom was not fought for and given to us to use these differences to not ACT. Freedom’s real purpose was for us to recognize each others differences, and have the capacity, technology, and tools to create a solution.
So American, let’s break down the walls, and break out of the American Silo, work together and do something.