Sometimes it seems that only the American people have a patriotic concern for the nation, hoping and waiting for the day corporate America will get on board. Others simply hope that one day U.S.-based corporations will see themselves as American companies rather than global companies that prefer not to swear allegiance to any one country. Alexis de Tocqueville was quoted as saying "I have heard of patriotism in the United States, and I have found true patriotism among the people, but never among the leaders of the people." Of course corporations arenít leaders of the people, but their actions certainly have a big impact on the U.S. economy and can lead us in one direction or another.
One sign that there may be at least a minor corporate shift to proudly claiming American roots by an American company is taking place in the alcoholic beverage industry. Anheuser-Busch, based in St. Louis, Missouri, has devoted an entire page on their website explaining why American owned matters. The timing couldnít be more appropriate. Miller was bought by South African Breweries (whose parent company is in England) and more recently, Coors merged with Canadian-owned Molson.
The term "merger," however, can be deceiving. It is true that a merger may take place, but it is also true that there must be a controlling corporate headquarters in one particular country or another. The fantasy of "dual headquarters" was exposed when Daimler-Benz "merged" with Chrysler in the late 1990s. The deal was passed off as a "merger of equals" with "dual headquarters" in Detroit, Michigan and Stuttgart, Germany. But as soon as the ink was dry on the deal, the German CEO led his fellow American counterparts in a rendition of Don McLeanís "American Pie." It wasnít long after that that American executives loyal to Chrysler realized Stuttgart was going to call the shots, and they started to bail out along with a significant percentage of American owners and investors.
The only thing American about DaimlerChrysler today is the factories that remain in America, which number far fewer than those operated by General Motors or Ford. Chrysler is now much more Apple Strudel than Apple Pie. Paychecks and pink slips now come out of Stuttgart and not Detroit. Time will tell if the Molson Coors deal goes in a similar direction, but the new company is based in Canada, not the United States.
As the Anheuser-Busch website rightly points out, 51% of the profits go beyond Americaís borders when you buy a Molson Coors product, and 68% of the profits go beyond Americaís borders when you buy a SAB Miller product. Since 95% of Anheuser-Busch is owned by Americans, 95% of the profits will remain in America when you buy an Anheuser-Busch product.
To be fair, Miller Lite, Coors, Icehouse and Miller Genuine Draft are all brewed and bottled in the USA, but so arenít Budweiser, Bud Light, Busch and Michelob. The question here is this: Are we to support an American-brewed beer from an American company or an American-brewed beer from a foreign company? Since the profits either stay in or are repatriated to America when we support American companies, it is better for our countryís financial health and future prosperity to patronize companies based here.
But does Anheuser-Buschís concern about profits exiting America really go any further than how it affects their bottom line? Maybe time will tell, but American companies donít always need to give a hoot about American workers for our country to reap the benefits from supporting them.
Instead of waiting around for American companies to proudly announce their allegiance to Americaís national interest in particular, a better strategy is to support them because they are American owned before making any corporate responsibility demands. We as consumers have to be on record supporting American companies before we can expect to have any leverage to influence corporate America. Otherwise, why would corporate America listen? Based upon what? A future guarantee that American consumers will begin to support them after they raise their cost of production by building more high-cost American factories and employing more high-wage American workers? If youíve ever been involved in a political campaign and belonged to a particular interest group that supported one party in particular, you know that the opposing partyís candidate isnít going to pay much attention to you until you show your support for him or her first. Claiming youíll support any political candidate after they start to vote your way simply wonít cut it. Thatís just how it works.
In my opinion, Anheuser-Busch has taken a significant leap forward in devoting an entire page to convince us that American owned - not just American made - matters. The page isnít hard to find either. Just go to www.AnheuserBusch.com and youíll see a banner on the home page that reads "American owned. Born Here. Brewed Here."
The simple fact that this banner and its message isnít buried somewhere, hard to find or represented by a small hyperlink could mean that Anheuser-Busch really believes ownership, patriotism and corporate responsibility really matter. Letís support them and their American workers and keep them number one in the industry. The last thing we need is to allow another industry to slip into foreign hands when patriotic consumers could have stopped it from happening by voting the right way with their dollars.
And if you get bored filling your glass with Budweiser, Bud Light, Busch or Michelob and have the urge to try an import, try a Corona. Corona is imported from Mexico, but the brand is 51% owned by Anheuser-Busch. Since American investors hold a majority of the shares, Coronaís future production will be decided by Americans, not Mexicans. And although your beer may be imported, at least all your dollars wonít be exported, as they would be if you bought Heineken or Beckís.