Risky business: Corporate messaging and abortion.

Remember when people used to buy products because they were well made, priced right and met their needs?

Corporate meddling in politically contentious issues to signal virtue of one kind or another has put an end to that.

Businesses have been trying to position themselves as good corporate citizens for years in order to bring about a more favorable operating environment, but earlier efforts focused on neutral moves like raising public awareness of such things as charitable contributions, employee volunteerism and hiring veterans.

Recently, however, companies have been more willing to take public stands on truly controversial issues in order to raise their public profile… and sell more products.  And it just happens to be that federal and state lawmakers are simultaneously using abortion politics to rile their voters ahead of the 2020 election.

An example of this new outspokenness is the response to restrictive abortion legislation recently enacted in several states, including Missouri, Georgia, Mississippi, Kentucky, Alabama, and Ohio.

On May 7, 2019, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed a law that would ban abortion as soon as physicians can detect a heartbeat, which can be as soon as six weeks (before some women are aware they’re pregnant).

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Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signing abortion law.

“Georgia is a state that values life,” Kemp said at the bill signing. “We protect the innocent, we champion the vulnerable, we stand up and speak for those that are unable to speak for themselves.”

On May 15, Alabama’s governor, Kay Ivey, signed a law defining a fetus as a legal person “for homicide purposes” and making performing an abortion in the state a felony.

Netflix, Disney and WarnerMedia responded that they might stop producing television shows and movies in Georgia, and multiple actors threatened that they wouldn’t work in Georgia if the state’s law takes effect.

“I think many people who work for us will not want to work there, and we will have to heed their wishes in that regard,” said Disney CEO Bob Iger. “… we will work with the ACLU and others to fight it in court,” said Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos.

Earlier this month, leaders of more than 180 businesses, including Maria Pope, President and CEO of Portland General Electric, signed a letter that ran as an ad in The New York Times opposing the restrictive abortion laws enacted recently in multiple states.

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Maria Pope, President and CEO of PGE, signed the “Don’t Ban Equality” letter.

“It’s time for companies to stand up for reproductive health care,” the Don’t Ban Equality letter said. Restricting abortion is “bad for business.”

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A problem with corporate virtue signaling like this as a marketing strategy is that it assumes the company has other people’s best interests at heart, that it’s not driven by profit seeking. There’s a risk that even altruistic millennials passionate about social causes will see through that, increasing cynicism, not brand loyalty.

Another issue with corporations trying to sell themselves as social justice warriors is that, as Tara Isabella Burton wrote in Vox, companies are pushing the spending of money “as a ritualistic as well as transactional act.” That can backfire. Purchases based on product quality are more likely to be sustained than those based on ever-changing corporate advocacy.

Public policy positions taken by corporate leaders on social issues may also not reflect the views of many employees or consumers, despite the presumptions of executives that others must be in alignment.

On abortion, for example, polling shows that Americans are actually fairly evenly split between those who identify as pro-life and those who identify as pro-choice. A majority of Americans, including many Democrats, support abortion restrictions in the second and third trimesters. In short, corporate honchos are mistaken if they believe most Americans are unrestricted abortion supporters.

As columnist David Byler wrote in the Washington Post, “… neither Republican nor Democratic voters unanimously want the total victory that activists on both sides are agitating for. Republicans are generally pro-life and Democrats are mostly pro-choice, but there’s real dissent among the rank-and-file voters in both camps. Our constantly shifting status quo may be unnerving to the most engaged pro-choice and pro-life advocates. But whatever they might say, the average U.S. voter wants a negotiated compromise in the abortion wars.”

Corporate evangelizing on all sorts of social issues can run afoul of public and employee attitudes, particularly with toxic social media serving as a megaphone for unhinged mobs of ever-smaller tribes determined to play a role in a debate.

Ideology-driven public positioning can also alienate employees and potential hires who are not in sync with a company’s cultural alignment or simply value open thinking.

”Internally, if leaders can create safe avenues for employees with different values and beliefs to voice their ideas (about CSR practices, products, or other business-related issues), this may lead to greater innovation, not to mention goodwill among those who value ideological tolerance as an over-arching feature of their workplace,” several U.S. business professors wrote in United States Politics and Policy.

Then there’s the fact that organizations and individuals who praise corporate intervention on sensitive public issues are generally much less enthused when the intervention has a conservative bent.

A striking example of this is the left’s outrage over comments made in July 2012 by Dan Cathy, Chick-fil-A’s CEO, to the Baptist Press. Cathy said he was “guilty as charged” in his support of what he described as traditional marriage. “We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles,” Cathy said.

To say the least, all hell broke loose, with liberals and LGBTQ activists condemning Cathy and endorsing Chick-fil-A boycotts.

Controversy resurfaced with a March 2019 report by the progressive organization Think Progress that the chain’s foundation donated $1.8 million in 2017 to groups Think Progress said have anti-LGBTQ agendas.

Then there’s the shifting attitudes in the corporate world, which make executives unreliable moral leaders. “Americans ought to be cautious before making corporations their moral compass or primary vehicle for reform,” Adam Winkler, a professor of law at UCLA, wrote recently in The New Republic. “The policy positions taken by U.S. companies on social issues today lean in the direction of inclusion. But tomorrow might be different, if the country—or a business’s particular consumer base—turns in a different direction.

If all this keeps up, you may soon be nostalgic for the days when companies tried to sell their products with simple “plop, plop, fizz, fizz” jingles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Geez, so much depressing news today

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Talk about depressing news. The following came out just today:

  • The Republicans’ House tax bill includes a provision lifting a 1954 ban on political activism by churches.
  • According to the New York Times, one complaint to NBC about “Today” host Matt Lauer came from a former employee who said Lauer , who is married, had summoned her to his office in 2001, locked the door and sexually assaulted her, instigating intercourse. She told The Times that she passed out and had to be taken to a nurse.
  • North Korea showed on Wednesday that missiles it has developed could reach all of the United States.
  • The House of Representatives passed a bill (H.R. 38) on Wednesday that would allow concealed-carry permit holders from one state to legally carry their guns in any other state, regardless of any other state’s concealed-carry laws. Additionally, the bill specifies that a qualified individual who lawfully carries or possesses a concealed handgun in another state: (1) is not subject to the federal prohibition on possessing a firearm in a school zone, and (2) may carry or possess the concealed handgun in federally owned lands that are open to the public.
  • Garrison Keillor, the down-home host of A Prairie Home Companion until last year, has been fired by Minnesota Public Radio over allegations of misconduct.
  • With the U.S. Department of State in turmoil, there are reports that President Trump will replace Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, who has held his job for only 10 months, with Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA. Politico reported today that Pompeo has no formal diplomatic experience and is widely considered a hawk skeptical of the kind of international deal-making, even with America’s enemies, that many diplomats consider a necessary part of U.S. foreign policy.
  • Yesterday, President Trump shared videos on Twitter that supposedly portray Muslim turmoil, committing acts of violence, images that are likely to fuel anti-Islam sentiments.  UK Prime Minister Theresa May admonished Trump, declaring that he was “wrong” to share anti-Muslim videos posted online by a “hateful” British far-right group. Some MPs in Parliament called Trump “racist,” “fascist” and “evil.”
  • While Trump and Republican members of Congress are pushing to lessen regulation of for-profit schools, California is suing for-profit online-only Ashford University and its parent company, Bridgepoint Education, for misleading students about its tuition costs, burying them in student loan debt and offering little of value in return.
  • Steven T. McLaughlin, a member of the New York Assembly, was only moderately disciplined for sexual harassment after an investigation by the Assembly’s ethics committee found that he had asked a female Assembly staff member for naked pictures. The sanctions include forbidding him to employ interns, and an official statement of admonition from the Assembly speaker. The ethics committee also determined that he leaked the name of his accuser, in violation of instructions he had received that the victim’s name and incident remain confidential.
  • Despite warnings from investment professionals Jamie DimonJack Bogle, Warren Buffett , Joseph Stiglitz and Ben Bernanke that Bitcoin is a fraud, people are still buying it.  Bitcoin advanced yesterday to a high of $11,434 before the reversal took it as low as $9,009,” though “as of 3:36 p.m. in New York, it traded at $9,911.10. “If you’re stupid enough to buy it, you’ll pay the price for it one day,” Dimon said.
  • Media disclosed that the Republicans’ House tax bill includes a provision conferring a new legal right for fetuses. The provision would allow families to open 529 educational savings accounts for “unborn children” – essentially college plans for fetuses. Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, argues, “Affirming this language through the tax code would lay the foundation for “personhood,” the idea that life begins at conception thus granting a fetus in utero legal rights. It’s long been the holy grail of the anti-choice movement, since it would be the basis on which they would argue to outlaw abortion entirely.”
  • Media reported that playwright-screenwriter Israel Horovitz has been accused by nine women of sexual harassment. One accuser said she was 19 when she began a summer fellowship with Horovitz at the Gloucester Stage Company in Massachusetts. On her first night, she said, Horovitz drove her to the family home. locked the door, kissed and fondled her,  then led her to his bedroom, where she said he raped her.
  • A Nov. 26-28 poll by pro-Trump group, America First Policies, found Republican Roy Moore ahead of Democrat Doug Jones 46 percent to 45 percent.

    And finally…

  • After spending eight years bitching about the unconscionable $9 trillion increase in the national debt under Obama, Republicans are pushing a tax bill that could add $1.5 trillion or more to the deficit over the next 10 years and maybe a lot more if Congress renews expiring tax provisions.

All this in just one day. Depressing.

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Is Brad Avakian running for Secretary of State or Director or Public Health?

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One of Brad Avakian’s more ubiquitous TV ads emphasizes how he will “ensure a woman can make personal medical decisions about her pregnancy.”

And Planned Parenthood says reproductive health care in Oregon depends on voting for Brad Avakian. “Your reproductive health care is on the Oregon ballot,” says an article by Mary Nolan, executive director for Planned Parenthood PAC of Oregon, on Blue Oregon, a progressive online news and commentary site. Nolan quotes Avakian saying, “As a civil rights attorney, legislator and now Labor Commissioner, I know access to safe and affordable abortion service is a fundamental civil right.”

Planned Parenthood PAC has also made a $7500 contribution to Avakian’s campaign. If I were a contributor to Planned Parenthood, I’d ask for my money back.

 After all, where is protecting reproductive health care listed among the duties of Oregon’s Secretary of State?

Numerous studies have shown that large numbers of voters don’t know which officials are responsible for which issues, a circumstance that makes it hard to hold them accountable for their performance.

All that cluelessness could work to Avakian’s advantage.  In a classic example of misdirection, instead of emphasizing his fit for the Secretary of State job, he’s running as a champion of liberal causes.

Don’t fall for it.

Republicans and abortion: a fool’s errand

Let me see if I have this right?

House Republicans exultantly voted on Thursday, Jan. 22, for a bill (H.R. 7) that would forbid the use of taxpayer funding to pay for abortion.

The House Of Representatives votes on H.R. 7

The House Of Representatives votes on H.R. 7

So Republicans, who routinely rant about taxpayer dollars supporting poor freeloaders with too many kids who are burdening the welfare system, want to make sure that people who can’t afford to get an abortion have more babies.

The Hyde Amendment, passed annually as part of an appropriations bill, already prevents using federal funds to pay for abortion, except in cases of incest, rape and life endangerment of the mother, but H.R. 7 would make that permanent law.

The House bill would restrict the use of federal funds to cover abortions, including through the Medicaid federal-state insurance program for low-income Americans, government-owned health-care facilities and the tax credits available to some people to subsidize the cost of health plans purchased under the Affordable Care Act.

Of course, denying to pregnant low-income women any government assistance for abortions pretty much guarantees that more unwanted babies will be born and that the mother and child will be even more dependent on government aid. In many cases, it also means that the child will be taken care of, or not taken care of, by an unwed mother, too often a teenager, that both will struggle to realize a decent life and that society at large will bear the burden of their failure to thrive.

It’s bad enough that many states, with conservatives cheering them on, have eroded Roe v. Wade by adopting measures that severely limit access to abortion for all women, including restrictions that end up constraining the number of clinics in a state that can perform abortions. That means low-income women wanting an abortion are left out in the cold because they can’t afford to travel to a faraway clinic.

The pregnant daughter of a member of Congress probably faces no such financial barrier if she wants an abortion.

After all, a report from OpenSecrets.org showed the median net worth of a member of Congress was $1,029,505 in 2013, compared with an average American household’s median net worth of  $56,355. Keeping up the trend, half of this year’s freshman class were already millionaires upon their arrival.

Meanwhile, Congress isn’t the only abortion battlefield. Outside the Beltway, Republican gains in numerous states in the November elections strengthened the anti-abortion zealots in statehouses and governor’s offices.

And so the struggle continues.