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Ralph Nader > In the Public Interest > Business Advertisers Should Watch What They Promote

Business advertisements do more than sell; they also promote certain values, some of which reek with the stench of greed and exploitation.

Two recent ads were quite in accordance with such exudation. In the pages of the New York Times, there has been a running commercial message by the Franklin New York Tax-Free Income Fund with the headline, “Three Freedoms Every New York Investor Should Have: (1) Freedom from Federal Income Tax; (2) Freedom from NY State Income Tax; and (3) Freedom from NYC Income Tax.” A picture of Ben Franklin was expropriated to give some Founding Father credence to this brazen distortion of the word “freedom.”
Let’s ponder this for a moment. Would the Franklin Fund want to be free of police and fire protection for its headquarters at 500 Fifth Avenue? Would it want the streets to and from its offices to be free of any tax revenue that keeps them operational? Would the Fund want to be free of all the hundreds of city services and institutions that keep New York City from devolving to full jungle status?

Suppose all New Yorkers flocked to the Franklin Tax-Free Income Fund. Who would pick up the decline En revenues for state and federal services? Presumably, the Fund wants some national defense, some health care services, some safety protection, some parks, some help for the needy, some research and data collection. Why, someone else, of course, would pay for these programs.

Aha, says the skeptic — the less revenue, the more efficiency in government. But less revenue from whom? Such tax relief is less than equitable for the working people. U.S. Census data on wealth relief this month showed that whites had ten times the wealth of blacks — a difference quite more pronounced than income differences. Efficient and competent government is a goal to be directly approached and not rationalized as an expedient by the privileged few to escape responsibility.

The other advertisement, in the Wall Street Journal, is by a San Diego company by the name of “Manufacture in Mexico, Inc.” The headline is “Why are Japanese Manufacturers Moving to Baja?” The ad goes on to explain why: “Sony, Sanyo, and Panasonic must know something. They can manufacture and assemble for as low as 70 cents an hour in direct labor costs, and can be right next door to their major market — the U.S.”

The exploitation of foreign labor is the latest emphasis of U.S. multinationals bent on abandoning their country in order to sell back into their country. Dangerous workplace conditions and pollution contamination of community water and air abound. One asbestos plant over the border was photographed with the deadly fibers bunched around the fences to the facility. And does anyone believe these corporate expatriots are passing on their savings from serf labor and freedom to pollute to U.S. consumers in the form of lower prices? They go abroad for higher profits, not lower prices back home.

Corporate advertisements, such as these, promote values disruptive of civic and corporate responsibility. They expand the forces of disintegration damaging to domestic social and economic activities and mutual benefit institutions which have produced results that we like to celebrate on July 4th.