Saturday, December 10, 2005

War Is Hell on Your Portfolio 

As you may already know from your religious viewing of the Fox News show Bulls and Bears, the imaginary war that originated in the dankest, smelliest furrows of Bill O'Reilly's limbic region could, if it actually existed, send retail sales plummeting, cause the stock market to crash, and devastate the American economy. We refer, of course, to the putative War on Christmas waged by a cacodemonic fifth column of liberals who mock God and all he holds dear by saying "Happy Holidays" to friends, neighbors, and passersby instead of the more traditional "Happy Birthday, Dear Jesus."

And if a hoked-up, horseshitty, Sterno-induced fantasy of a war could have such a catastrophic effect on corporate profits, what kind of damage might an honest-to-goodness real war cause? The answer, courtesy of Zemblan patriot M.D.:
"Unfortunately, current American foreign policy is viewed by international consumers as a significant negative, when it used to be a positive," said Mitchell Eggers, Global Market's chief operating officer and chief pollster.

Brands the survey identified as particularly at risk included Marlboro, America Online, McDonald's, American Airlines, Exxon Mobil, Chevron, United Airlines, Budweiser, Chrysler, Mattel, Starbucks and General Motors.

In past months, a litany of stories in the financial press featured unnerving questions for business. Typical were the Financial Times in August ("World Turning Its Back on Brand America") and Forbes in September ("Is Brand America In Trouble?").

A U.S. Banker magazine article in August relaying the results of an Edelman Trust Barometer survey found that 41 percent of Canadian opinion leaders were less likely to purchase American products because of Bush administration policies, compared with 56 percent in the United Kingdom, 61 percent in France, 49 percent in Germany and 42 percent in Brazil.

It's not just snooty foreigners who are negative, either. American business leaders have been starting to link economic woes to imperial policy. The U.S. Banker article warned, the "majority of American CEOs, whose firms employ 8 million overseas, are now acknowledging that anti-American sentiment is a problem."

Regularly featured in stories about U.S. image problems is a group of corporate executives who have come together as Business for Diplomatic Action. While avoiding an explicit stance on the Iraq war, the group argues: "The costs associated with rising anti-American sentiment are exponential. >From security and economic costs to an erosion in our ability to engender trust around the world and recruit the best and brightest, the U.S. stands to lose its competitive edge if steps are not made toward reversing the negativity associated with America."

Compared with the adverse impacts of Bush's imperial globalization, the administration's efforts at Karen Hughes-style brand rehabilitation are laughable, and Business for Diplomatic Action knows it. Taking diplomatic matters into their own hands, spokesmen for the group flatly state, "Right now, the U.S. government is not a credible messenger" . . . .

Of course, we know that companies reconstructing Iraq are posting profits. Sales of gas masks and armored Humvees are also up. But such war-supported companies are a small minority.

On the other hand, the diverse businesses in the tourism industry have taken a huge blow. JetBlue, Orbitz, Priceline.com, Morton's steakhouses and Host Marriott, to name just a few, have blamed disappointing returns on the war.

Travel industry leaders have warned that the United States is losing billions of dollars as international tourists are deterred from visiting because of a tarnished image overseas and bureaucratic visa policies.

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