Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Outrageous Cost of Cheap Pizza

The Huffington Post Article "Papa John's Pizza to Raise Prices Because of Obamacare, CEO John Schnatter Says." by Harry Bradford got a lot of attention on my facebook feed lately. 

CEO John Schnatter, a vocal opponent to the Affordable Care Act, is getting attention for having to raise his pizza prices $0.15 to $0.20 per order to be able to offer health care to his 16,500 employees.  In an attempt to gain sympathy and upset the American public, he is passing on the cost of his obligation to his employees to his customers.  Such a minimal cost increase makes one wonder why can't that come out of his profit margin.  This article Papa John's Turns in Strong Domestic International Q2 shows sales growth up 5.7%, revenues of $318.6 million, and net income of $14.8 million for just one quarter.  That's right, 3 months, April, May and June (which I'd argue aren't "pizza" months).  With numbers like these, it is outrageous that Mr. Schnatter did not offer affordable health care to his employees before.

To show a "closer to home" perspective, the Huff Post interviews Judy Nichols, a Papa John's franchise owner in Texas.  She claims the mandate under the Affordable Care Act will make her second guess expanding to more franchises.  She has choices: pay the fine, keep her staff under 50 employees, or actually offer affordable health care options to her employees.  The unnamed choice is in the hands of Mr. Schnatter, he could come up with a program that would make it more affordable for his franchise owners to offer health care to their employees.  The truth is, there are many factors that cause this same dilemma for smaller business owners.  The cost of rent, the increase fuel costs, the current drought that is sure to cause an increase in the prices of flour and cheese, the list could go on and on. It is easy to blame health care for these pressures or complain that they add to the pressure.  However, Mr. Schnatter  asked someone to work for him, franchise his brand and increase his profit margins and they have, he now owes them more than just a weekly paycheck.

Mr. Schnatter wants you to be mad at the government, Ms. Nichols implies the same, others encourage you to be mad at members of unions or public employees that have affordable health insurance coverage.  This misdirected outrage has got to stop.  It is time to start getting angry that before the Affordable Care Act, 44 million Americans did not have access the health care. It is outrageous that 16,500 of those Americans belonged to Mr. Schnatter and those 16,500 people who worked for him day in and day out, mostly at minimum wage, weren't worth 20 cents more a pizza. It is outrageous that Mr. Schnatter has the ability to keep his profits the same, raise his prices minutely, and he still wants your sympathy. 

The part that gets me every time is how truly out of touch some people are with the day to day realities for  most Americans.  Mr. Schnatter had a fundraiser on his sprawling Louisville ranch for Mittt Romney, with a minimum $1,000 per person price tag.  Mr. Romney proclaimed,  "Don’t you love this country? What a home this is, what grounds these are, the pool, the golf course." He went on to say that Republicans believe that everyone should live like this and Democrats believe no one should live like this.  The reality is, not everyone can live like that.  It's simply impossible.  It reminds me of President G.W. Bush's reaction to a woman who told him at a town hall meeting that she had three jobs and still couldn't make ends meet.  Completely missing the point, President Bush said that kind of work ethic was an American value and what a great country we live in that people work that hard.

Yes President Bush, we live in a great country, based in a strong work ethic that we should be proud of.
No President Bush, a woman should not have to work three jobs to provide for her family.

Yes Mr. Romney, we love this country and the ability we have to work hard and have a nice standard of living.
No Mr. Romney, not all Americans will be able to have a pool, a golf course, or even own their own home, no matter how hard they work.

Yes Mr. Schnatter, you provide jobs to Americans and we hope you continue to create more.
No Mr. Schnatter, you don't get to have a private golf course while your employees go uninsured. 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Stand Up or Stand in Line

Stand Up or Stand in Line
With reservations, I “shared” this picture last night on Facebook.  The part of me that clicked share did so because I agreed that Christian religions (Catholicism included) at this time are focusing too much on issues not mentioned or vaguely mentioned and ignoring direct orders from the big guy himself.  Helping the poor was one of the orders and this picture pointed it out loud and clear.  

The reservations didn’t come crystal clear to me until I literally slept on it. I woke up thinking of it this morning (pretty heavy for a FB picture).  Basically, I thought of this picture and said to myself, “Well, what have you done lately?” 

This picture is taken at the St. Francis Inn, a soup kitchen in the Kensington neighborhood of North Philadelphia that serves hundreds of guests a day with food and spiritual nourishment.  Next door, the Catholic Workers run a free health clinic (and they are looking for dentists if anyone knows anyone to volunteer).  On a typical day, 300-400 children, families, Senior Citizens and Veterans stand in line for a meal and some human interaction. I spent a glorious, challenging, life changing and life giving year here in a volunteer program after college.  Then when I had my first job and my first apartment in a big scary city, this place became my safe haven. When I taught high school students, I brought them here to see what the Holy Spirit in action looked like.Where you stand in line matters.  
Now my life seems a million miles away from this as I sit here with a bright yellow envelope staring at me on my desk.  I’ve been meaning to put a check in it, send it off to Philly  and give a little back to the place that gave me so much.   I supposed the $50 my husband and I spent on dinner last night would have fit nicely in it.  We didn’t eat at Chick-fil-A.  I can tell myself that it was a local restaurant run by a good family that I’ve seen time and time again give back to the community. All that is true, but they also have great beers and a Lobster pizza to die for.  After being at work on Friday an hour and a half longer than the rest of the building, that was my main priority.  

And maybe it’s silly to sit on Facebook and “un-like” a page and rant about cheap chicken places that hate.  Maybe even sillier to blog about it. But I really wanted to look into both sides of it so last night, I went to a FB page of an old high school friend who was talking about this issue based on her Christian beliefs.  She shared an opinion piece called Ben and Jerry’s, Chick-Fil-A, and Political Correctness.  It’s a rational, Christian perspective, that often gets drowned out by the scandal crazed media version of the Christian perspective.  This writer is far more conservative than I, but I appreciated some of his arguments.  The author wisely noted that if we believe in Christianity we must know that we all sin and that many sins are condemned in the same passage as some believe homosexuality is.  The line I appreciated the most was

 “however, for too long the church has seemed to be obsessed with the sins that we do not struggle with; after all, if I am pointing out the sins of others I don’t have to deal with my own.”   

With a sinking feeling, I realized the picture I posted was me pointing fingers at the sins of others, while sitting on my butt eating a Lobster Pizza.   I don’t know what all those people in line did with their day.  Maybe they just finished up folding clothes at the thrift store their church runs for the poor.  Maybe they served meals at their local soup kitchen or handed out lunches in the park to kids who go without when school is not in session.  Perhaps they visited the sick in a hospital or cleaned the house of someone is currently too sick to do so.  Maybe they sat on their butts all day until it was time for the big ol’ chicken rally. I can’t possibly know what those people standing in line did, I can only know what I do.  I can only make sure I do enough.

But then the next article I read absolutely haunted me.  The title is The Chick Fellatio: stuck in thecraw and I promise this is the last article I’ll make you read (seriously go read it now).  The author points out that boycotting a chicken place does matter because of where the money goes.  In this case, to the Family Research Council and the Marriage & Family Foundation.  These two organizations actively condemn and seek to criminalize homosexuality, regardless of their feel good titles.  The criminalization of homosexuality and condemnation of homosexuals is frightening in this country and something we Northerns do not fully understand.  Kind of like Jim Crow Laws. 

 He makes a strong argument against the belief that those on the side of gay marriage are acting intolerant of Christianity and the line that stands out them most to me is:

“But what are you guilty of? When you see a bully beating up a smaller kid and you don’t take a side, then you ARE taking a side. You’re siding with the bully. And when you cheer him on, you’re revealing something about your own character that really is a shame.”

Then he says this:

“If things were reversed, I’d stand up for you.”

As someone who truly tries to stand up for those who can’t, this line haunts me.  Our country falls apart the day we stop standing up for each other.  When we stop protecting each other from the bullies on the playground, whether it’s that kid who calls your friend a fag, spewing his parent’s hateful words or Mega Corporations that are spewing millions of dollars against a single group of people.  While the scale changes the issue remains the same. What you stand up for matters.

Something I need to keep telling myself:

Stand up or stand in line.  

Stand up for those that have no voice or could use yours to strengthen theirs.

 Stand in line with those in need volunteering your time and energy in your community. 

Or, do both.