Appel column: Living the spirit of Christmas

December 31, 2014 Posted by admin

On Jan. 1, the Christmas season officially comes to a close. Something about the Christmas season running through the first of the New Year always seemed appropriate.

Other than the story of the birth of Jesus, easily the most iconic story of the season is Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” One cannot help but wonder that a certain portion of the population hates that story. The main character is a greedy, despicable businessman. Now, certainly there is nothing wrong with making money, but as the main character is shown by the visitation of the three spirits, the insatiable need for excessive amounts of money and the inability to use the money for good only dooms the man to an existence of eternal suffering wrapped with the burdensome weight of pounds of chains representing his sins. Even the main character’s name, Scrooge, is now synonymous with miserliness and insensitivity to the needs of others as he hordes his money for no good use and no satisfying purpose.

How many businesses have ever watched, much less understood, the lesson of the story? For example, Burger King is purchasing the Tim Horton’s restaurant chain based in Canada. But instead of the Horton’s chain becoming part of Burger King, Burger King will restructure and become part of Horton’s. This will now mean that Burger King will no longer be an American business but will become a Canadian business. According to Americans for Tax Fairness, Burger King will immediately realize a minimum savings of $400 million over the next three years.

Good business you respond? But remember when Jacob Marley’s ghost, Scrooge’s now dead former partner visits Scrooge, and Scrooge tells him he was “Always a good man of business,” Marley tacitly replies, “Business, mankind was my business.”

The corporate tax rate in this country is way too high anyway so good for Burger King you counter. On the surface that is true. However, “PolitiFact” has shown that of all companies making at least $250 million a year over the last three years, one in 16 paid no taxes, and conglomerates like General Electric and Wells Fargo actually got tax rebates.

This of course does not even begin to take into account that the average pay for a Burger King worker is somewhere around $8.10. At 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, a general employee at Burger King makes somewhere in the neighborhood of $17,000. An assistant manager only makes about $30,000.

Burger King’s total equity is listed at around $1.2 billion. They will of course continue to use the vast infrastructure of the country they abandoned purely for money’s sake, leaving the American taxpayer to pick up the loss.

Then there are Burger King’s rivals at McDonald’s. McDonald’s made a reported $1.2 billion in the first quarter of this year. Not the entire year mind you, the first three months. Yet the Labor Relations Board “found merit” and is investigating 86 cases of intimidation, harassment and retaliation against workers who protested for higher wages from McDonald’s. Not too unlike Scrooge when he threatens poor Bob Crachet with losing his job after Crachet applauds nephew Fred for his comments about “Though Christmas has not put one scrap of gold in my pocket, I do believe it has done me good.”

And let us not forget poor Tiny Tim. How long he had to suffer and how much sooner he could have received the medical help he needed if there had been a national health service in Dickens’ day.

Scrooge of course, is visited by the three spirits. Each in their own way shows him the errors of his ways, and through this epiphany he becomes “as good a man as the old city has seen.” But only by finally embracing and understanding the spirit of Christmas.

The first thing he does is donate money to the poor without question and without reservation. He no longer accuses them of laziness. He no longer chastises or judges. He uses his money to assuage the suffering of those that have been lost in the cracks of society. He buys the Crachet family a prize-winning turkey. Of course, that was in the days before food stamps.

And finally, Scrooge doubles Crachet’s salary. Finally, paying him commensurate with his work.

One hears a lot about the war on Christmas. But is that a smoke screen because the real war is the war on the spirit of Christmas? And too many want you to forget that spirit, that beauty, that true message of Christmas starting tomorrow.

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