- The feel-good stories about Domino’s filling potholes, Kraft feeding government workers, and Natty Light paying off student loans are not what they seem.
- Brands are stepping in with Band-Aid solutions for massive issues the government should be trying to fix.
- That’s not heartwarming – it’s disturbing.
There’s a disturbing trend in the American food-and-beverage industry, and it has nothing to do with what we’re eating.
In June, Domino’s announced a campaign to repair potholes, working with local governments to fix roads.
On Tuesday, Natural Light – the Anheuser-Busch-owned light-beer brand, often referred to as “Natty Light” – announced plans to give students and former students $10 million over 10 years to offset student-loan debt.
And, on Wednesday, Kraft started giving away free groceries to federal workers.
Are these initiatives helpful for unpaid government workers or people drowning in student-loan debt? Sure. Do they provide a PR boost for brands? Yep.
But, these stories shouldn’t be treated as feel-good, better-capitalism narratives. Instead, they expose deeply depressing gaps that the American government is failing to address.
Building and maintaining roads is the responsibility of federal, state, and local governments. Yet, they often fall short. A US Department of Transportation report from early 2017 found that almost 20% of mileage on federal-aid highways in the US failed to meet the criteria for acceptable pavement. According to the same report, it would cost $836 billion to bring all roads and bridges up to a state of good repair, because of the substantial backlog of work.
Over the past 11 years, student loans experienced a cumulative growth of 157%, Bloomberg reported. Nearly 40% of borrowers may default on their loans by 2023, according to a Brookings Institution report. Yet, the Higher Education Act, which in part sets parameters and processes related to student loans, has not been updated since 2008.
Roughly 800,000 federal employees and millions of government contractors are going without pay throughout the shutdown, now on day 26. More than 1,500 workers are asking for donations via GoFundMe for rent, medical bills, and even feeding their families. The shutdown is looking increasingly catastrophic for the American economy, with Standard & Poor’s saying the economic cost could soon equal Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion to build a wall along the US-Mexico border.
These are massive issues with core problems that will continue long after brands make donations. In the case of student loans, for example, Natty Light’s $10 million donation is just 0.0000067% of the collective $1.5 trillion debt across the US.
It has long been normal for companies to donate to certain causes. And it is natural and admirable that brands would want to address some of customers’ biggest concerns.
But these aren’t feel-good stories. They’re Band-Aid solutions for massive problems the government needs to address.