The Corner

Politics & Policy

Bernie Sanders, Man of Principle

Bern, Bern, Bern, you’re killing me here. I want to believe, because you are a Man of Principle. But I am troubled by this Bernie-branded ice-cream business.

Ben Cohen, the founder of Ben & Jerry’s, now a division of the Anglo-Dutch multinational conglomerate Unilever, produced a small batch of Bernie-themed ice cream — 1 percent chocolate on top! Ha! – and donated it to Senator Sanders. As an in-kind donation, the value of the ice cream is negligible. The real value, of course, is the publicity that such things generate. Fair enough.

I myself do not buy the Left’s general critique about corporate tax avoidance, but if I did, I would — if I were a Man of Principle — have to confess that Unilever is widely criticized as a notorious corporate tax-avoider, with hundreds of subsidiaries, many of which are strategically located in infamous corporate tax shelters. Ben & Jerry’s is a revenue stream supporting everything that a Man of Principle such as Bernie Sanders abhors.

Now Bernie might reply, with complete accuracy, that this publicity stunt was not a gift from the Unilever corporation, but from Mr. Cohen, who made a bundle in the ice-cream racket before taking a big payday and letting Unilever take over. But that would be a pretty cheap moral cop-out for a genuine Man of Principle. (More on that arrangement here.)

Worse, if Ben Cohen’s largesse is clean because it didn’t come directly from Unilever, that establishes a One Degree of Separation principle for filthy tax-avoiding corporate largesse, which, being Men of Principle, we’d have to apply equally to various Walton heirs, the Koch Foundation, the American Petroleum Institute, etc.

I’m genuinely curious, here, Bern. Being a reasonably well-informed Catholic, I know how indulgences work in my belief system — how do they work in yours?

From one Man of Principle to another.

 

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