Opinion

BRUNELL: Making money is a good thing

By Don Brunell

These days, it seems like profit has become a dirty word. To hear some politicians talk, you’d think making money was a bad thing – and that those who do should be taxed and regulated to death.

In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.

Our economy is the best in the world because anyone can take a chance and start a business, whether it’s kids selling lemonade or Boeing delivering a 747. That’s why people flock to America.

Profits also allow companies to do good things.

According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, private companies and foundations donated more than $1.3 billion in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. In the first few days following the Haiti earthquake, U.S. companies quickly donated $83 million for food, shelter and medical care and corporate donations continue to flood in.

If companies like Coca-Cola and Procter and Gamble weren’t profitable, who would sponsor the televised coverage of the Winter Olympics? According to a recent NPR story, the United States is the only major competing nation without government funding for our Olympic athletes. Corporate sponsorships provide the bulk of the money for training, travel and stipends.

In our communities, businesses are a key partner in providing some of the “extras” that might not otherwise be there. Schweitzer Engineering Labs in Pullman built the high school aquatics complex and regularly funds engineering research and programs at schools and universities. Northwest Embroidery in Lakewood donated some of its profits and inventory to a fundraiser for the families of the four murdered Lakewood police officers.

If Main Street businesses are not profitable, who would provide the merchandise for the church auction, fund United Way or buy the ads in the high school yearbooks?

Profits don’t fall from the sky, and not every business makes money. They are the result of hard work, long hours, sleepless nights, innovation, good management, good customer service and people who are willing to take risks.

Bill Gates dropped out of college because he envisioned a future where virtually every home would have a personal computer. That vision – and the risks Gates took to make it a reality – revolutionized the world. In the process, Bill Gates became a multibillionaire.

Now Gates has teamed with Warren Buffett to create the world’s largest charitable foundation, which is funding worldly goals such as eradicating some of the world’s deadliest diseases.

Because consumers have choices, a company profits only when it finds ways to produce a better product, cheaper and faster. So, rather than being viewed as bad, profits should be seen as a sign that American companies are doing something right.

That’s not to say all business folks are angels. But for each highly-publicized scoundrel like Bernie Madoff, there are millions of honest employers struggling to make payroll, loan payments and help their staff feed their families.

If America is going to climb out of this punishing recession, the private, job-creating and tax-paying sector will lead the way.

Every day in our state, people take huge personal and financial risks in order to solve a problem or make a better product, hoping to also earn money in the process. Without people willing to take those risks, our nation cannot compete with China, Korea or India, and we will drown in the ocean of debt we seem intent on creating.

Instead of punishing American success through regulations and higher taxes, our government should step back, look at our competition and find ways to clear the hurdles for our business to compete.

It will take a political attitude adjustment to make that happen. The first step is to recognize that it’s good to make a buck.

Don Brunell is the president of the Association of Washington Business.

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