Boycotts – Who Loses?

After the Parkland shootings, social media has raged against the NRA… somehow missing that the FBI ignored those tips, that Broward County Deputy Scot Peterson assigned to the school stayed safely outside it while listening to the shots, and over 30 mental health and police visits to Cruz’ home.  “Never let a good crisis to go to waste.”

As part of this movement, activists are threatening companies that provide NRA discounts with boycotts.  Several companies have capitulated, including Delta Airlines, United Airlines, Avis Budget Group and nearly a dozen more.  But of these, Delta suddenly wound up with something to lose with a $50 Million tax cut on the hook in Georgia… which isn’t quite as liberal as Florida.  (On the other side, FedEx, for example, is staying apolitical by not dropping the NRA.)

Reality Dispatch isn’t going to dive into all of these.  We really just have a few questions:

  • Is the NRA likely to be hurt?  Why do these discounts even exist?
  • Would Delta lose more sticking with the NRA or hoping the tax cut doesn’t go away?
  • Do boycotts even matter?

Will the NRA Be Hurt?

The NRA may lose some income.  Affiliate discounts probably don’t have a big impact on membership, especially given that after each shooting, NRA membership shoots up.  But those branding deals make money for both sides of the deal.  (This also suggests that Delta, Enterprise, etc. are likely to lose some money, but those discounts are utterly pervasive).  The AAA, AARP and probably even AA (AlAnon) have all sorts of discounts available.

The NRA may suffer a bit of revenue loss, but it’s likely they’ve already gotten more revenue in new members.

Will Delta Be Hurt?

Delta’s biggest hits would come from conservatives and gun owners boycotting them, and from the loss of the tax cut.  And as you’ll see below, boycotts don’t really matter much.

The government is a different beast.  Georgia is largely Republican, despite Atlanta being quite Democrat.  Delta, headquartered in Atlanta, is one of the state’s largest employers. Republicans in the state of Georgia’s senate have threatened to cancel a sales tax exemption for jet fuel. This tax exemption equates to approximately $50 million dollars of which Delta is the primary beneficiary.  Senate Republicans voted Wednesday (February 28, 2018) to strip it out of the measure after Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle said he would “kill” the incentive unless Delta restored ties with the gun rights group.

Other cities have responded by inviting Delta to move to their city.   This won’t happen; the Atlanta airport is Delta-central.  Delta simply cannot easily pick up and move.  However, if it did, the loss of both business and income tax (4% of 33,000 employees’ salary) revenues from Delta could be a major blow for the state.

The other side of this issue is that, should Georgia stand up to Delta, it could cost Georgia in other lost business (e.g. a shot at Amazon), much as North Carolina suffered for their transgender bathroom bill requiring biological men to stay out of the little girl’s room.  North Carolina eventually gave up on their “traditional” values.

Do Boycotts Work?

This must seem an odd question, given the example just one sentence ago that North Carolina caved on transgendered bathroom use.  But there’s more to it than that…  As the Pew Research Center shows, the U.S. is not even close to in agreement on guns.  The coasts and some large cities… especially those run by Democrats and with very high crime (usually the same cities) tend to be anti-gun.  The rest tend to be very pro-gun.  The media is concentrated in the anti-gun areas, but they’re not necessarily impacting the rest.

So here’s a look at some boycotts and their effects:

Hobby Lobby has been the subject of boycotts over their desire to not provide contraception benefits because, as a Christian-run company, it violated their beliefs.  The Obamacare Mandates disagreed, as did George Takei.  And the LGBT world in general… despite the lack of any obvious stake.  None the less, Hobby Lobby took it all the way, the law was changed and the boycott failed.

The far-right AFA (American Family Association), a “traditional values” (or, if you’re on the left, an “anti-gay hate”) group, started a boycott against Ford in 2005, after Ford had been “friendly to gay couples.”  Ford briefly pulled advertising from gay-oriented magazines…which caused a counter-uproar… and Ford put them back.  In the end, the AFA boycott failed.

The AFA also organized a boycott against Home Depot for similar reasons… which also ended fruitlessly.

Boycotts do work sometimes, but they aren’t a sure thing.

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