They take our jobs. They take our top automaker status. Now they want to take our beer. Who’s “They” you ask? Well, in the case of American beer maker Anheuser-Busch, “They” happen to be a bunch of Dutch Boys overseas. Literally.

In case you hadn’t heard – and groaned – about the news, Anheuser-Busch is the target of an unsolicited, foreign takeover by Belgium-based brewer InBev. The company’s notable brews include Beck’s, Stella Artois and Bass. Conversely, Anheuser-Busch makes Budweiser, Michelob and Natural Light.  And if they choose to make their takeover bid hostile, there seems to be little that anyone – not even Cindy McCain, chairwoman of Hensley & Co., one of the nation’s largest Anheuser-Busch distributors – can do about it. 

Now I like an ice cold bottle of Duff as much as the next All-American Homer. But honesty is in order here: those Belgian brands simply taste better. Just like Japanese cars are better buys than anything Detroit has to offer. Just like Swiss chocolate kicks Hershey’s tail all the way to Wonkaville. 

And therein lies the real economic challenge facing the next president of the United States. How would Barack Obama or John McCain combat the neo-philosophy that says Big Business should downsize this, eliminate that, borrow funds or conduct some fiscal prestidigitation? Surely this philosophy is dangerous, yet it has prevailed in America’s boardrooms. And that’s a shame, because American workers still work more and vacation less than the workforces of other industrialized nations, yet, a shoddy product is all they have to show for their blue-collar efforts.  

A few months back, I huddled over a couple of beers with a fellow from the Federal Trade Commission who had just returned from a conference in Japan. Frustrated, he sulked about all that was wrong with America’s big business culture: “In America, the stock price goes up when a company closes plants and lays off workers,” the fellow said. “But foreign countries strive to hire workers and open new plants. That’s their barometer of health. 

“That,” he said before he took a final swig of his imported beer “And the fact that they still believe in putting out a quality product.” 

Now it’s not bad business to improve profit-margins via cost-cutting efforts. But something has to be done – if anything – to stop the loss of American jobs to foreign countries; to start getting returns for the corporate welfare filling Big Business’ coffers; to have ample oversight in place to prevent shady borrow first, account for it later, shell game/spreadsheet practices.  

There needs to be a leader of Rooseveltian mettle (both Teddy and Franklin) in the White House. Someone who isn’t afraid of partisan labels and will hang government regulation over the heads of American business execs like a Sword of Damocles, and encourage what’s good for both the company and its workers, instead of pandering to shareholders. These are real economic challenges facing the next president.

It’s time, once and for all, that American businesses finally push back against “They.” Because “They” – with their superior products, their stronger currency and their higher profit margins – are now kicking our economic butts from sea to shining sea. 

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