08/16/2012 08:35 am ET Updated Oct 16, 2012

Why It's Time to Get Corporations out of the Business of Giving


Both Chick-fil-A and Starbucks appreciation days are now safely behind us, which means that we can all resume our pan-ideological purchasing patterns that include subsidizing the gay-rights movement by buying Apple computer products, shopping at Target and eating Ben & Jerry's ice cream, and subsidizing their opponents on the political right by buying stuff from Chick-fil-A, staying at the Sands Hotel and eating Jelly Belly.

As somebody who has both eaten chicken sandwiches at Chick-fil-A and drunk coffee at Starbucks, I have a simple solution, one that should be agreeable to all sides in this standoff and which will benefit all consumers in these challenging economic times: Let's encourage all corporations -- whether conservative, liberal, libertarian or Communist-run -- to cease from all corporate giving and instead return the surplus cash to their customers, either through direct cash refund checks or by lowering their prices. Then we, the customers, can decide how to spend the money. Some of us will give to groups that provide abortions, others to groups that oppose gay marriage. And some may use it simply to buy more chicken sandwiches and iced decaf lattes.

So let's call a truce in the culture war and declare the consumer the winner by demanding that companies lower their prices and let their customers handle philanthropic giving as we see fit.

That means you as well, Bill and Melinda Gates. Your company charged us way too much for plastic things that were made in China and now your Foundation is sitting on our money and we want it back. Send us a refund check and let us decide which charities we want to give our money to.

Imagine a brave new world in which a Chick-fil-A sandwich, a Starbucks decaf tall latte and a pint of Cherry Garcia all set you back a mere 99 cents, while a MacBook Air costs $350 and customers don't have to spend time boycotting any of them. And each of us as American citizens, driven by sincere motivations on issues ranging from abortion to gay marriage to the environment, can then put our own monies toward the causes we believe in.

Now that's something the Right and Left, gay marriage opponents and supporters, should all be able to agree upon.