This past month, I have spent a lot of time back home in Arkansas tending to some family matters. Being in a down-to-earth location like El Dorado, Arkansas makes it exceedingly clear just how greedy the Miami-based cruise lines truly are.
My home town of El Dorado has a Fortune 200 company called Murphy Oil Corporation. The oil company was founded by my uncle, Charles Murphy Jr., who took charge of the family timber, oil, and banking interests in south Arkansas in the early 1940’s. He single handedly created a diversified, international exploration, drilling, refining and marketing energy company. Rather than relocating his business to Houston, Dallas or New Orleans, he kept the company’s headquarters in the little downtown of El Dorado (photo below), just a few blocks from the house where he was born and where my parents and grandmother lived when they were alive.
Uncle Charles was a firm believer in the power of education.
When I was a kid, he handed me a copy of 101 Sonnets, a collection of sonnets from a hundred and one different poets. I studied the poems religiously, mostly out of fear that he would ask me to recite his favorite sonnet in front of our family and cousins. When he learned that I was taking French in junior high school, he would speak to me only in French and ask that I say grace before dinner, in French of course.
My uncle passed in 2002. He left an incredible legacy. And I am not talking about the billions in taxes his company and family paid to the U.S. He made donations to colleges in Arkansas and Louisiana. He served on the Arkansas Board of Higher Education. He served as a director of the Smithsonian Institution and as a trustee of the Ochsner Medical Institution. He created and funded the Murphy Institute at Tulane University in New Orleans which studies the interdisciplinary field involving economists, historians, moral philosophers, and political scientists.
Murphy Oil carried on his tradition of education and giving in 2007 when it created The El Dorado Promise. His company pledged to pay $50,000,000 over the next 20 years in tuition to students graduating from high school in our home town. In just the second year of the program, 312 students are attending college on $2.1 million of Murphy Oil funds. The remarkable generosity of the Murphy family has been covered in People Magazine, Time Magazine, Washington Post and many other national newspapers and television stations.
The cruise industry, on the other hand, is a different beast. It has an uniquely selfish business model.
Cruise lines incorporate their businesses and register their cruise ships in foreign countries like Panama (Carnival) and Liberia (Royal Caribbean) in order to avoid U.S. labor and safety laws and, most importantly, U.S. taxes.
Of the $40,000,000,000 (billion) or so which the cruise industry collects from tax paying U.S. citizens a year, the cruise industry pays $0 in U.S. taxes. That’s right. Zero.
To divert attention from this spectacle, every so often one of the foreign flagged cruise lines will issue a media release about a token “charitable” cause, usually involving a modest sum.
This is emblematic of the cruise industry, paying no U.S. taxes, investing nothing in the U.S., exploiting foreign workers, and conducting highly publicized yet unimpressive marketing stunts as its standard operating procedure.
The cruise industry has a lot to learn. Perhaps the cruise line executives in Miami can take a trip to El Dorado and learn a thing or two about real generosity and investment into people.
I will be pleased to introduce them to my cousins in Arkansas.