Opinion: Why Fast Food Owners Love Mitt Romney - NBC Chicago
Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Opinion: Why Fast Food Owners Love Mitt Romney



    There’s a scene in the movie The Blind Side in which Sean Tuohy, played my Tim McGraw, drives up to a housing project. Tuohy, who became wealthy as the owner of several fast-food franchises, has adopted a ghetto kid who happens to be a talented offensive lineman, and he’s visiting the project to see the boy’s mother.

    “Now you can see where your employees live,” says his son.

    Later in the movie, it’s also made clear that Tuohy is a Republican.

    I got to thinking about The Blind Side because, lately, it’s become clear that fast food owners are as enthusiastic supporters of Mitt Romney as their fry cooks are of Barack Obama.

    Papa John’s owner John Schnatter is bitching about Obamacare because it will force him to provide his employees with health care. Schnatter says that’s going to add 14 cents to the price of a pizza. POLITICO reported on a conference call in which Schnatter had this to say:

    "Our best estimate is that the Obamacare will cost 11 to 14 cents per pizza, or 15 to 20 cents per order from a corporate basis," Schnatter said.
    "We're not supportive of Obamacare, like most businesses in our industry. But our business model and unit economics are about as ideal as you can get for a food company to absorb Obamacare," he said.
    "If Obamacare is in fact not repealed, we will find tactics to shallow out any Obamacare costs and core strategies to pass that cost onto consumers in order to protect our shareholders best interests," Schnatter vowed.

    In case you haven’t eaten at Popeye’s or Wendy’s lately, most fast-food restaurant owners get rich by paying their employees minimum wage and offering them no benefits. So it’s in their interest to support politicians who won’t raise their labor costs. As the Politico article noted, former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain learned to love the free market as chairman of Godfather’s Pizza, where he complained that President Bill Clinton’s proposed health care law “will force us to eliminate jobs.”

    Jimmy John Liautaud, owner of Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches, is another enthusiastic Republican donor. Liautaud, who founded his business in Charleston, threatened to move to Florida after Gov. Pat Quinn raised the state income tax. During the anti-NATO march in May, protestors attempted to attack a Jimmy John’s on State Street over its labor practices. (Mitt Romney often mentions Liautaud in speeches, as an example of a successful entrepreneur.)

    Dan Cathy of Chick-fil-A, Tom Monaghan of Domino’s Pizza, and the late Dave Thomas of Wendy’s also supported conservative causes, although they were motivated by opposition to gay marriage and abortion. Perhaps they want to ensure the poor breed a surplus of employees for their restaurants. That, too, will keep labor costs down.

    We also learned this week that Mitt Romney’s father, former Michigan Gov. George Romney, had a card entitling to him a lifetime of free meals of McDonald’s. George got it in exchange for conducting training sessions for McDonald’s owner Ray Kroc, early in the company’s history.

    So George Romney never had to pay for fast food. But you do. And the next time you do, you may be supporting his son’s presidential campaign. If you support Obama, you may want to start bringing your lunch to work. 

     This month, Ward Room blogger Edward McClelland’s Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President will be available on Kindle for $2.99. Tracing Obama’s career in Chicago from his arrival as a community organizer to his election to the U.S. Senate, Young Mr. Obama tells the story of how a callow, presumptuous young man became a master politician, and of why only Chicago could have produced our first black president.