Marie Antoinette, meet Ronald McDonald.
A lot of people are angry about McDonald’s new financial advice website for employees, an ill-conceived project which drips with “let them eat cake” insouciance. “Every dollar makes a difference,” McDonald’s lectures its struggling and often impoverished workers.
But it’s time to ditch the resentment and offer McDonald’s a word of thanks. It has just performed an invaluable service for campaigns like Raise the Minimum Wage, petitions like this one, and July 24′sNational Day of Action by serving up a timely and exhaustively researched brief on their behalf. This new website provides invaluable data for a living-wage “McManifesto.”
You want fries with that?
Get this: The new employee website, co-created with Visa, helpfully suggests that people who work for this Fortune 500 corporation begin the financial planning process by taking a second job.
As a number of ticked-off writers have observed, McDonald’s also pretty much advises its employees not to clothe themselves, heat their homes, seek educational advancement, or pay more than $600 in rent and $20 in health insurance premiums per month. (As Daniel Gross notes, that would pay for about two days of coverage.)
And, as if that’s not enough, there isn’t even any money for food in the McDonald’s sample budget. Apparently for McDonald’s employees the phrase “Happy Meal” means you’re happy whenever you’re lucky enough to scrounge a meal.
People were seething at the website’s arch touches, which include interactive games like “Financial Football” and “Road Trip to Savings,” and were thunderstruck by the lordly obliviousness behind pronouncements like “Knowing where your money goes and how to budget it is the key to your financial freedom.”
(Not when there’s not enough of it, Sir Ronald.)
Peter S. Goodman notes that McDonald’s receives a fortune in “corporate welfare.” In fact, government policies help most of the country’s underpaying mega-corporations keep expanding through a series of tax breaks and other concessions.
Economically, we’re super-sizing them.
Heart of the matter.
Many McDonald’s workers need public assistance to survive, which often includes Medicaid. That’s right: The public is even subsidizing McDonald’s low wages and lousy benefits when it comes to health care.
Subsidize McDonald’s? For health care? With that food it should be hit with a surcharge.
Fun fact: McDonald’s says it serves nine million pounds of French fries globally every day. Since slightly more than half its franchises are in the US, that means Americans presumably consume between four and five million pounds of this lard-laden, massively space-time curving starchy mass every 24 hours.
Each McDonald’s French fry is a tiny, fat-drenched drone missile aimed directly at the American cardiovascular system. One can only imagine how much of our nation’s runaway health care costs are traceable to this one corporation alone.
And we’re subsidizing its health care, rather than the other way around.
In 2012 McDonald’s had gross profit of more than $10 billion on annual revenues of $27 billion. That’s up more than 12 percent from 2010. The lard business is good.
Visa, which for some reason has been spared most of this week’s online fury, deserves its own share of negative attention. As the financial half of this website team, Visa presumably provided the handiwork which reminds struggling fast-food employees that “every day and every dollar make a difference.”
Visa, like McDonald’s, is a coddled corporation. A government less corrupted by Big Money would have broken up this monopolistic enterprise long ago, especially given its tendency to abuse its marketplace dominance.
Visa was originally created by one fraud-ridden and bailed out megabank, Bank of America, and continues to enrich another. And, as CNN Money reported, its 2008 IPO “created a nice windfall for its owners, including its largest shareholder JPMorgan … about $1.3 billion on its 29 million shares.”
JPM made the headlines with yet another major fraud just this morning, adding piquancy to the knowledge that it bleeds us a little every time we swipe a credit card or debit card. And yet these two corporate anti-heroes have performed a great service by making the case so beautifully:
Americans can’t live on today’s minimum wage.
With a side of cynicism.
If the minimum wage had kept pace with productivity it would now be $16.54 per hour, according to the Center for Economic Policy Research. It would be $10.74 if it had merely kept pace with inflation – although McDonald’s and VISA have now demonstrated that this isn’t enough to live on either. (The minimum wage is currently $7.25.)
That adds an extra dose of cynicism to the website’s observation that “You can have almost anything you want as long as you plan ahead and save for it.”
That lie carries a special sting for the millions who have been locked out of the American Dream. Thanks to the deliberate policy decisions of the last four decades – breaks and giveaways for corporations, coupled with lost income for the majority – social mobility and income fairness have plunged in this country.
No matter how much you try to save on a minimum wage, a better life will remain beyond your means – until something changes.
Are there no roommates? Are there no malt shops?
A McDonald’s-like tone-deafness let Washington Post blogger Timothy B. Lee in for a heavy dose of online criticism too, when he defended the McDonald’s/Visa budget. Here’s an excerpt:
“Gawker’s Neil Casey calls $600 per month for rent a ‘laughably small’ figure, but Casey should spend more time outside the Northeast Corridor. When I lived in St. Louis, my roommate and I each paid $425 per month …”
Roommate? That clichéd thinking reflects one of the key misconceptions about minimum-wage workers: that they’re teenagers or twenty-one year olds just starting out in life. It’s closely related to the myth that most fast-food workers are fresh-faced kids serving root beer floats at the local malt shop.
In fact, less than 16 percent of minimum-wage workers are teenagers. Many are parents, which makes the “roommate” suggestion especially silly. More than seven million children live in a minimum-wage home. And many minimum-wage workers live in poverty. (See Real Faces of the Minimum Wage for more.)
You deserve a break today.
America is crying out to McDonald’s as if with one voice: “Stuff that financial planning website in your Egg McMuffin.”
The pain and anger is palpable. But it’s not enough. What do we do?
For one thing, we can sign a petition supporting a bill which would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 – and then demand it be raised even further. We can back the minimum-wage campaigns being waged around the country, which build on an exciting grassroots movement of fast-food workers in cities like Detroit. (There’s more information here.)
McDonald’s should join the wage movement it so ably served this week, because economic misery is hurting its bottom line in the US and worldwide. And while its new and successful “dollar menu” shows that it’s willing to profit from hard times, that’s only a short-term fix in a declining economy.
Pay your workers what they deserve, McDonald’s. But the rest of us won’t wait for you. We’re taking action, because we agree with you about one thing:
Every dollar makes a difference.
> U.S. workforce: 120,000
> CEO compensation: $28.9 million
> Revenue: $13.3 billion
> Net income: $1.4 billion
> No. of U.S. stores: 7,049
Starbucks Corp. (NASDAQ: SBUX) employs 120,000 workers across the United States. Howard Schultz, the company’s CEO, has become a billionaire by turning Starbucks from a small coffee retailer into one of the world’s most famous brands. Last year, Schultz took home nearly $29 million in total compensation. Schultz is often viewed as a progressive executive, due to his support of gay marriage and his request that customers not bring guns into Starbucks locations. In an interview with CNBC in March, Schultz cautiously supported a minimum wage hike. However, according to Glassdoor.com, baristas at Starbucks are paid an average of less than $9 an hour. Schultz has downplayed the relevance of these figures.
9. TJX Companies
> U.S. workforce: 138,211 (est.)
> CEO compensation: $21.8 million
> Revenue: $25.9 billion
> Net income: $1.9 billion
> No. of U.S. stores: 2,355
The TJX Companies Inc. (NYSE: TJX) operates Marshalls, TJ Maxx and HomeGoods in the United States. The company’s stores are off-price retailers, meaning they buy unsold inventory from manufacturers and other retailers and resell it at a discount. TJX’s sales have grown in the past four consecutive fiscal years as the retailer also boosted its operating profit margin. Despite the company’s success, sales associates at its stores earn less than $8 an hour on average, according to Glassdoor.com.
> U.S. workforce: 175,700
> CEO compensation: $13.8 million
> Revenue: $27.7 billion
> Net income: $1.3 billion
> No. of U.S. stores: 844
Annual revenue at Macy’s Inc. (NYSE: M) has risen slightly over the past four years, up from roughly $25 billion in 2008 to more than $27.7 billion at the end of its latest fiscal year. Macy’s, the second-largest department store in the United States, exceeded Wall Street’s expectations this past quarter, posting large increases in sales and earnings from the year before. Earlier this year, members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union ratified a five-year agreement with Macy’s that should help protect the benefits of nearly 700 Macy’s employees in Maryland and Washington, D.C. According to Glassdoor.com, associates are paid under $9 an hour on average.
7. Darden Restaurants
> U.S. workforce: 203,389 (est.)
> CEO compensation: $6.4 million
> Revenue: $8.6 billion
> Net income: $412 million
> No. of U.S. stores: 2,105
Revenues at Darden Restaurants Inc. (NYSE: DRI), the parent company of chains such as Olive Garden and Red Lobster, rose from just $7.2 billion in 2009 to $8.6 billion in fiscal 2013. According to Morningstar’s analysis, operating margins have been some of the best in the industry in the past few years. Additionally, instead of raising wages, the company’s funds have been used effectively “to fund growth concepts and enhance total shareholder returns.” Yet the results have not been enough for investors, some of whom have pushed for the company to split and continue to cut costs faster. In 2013, Fortune named Darden one of the “100 Best Companies to Work For,” citing access to low-cost health insurance for part-time employees. Still, pay for many workers at Olive Garden and Red Lobster is frequently less than $10.00 per hour, according to Glassdoor.com. However, many of these employees may receive tips in addition to their base pay.
6. Sears Holdings
> U.S. workforce: 246,000
> CEO compensation: $1.3 million (Louis D’Ambrosio, former CEO)
> Revenue: $39.9 billion
> Net income: -$930 million
> No. of U.S. stores: 2,073
Sears Holdings Corp. (NASDAQ: SHLD), owner of both Sears and Kmart, is in heavy competition with other department stores. The median hourly wage for department store workers was just $9.83 in 2012. At Sears, sales associates averaged slightly more than $8 an hour, while cashiers averaged $7.70 per hour. Kmart offered similar pay to its workers as well, with 105 cashiers and 75 sales associates reporting to Glassdoor.com that their hourly wages were less than $8.00. However, Sears Holdings may not have the necessary ability to increase its employees’ pay. Sales have slipped in the past few years, plunging from $47.8 billion in fiscal 2008 to less than $40 billion in the most recent year. The company has also failed to post an operating profit in either of the past two full fiscal years.
5. Yum! Brands
> U.S. workforce: 694,712 (est.)
> CEO compensation: $14.2 million
> Revenue: $13.6 billion
> Net income: $1.6 billion
> No. of U.S. stores: 18,069
Yum! Brands Inc. (NYSE: YUM) CEO David Novak received more than $14 million worth of total compensation in the past fiscal year. The company’s revenue rose from $11.3 billion to $13.6 billion. Hourly wages for workers at its KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell chains, however, are still often less than $8 an hour. Yum! Brands has continued to expand, opening more than five new restaurants a day outside the United States in 2012. However many American workers have expressed frustration that the company’s success has not led to an increase in their pay. This summer, fast-food workers at Yum! Brands and other fast-food chains staged protests across the country, demanding higher wages.
> U.S. workforce: 343,000
> CEO compensation: $11.1 million
> Revenue: $96.8 billion
> Net income: $1.5 billion
> No. of U.S. stores: 2,418
The Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR) employs 343,000 workers in 2,418 stores across the country. The company operates stores under several names, including Kroger, City Market, Dillons and others. A majority of Kroger’s employees are covered by collective bargaining agreements between the company and different unions. In the past few months, Kroger has agreed to terms with unions covering thousands of workers in Virginia and Texas. Kroger’s net profit was $1.5 billion at the end of the most recent fiscal year.
> U.S. workforce: 361,000
> CEO compensation: $20.6 million
> Revenue: $73.3 billion
> Net income: $3.0 billion
> No. of U.S. stores: 1,778
Target Corp. (NYSE: TGT) had 361,000 employees working at 1,778 stores in the United States at the end of 2012. The average listed salary on Glassdoor.com for a cashier or an employee on the Target sales floor is less than $9 an hour. In response to Target opening on Thursday, in advance of Black Friday, Target workers drafted a petition last year to “save Thanksgiving.” More than 300,000 people signed the petition. This year, Target stores will open on Thanksgiving Day at 8 p.m. That is an hour earlier than last year.
> U.S. workforce: 739,055 (est.)
> CEO compensation: $13.8 million
> Revenue: $27.6 billion
> Net income: $5.5 billion
> No. of U.S. stores: 14,157
In the restaurant industry, the hourly median wage was just over $9.00 as of 2012. However, many McDonald’s Corp. (NYSE: MCD) employees are paid far less, with cashiers and crew members often earning only the minimum wage. In October, several McDonald’s employees were arrested for protesting their wages at the Union League Club of Chicago, where McDonald’s President Jeff Stratton was giving a speech. Between 2008 and 2012, sales and profit margins at McDonald’s have increased. Despite the company’s growth, employees are still hurting. All but admitting the low wages, McDonald’s encourages employees to enroll in food stamps and welfare programs.
> U.S. workforce: 1.4 million
> CEO compensation: $20.7 million
> Revenue: $469 billion
> Net income: $17.0 billion
> No. of U.S. stores: 4,759
There are 1.4 million Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) associates working at the company’s 4,759 U.S. stores. Walmart recently announced it would launch Black Friday sales at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. Critics of Walmart see this as adding insult to injury — forcing retail workers who already earn low wages to cut holidays short. Criticisms like these have been part of an onslaught of claims that Walmart underpays its workers. Walmart disagrees, saying that “for tens of thousands of people every year, a job at Walmart opens the door to a better life.” According to the company, a full-time hourly wage is $12.83. Some argue that the company’s number is inflated, however, reflecting the salaries of higher-paid employees. Hourly wages for sales associates are less than $9.00, according to Glassdoor.com. Walmart’s net income rose to $17 billion last year.
The Triumph of the Right
Conservative Republicans have lost their fight over the shutdown and debt ceiling, and they probably won’t get major spending cuts in upcoming negotiations over the budget.
But they’re winning the big one: How the nation understands our biggest domestic problem.
They say the biggest problem is the size of government and the budget deficit.
In fact our biggest problem is the decline of the middle class and increasing ranks of the poor, while almost all the economic gains go to the top.
The Labor Department reported Tuesday that only 148,000 jobs were created in September — way down from the average of 207,000 new jobs a month in the first quarter of the year.
Many Americans have stopped looking for work. The official unemployment rate of 7.2 percent reflects only those who are still looking. If the same percentage of Americans were in the workforce today as when Barack Obama took office, today’s unemployment rate would be 10.8 percent.
Meanwhile, 95 percent of the economic gains since the recovery began in 2009 have gone to the top 1 percent. The real median household income continues to drop, and the number of Americans in poverty continues to rise.
So what’s Washington doing about this? Nothing. Instead, it’s back to debating how to cut the federal budget deficit.
The deficit shouldn’t even be an issue because it’s now almost down to the same share of the economy as it’s averaged over the last thirty years.
The triumph of right-wing Republicanism extends further. Failure to reach a budget agreement will restart the so-called “sequester” — automatic, across-the-board spending cuts that were passed in 2011 as a result of Congress’s last failure to agree on a budget.
These automatic cuts get tighter and tighter, year by year — squeezing almost everything the federal government does except for Social Security and Medicare. While about half the cuts come out of the defense budget, much of the rest come out of programs designed to help Americans in need: extended unemployment benefits; supplemental nutrition for women, infants and children; educational funding for schools in poor communities; Head Start; special education for students with learning disabilities; child-care subsidies for working families; heating assistance for poor families. The list goes on.
The biggest debate in Washington over the next few months will be whether to whack the federal budget deficit by cutting future entitlement spending and closing some tax loopholes, or go back to the sequester. Some choice.
The real triumph of the right has come in shaping the national conversation around the size of government and the budget deficit – thereby diverting attention from what’s really going on: the increasing concentration of the nation’s income and wealth at the very top, while most Americans fall further and further behind.
Continuing cuts in the budget deficit – through the sequester or a deficit agreement — will only worsen this by reducing total demand for goods and services and by eliminating programs that hard-pressed Americans depend on.
The President and Democrats should re-frame the national conversation around widening inequality. They could start by demanding an increase in the minimum wage and a larger Earned Income Tax Credit. (The President doesn’t’ even have to wait for Congress to act. He can raise the minimum wage for government contractors through an executive order.)
Framing the central issue around jobs and inequality would make clear why it’s necessary to raise taxes on the wealthy and close tax loopholes (such as “carried interest,” which enables hedge-fund and private-equity managers to treat their taxable income as capital gains).
It would explain why we need to invest more in education – including early-childhood as well as affordable higher education.
This framework would even make the Affordable Care Act more understandable – as a means for helping working families whose jobs are paying less or disappearing altogether, and therefore in constant danger of losing health insurance.
The central issue of our time is the reality of widening inequality of income and wealth. Everything else — the government shutdown, the fight over the debt ceiling, the continuing negotiations over the budget deficit — is a dangerous distraction. The Right’s success in generating this distraction is its greatest, and most insidious, triumph.
Conservative economic policies weaken families by treating workers as disposable commodities and their families’ needs as a drag on efficiency and productivity. Without the tempering force of common-sense regulations, their ideology ignores reality and belittles human dignity by creating deeply problematic contradictions. For example, many of today’s right-wing politicians deny workers a living wage while simultaneously accusing them of lacking the work ethic to feed and care for a family. Others tout themselves as pro-life protectors of children while callously attempting to cut funding to life-saving early childhood programs such as Head Start or food stamps.
Far from bolstering the family unit and the values we hold dear, these narrow-minded definitions of family values and inhumane economic policies have placed an added burden on American families while doing little to address the serious issues they face. While conservatives continue to wage culture wars about sexual regulation and failed economic policies, millions of lower- and middle-income parents are forced to choose between making enough to get by and caring for their families, and millions more struggle to provide their children with quality child care—or any child care—and early childhood education. Meanwhile, parents are increasingly unable to afford to send a kid to college, and still others wrestle with how to care for aging loved ones when they become infirm or ill.
Confronted with these challenges and hardships, right-wing rhetoric is cold comfort to millions of hardworking, patriotic American families.
Yes this is real. Yes someone actual made this. No they weren’t being sarcastic this is what they actually believe. http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2012/02/how_deserving_a.html I’m dying. So yeah. These are the sort of people the blog is talking about.
FUCK NO!! THIS GUY GOES TO MY FUCKING SCHOOL?!?!!
Oh no, he doesn’t go to your school, he is a tenured professor at your school. I hope that clears things up.
Let me show you what this congressperson [Rep. Steve King] is doing. Basically they’re pinning the problems that we have in this country on people who are poor. If you think about people who are poor really— you have 80 percent of people who are food insecure are actually working. That means their wages are so low that they’re eligible for food stamps. So you want to talk about dependency in this country? Let’s talk about corporations and businesses that pay such low wages that they depend on the United States government to add money to those wages through the Income Assistance Programs, like SNAP. So because if you take a company like Walmart, pays their workers so low that their workers are actually eligible for food stamps. Who’s dependent on the U.S. government? I’d have to say it’s Walmart is the welfare queen here.
If you look at the world and say “Yes, there are enough homes for people, yes, there is enough food for people, but if we give it away for free they won’t have earned it and the economy will collapse.” Then you have chosen money (a constructed medium of exchange) over living beings who only want to continue living in peace and safety.
And I have no qualms telling you, that is the wrong choice, and you have been brainwashed by this destructive, exploitative system.
North Carolina Republicans have launched a web site with the name Civitas Institute, in order to directly attack the people who are joining in on the “Moral Monday” protests.
Civitas’ new section, “The Moral Mondays Protesters,” includes statistics, a complete list of names, ages, occupations, affiliations, and dates of arrest for all of those who were arrested, and an utterly tasteless “game” called “pick the protester” featuring mug shots and trivia questions.
All the better for all those
Ku Klux Klan membersNorth Carolina Republican Party leaders who want to intimidate folks who don’t like their recent policy innovations. This dubious new website feature is so outrageously insulting and amateurishly low-minded, this writer didn’t know whether to respond with harsh invective, derisory laughter, or both.
Fortunately, Reverend Barber came up with an effective response to this blatant attempt to discredit Moral Mondays and scare off supporters: An 18 minute 22 second video entitled “Civitas: Diverting From Issues That Matter | Moral Monday” that scolds them for trying to change the conversation. […]
[Click the headline link to see pictures and watch the video or to read more info.]
I love this quote from Barber:
“Somebody asked me yesterday in an interview, ‘What do you think about … you mean you support taking from the government, and giving to people?’ I say ‘what do you mean?’ And they were suggesting that we support taking from some people and giving to others who don’t deserve … I said, ‘Well, the reality is, that’s what’s happening now. The wealthy are taking resources that they don’t need from the government, and from us tax payers, to put more in their pocket, out of greed, no matter how how much grief it causes other people.’”
In other words, much in modern America depends on where you draw boundaries, and who’s inside and who’s outside. Who is included in the social contract? If “Detroit” is defined as the larger metropolitan area that includes its suburbs, “Detroit” has enough money to provide all its residents with adequate if not good public services, without falling into bankruptcy. Politically, it would come down to a question of whether the more affluent areas of “Detroit” were willing to subsidize the poor inner-city through their tax dollars, and help it rebound. That’s an awkward question that the more affluent areas would probably rather not have to face.
What does a demand-constrained economy look like? Firstly, it is deflationary for everything except basic essentials. Perversely, prices of energy, housing and basic foodstuffs may actually rise, because people will prioritise those over all other spending. But prices of non-essential goods will crash to zero, and profits will evaporate like the morning mist. At that point - when even the very low maintenance costs of robots are too high - businesses will cease production. So although the economy is generally deflationary, headline inflation could actually rise as producers of essential goods hike prices (because they can) and other goods and services disappear.
Secondly, a demand-constrained economy is sluggish. People who are struggling to survive don’t do anything that isn’t essential: they don’t go shopping except when they absolutely have to, they don’t go out for meals or other entertainment, they don’t go on holiday, they may not even visit friends or relatives much if transport is expensive, they don’t maintain their houses and they don’t buy treats for their kids. And they are tired. The physical and mental energy required just to ensure that bills are paid on time is considerable: constant worry makes creativity impossible for many people. If the majority of people are living like this, then the country is not a happy place. Few people can enjoy life in a society where the sheer challenge of surviving is so great that people even lack the energy to protest.
And thirdly, a demand-constrained economy is an unattractive place for businesses. Businesses want to make profits. If profits are impossible because no-one has any money, businesses will not want to locate themselves there, unless they plan to export their entire production. They will go to more vibrant economies where people have money to spend and the energy to pursue interests and hobbies.
So it seems that when an economy is facing deflationary pressures because jobs are disappearing, people’s real incomes are falling and efficient production is causing excessive supply that cannot be mopped up by domestic or external demand, it might be wise for governments to support demand by putting a floor under real incomes at some level above basic subsistence.
Welp, that’s fucked up
I am somehow less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops.