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Lovin' It: Minimum wage budgeting without heat, food or gas.
July 16, 2013 9:43 AM   Subscribe

McDonald's has a new website dedicated to showing employees how to properly budget their paychecks. Death and Taxes takes a look and concludes: "McDonalds' suggested budget for employees shows just how impossible it is to get by on minimum wage." It also notably excludes heat, food and gas.
posted by DarlingBri (312 comments total) 55 users marked this as a favorite

 
I wanted to post this yesterday, but I couldn't get past the grar in my brain after reading it. Definitely worth a look.
posted by curious nu at 9:45 AM on July 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


20 bucks for health insurance. LOL
posted by sfts2 at 9:49 AM on July 16, 2013 [66 favorites]


More interesting than the idea that McDonald's doesn't pay a living wage is just how badly they've screwed up the messaging in this new website. If anyone with half an ear for how quickly and hungrily social media pounces on corporate messaging paid any attention at all to what the calculations showed on this budgeting initiative, they'd shut down the project before it ever went beyond the draft phase.

One can say that this will be spun into gold for McDonald's, as they could say that the outcry over this has opened their eyes to the realities of living on minimum wage and being realistic about money, but I think it's mostly the case that McDonald's is so big that they really don't care what kind of social press they're getting.
posted by xingcat at 9:50 AM on July 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think one thing that really chaps my hide about the misconception of "lazy poor people" or "fast-food worker losers" is pointed out in the link. People think that only teenagers work these jobs. I don't eat fast food very often, but I can't remember the last time I saw a teen behind the register. It's adults trying to get by with a thankless job, where anytime your employment is referenced, you are inferred to be a drain on society or ungrateful.

Great. Now I'm full of angry GRAR and can't understand why we won't pay people a decent fucking living wage.
posted by Kitteh at 9:50 AM on July 16, 2013 [35 favorites]


Wait a minute... It's impossible to get by on minimum wage?
posted by 2N2222 at 9:51 AM on July 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hmmm. I wonder if the workers being paid less than they need to survive has anything to do with McDonald's anti-union stance.
posted by hal_c_on at 9:51 AM on July 16, 2013 [7 favorites]


DarlingBri: "It also notably excludes heat, food and gas."

If you work at McDonald's, you get free or heavily discounted meals.

So as long as you're chowing down on Big Macs and McNuggets for 3 squares a day, you're fine. What could possibly go wrong?

---

From the article:
Also… health insurance for $20 a month? There is really no such thing as health insurance for $20 a month if you’re buying your health insurance on your own. I think the least amount is going to be about $215 a month– and that only covers hospital emergencies.

I suspect that's the insurance McDonald's offers their hourly employees, which in 2010:
The most affordable plan at McDonald's charges hourly workers about $14 a week, which comes to $727.48 annually. In return, they get $2,000 worth of coverage per year. If they step on a nail or come down with the flu, they might be covered, but the costs paid by the insurer may not even equal their premiums. If they are diagnosed with cancer, or even appendicitis, they are as vulnerable as someone with no insurance at all.

The "best" plan of the bunch costs $1,680 a year and caps benefits at $10,000. But for outpatient treatment (which often means the emergency room), benefits are capped at $2,000. A trip to the emergency room can zoom past that level in a matter of minutes.

posted by zarq at 9:51 AM on July 16, 2013 [26 favorites]


An apple a day keeps the doctor away! That's why our $20/month health coverage plan can be used to purchase a range of affordable and tasty apple options (Granny Smith, Red Delicious). For only $15 more, enroll in our Platinum Coverage Plan, with access to premium choices like Fuji and Honeycrisp.
posted by theodolite at 9:52 AM on July 16, 2013 [56 favorites]


Consumerist's take.
posted by drezdn at 9:53 AM on July 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


Creating this website is the very definition of "the least they could do."
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:53 AM on July 16, 2013 [31 favorites]


"Hello young underclass youth, I'm from the government. We'd like to know why you prefer a life of crime making $20,000 a week selling scalp tonic when you could be working honestly at McDonalds."

"Allergic to french fries."

I think there is a Bloom County strip for almost everything.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:53 AM on July 16, 2013 [45 favorites]


Wow, they've already changed the sample budget to $50 for heating and a corresponding drop in spending money. Somebody at McDonalds is feeling the embarrassment, just not enough.
posted by Proofs and Refutations at 9:53 AM on July 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


I totally agree it's impossible to get by on minimum wage, but heat is on there (heating, on page 4 and 6), and groceries are covered in the "Journaling" section.

FWIW, I think this actually would have been helpful to me at a young age, since I didn't learn money management in school or from my folks.
posted by melgy at 9:54 AM on July 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


Also it was in partnership with Visa who are providing the debit cards they use to pay their employees. Not only does this budget forget essential items, it also assumes you can access all your money without paying ATM and bank fees and other BS
posted by TwoWordReview at 9:55 AM on July 16, 2013 [25 favorites]


$600 for rent? Oh, wait: "mortgage/ rent". $600/mo mortgage would pay for a place that's just about $100,000. And approximately nothing for rent here in Denver.
posted by boo_radley at 9:55 AM on July 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


I wonder why the sample budget at the Death and Taxes site has $0 for heating but the sample budget on the McD's site has $50 for heating?

In any case, yeah, trying to live on minimum wage jobs is horrible and the minimum wage should be higher. Teaching people how to live on a budget is a useful thing, however, so I'm not sure that McD's (who can be fairly criticized for all manner of things) should be taking it on the chin for this particular initiative.
posted by yoink at 9:56 AM on July 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Compare this with NPR's morning coverage which, in summary was something like "Yay big company good job."
posted by odinsdream at 9:56 AM on July 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also it was in partnership with Visa who are providing the debit cards they use to pay their employees. Not only does this budget forget essential items, it also assumes you can access all your money without paying ATM and bank fees and other BS

Whoa what? Is that legal?
posted by odinsdream at 9:57 AM on July 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Compare this with NPR's morning coverage which, in summary was something like "Yay big company good job."

Damned liberal media.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:58 AM on July 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


I wonder why the sample budget at the Death and Taxes site has $0 for heating but the sample budget on the McD's site has $50 for heating?

Consumerist notes that McD's recently updated it.

But not for nothing, I find that working 74 hours a week (no overtime!) to just break even at below 20k per year is.... Bad.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:58 AM on July 16, 2013 [12 favorites]


Meanwhile: Billionaire Charles Koch wants to get rid of the minimum wage.
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:58 AM on July 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


If you work at McDonald's, you get free or heavily discounted meals.

When I worked at McDonalds, store policy would switch between one free meal during the shift or 1/2 the meal. I don't remember there being a discount when you weren't working but it's been a while (this was from '95-'97).
posted by drezdn at 9:59 AM on July 16, 2013


FWIW, I think this actually would have been helpful to me at a young age, since I didn't learn money management in school or from my folks.

Not really. This is neither sustainable, nor healthy. It is what money management is supposed to prevent from happening.
posted by hal_c_on at 9:59 AM on July 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


mcdonalds should start a version of the ronald mcdonald house for their employees.

while not physically handicapped, working for mcd certainly makes one economically handicapped.
posted by lampshade at 9:59 AM on July 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


Sounds like a marketing campaign for The PaychekPLUS! Elite® Visa® Payroll Card.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 10:00 AM on July 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


Is the plan here to make life so miserable for people that everybody's excited when the Global Warming Tsunami destroys us all?
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:00 AM on July 16, 2013 [43 favorites]


That's my theory.
posted by The Whelk at 10:01 AM on July 16, 2013


odinsdream: "Also it was in partnership with Visa who are providing the debit cards they use to pay their employees. Not only does this budget forget essential items, it also assumes you can access all your money without paying ATM and bank fees and other BS

Whoa what? Is that legal?
"

Previously
posted by Perplexity at 10:01 AM on July 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


They forgot to include government aid that will supplement their ridiculously low wages!
posted by nicolemariecherie at 10:01 AM on July 16, 2013 [7 favorites]


Helaine Olen who wrote Pound Foolish, a book about the personal finance industry tweeted yesterday, "It also appears that McDonalds is urging employees to avoid luxury items like children. No category for them in their sample budget."
posted by vespabelle at 10:02 AM on July 16, 2013 [33 favorites]


It's kind of wierd that their math requires two full time jobs. I seem to recall a lot of people complaining about having hours cut or having difficulty getting full shifts, because management didn't want to have to pay EI and things like that. How does MacDo's suggest one of their employees manage that?
posted by LN at 10:03 AM on July 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


When your "budget" to show your employees how to get by on their pitiful wages in includes a line item for "second job", you are doing it wrong on every conceivable level.
posted by murphy slaw at 10:03 AM on July 16, 2013 [134 favorites]


The other tragedy this illustrates is how many American adults need such remedial financial advice. Speaking as someone who only really started grasping basic money concepts in my 20s, on my own efforts, we should be teaching schoolkids personal finance and basic economics as soon as we start less day-to-day useful shit like chemistry and trig. It's criminal that we don't.
posted by gottabefunky at 10:03 AM on July 16, 2013 [13 favorites]


McDonalds didn't make this site. Blame VISA.
posted by michaelh at 10:04 AM on July 16, 2013


They forgot to include government aid that will supplement their ridiculously low wages!

Walmart beat them to it, when they systematically taught employees to apply for public aid.

I mean it makes fiscal sense. Pay people as low as you can, and then have another entity (US government) pay more so they can fix up their car and come in everyday, but nothing else really.

Always!
posted by hal_c_on at 10:05 AM on July 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


McDonalds didn't make this site. Blame VISA.

Why can't we blame both? It's not like VISA is forcing Mickey D's to pay its workers shit wages.
posted by Noms_Tiem at 10:06 AM on July 16, 2013 [14 favorites]


Just the fact that the second line item is SECOND JOB income is fucked-up beyond belief. Fuck corporate America. Truly. Shit's gotta change.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 10:06 AM on July 16, 2013 [35 favorites]


McDonalds didn't make this site. Blame VISA

Someone at the Golden Arches must have pissed off someone at Visa.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:06 AM on July 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


It also appears that McDonalds is urging employees to avoid luxury items like children. No category for them in their sample budget.

This--and indeed, much of the criticism of this particular initiative--is silly. It's a sample budget. It isn't offered as a procrustean bed which can never be altered or amended in any way. The idea is to teach people how to make a budget and to try to live within their means. This is a good thing to teach people regardless of whether or not McDonalds pays reasonable living wages to its employees, which is a separate issue.
posted by yoink at 10:08 AM on July 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


So ..what's going to happen when no one in America can afford to buy the products they're selling cause they pay such low wages?

Oh wait I know , purchases will somehow become mandatory.
posted by The Whelk at 10:08 AM on July 16, 2013 [11 favorites]


Why can't we blame both? It's not like VISA is forcing Mickey D's to pay its workers shit wages.

Okay. I just thought people thought McDonalds made the site.
posted by michaelh at 10:09 AM on July 16, 2013


It's kind of wierd that their math requires two full time jobs.

Especially since fast food jobs are not exactly known for having humane scheduling practices, like a reasonably fixed and regular schedule. This makes working a second job pretty damn hard, I imagine.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:10 AM on July 16, 2013 [29 favorites]


Walmart beat them to it, when they systematically taught employees to apply for public aid.

I mean it makes fiscal sense. Pay people as low as you can, and then have another entity (US government) pay more so they can fix up their car and come in everyday, but nothing else really.

Always!


I just assumed all minimum wage paying multinationals encourage this sort of state supplemented compensation, all while pocketing for themselves record profits and paying little to no taxes. If this is the case, they should figure in TANF, Food Assistance, Tax Credits, Energy Assistance, etc into their budget.
posted by nicolemariecherie at 10:11 AM on July 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


~20 bucks for health insurance. LOL
~I suspect that's the insurance McDonald's offers their hourly employees...
The "best" plan of the bunch costs $1,680 a year and caps benefits at $10,000. But for outpatient treatment (which often means the emergency room), benefits are capped at $2,000.

We just went through this with our son (who is soon to go off our insurance) and the "insurance" offered by his semi-fast-food employer. The coverages were even worse than this. Our insurance rep said people in the industry call those policies "bankruptcy policies". Because, you are all-but guaranteed to become bankrupt if you have such a policy and have to use it for something more than a simple office visit.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:12 AM on July 16, 2013 [10 favorites]


Especially since fast food jobs are not exactly known for having humane scheduling practices, like a reasonably fixed and regular schedule. This makes working a second job pretty damn hard, I imagine.

Plus no paid sick days, no paid vacation.

At those wages, you are just breaking even. How are you supposed to save up for school, or what have you, to improve upon your station ?

HAHAHA Shut up, pleb.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:15 AM on July 16, 2013 [8 favorites]


Just the fact that the second line item is SECOND JOB income is fucked-up beyond belief

Yeah. I mean, nevermind all the egregious under-estimations of things like $20 a month for health insurance (LOL), making 2k on minimum wage a month is 1.5 full time jobs and that's before taxes. So yeah, a budget that can't even really be met working 80 hour weeks on minimum wage.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:16 AM on July 16, 2013


Also missing from this budget: what happens when your supervisor decides to fuck with you and cuts your hours in half one week. Or what happens when the only hours you can get are the same as the only hours your second job will give you, and they're 35 miles away. And did I mention the split shifts?
posted by zachlipton at 10:20 AM on July 16, 2013 [31 favorites]


Just the fact that the second line item is SECOND JOB income is fucked-up beyond belief

Obviously, the person who put that together has never actually tried to get a store manager to reliably schedule you in a way that makes holding-down a second job remotely possible, and get any sleep during the week.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:20 AM on July 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


Oh wait I know, purchases will somehow become mandatory.

Buy Mickey D's government war bonds! Slap the, uh, chap who doesn't like you very much!
posted by Nomyte at 10:23 AM on July 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


the budget is based on income after taxes according to the PDF.
posted by sio42 at 10:23 AM on July 16, 2013


Going way back in time to 2009, when I was a 34-year old full-time employee for Panera Bread, this reminded me why after a month of working, I had to get a second job just to pay for gas to get to the first job.

Max allowable monthly hours set by Covelli Enterprises (franchisee of Panera): 35 hrs/ week)

Monthly after taxes income:
$1075

Expenses:
Phone: $60 (Metro PCS)
Rent: $600 (shared house w/ utilities included)
Gas: $200 (1 tank a week)
Food: $140 ($35/ week)
Car Insurance: $170

Lemme see... no spending cash, no health insurance, and a net loss of -95 a month!


Yay economy?
posted by Debaser626 at 10:24 AM on July 16, 2013 [28 favorites]


This--and indeed, much of the criticism of this particular initiative--is silly. It's a sample budget. It isn't offered as a procrustean bed which can never be altered or amended in any way. The idea is to teach people how to make a budget and to try to live within their means.

A sample budget that doesn't include a line for food is pretty goddamned stupid, and, all other issues aside, completely and totally worthy of criticism and derision.
posted by phunniemee at 10:25 AM on July 16, 2013 [36 favorites]


re the 2nd job, I'm assuming that's the spouse/partner's job? Not a second full time job for one person?
posted by dabug at 10:27 AM on July 16, 2013


Compare this with NPR's morning coverage which, in summary was is something like "Yay big company good job."

Despite its reputation as "liberal," NPR is frequently and conspicuously pro-business.

Of course, needing to raise a good chunk of its funds from the private sector may have something to do with that.
posted by Gelatin at 10:28 AM on July 16, 2013 [11 favorites]


re the 2nd job, I'm assuming that's the spouse/partner's job? Not a second full time job for one person?

Who has time for a partner? at 80 hrs/week, not including travel or sleep, a partner is a luxury. If you already have one before starting this job, they'd best get two jobs, too.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:29 AM on July 16, 2013 [8 favorites]


re the 2nd job, I'm assuming that's the spouse/partner's job? Not a second full time job for one person?

Clearly that budget couldn't have been made for two people, or Visa is even more delusional than I thought.
posted by nicolemariecherie at 10:30 AM on July 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


"This--and indeed, much of the criticism of this particular initiative--is silly. It's a sample budget. It isn't offered as a procrustean bed which can never be altered or amended in any way. The idea is to teach people how to make a budget and to try to live within their means. This is a good thing to teach people regardless of whether or not McDonalds pays reasonable living wages to its employees, which is a separate issue."

Your blithe apologia ignores the fact that the budget demonstrates how impossible it is to live within those means — complaining about this as procrustean ignores the real constraint of the wages, and simply deflects criticism despite your vague paean to the issue this illustrates, the problem of not paying reasonable living wages.

This is the sort of faux-rationalist milktoast capitalism that tacitly encourages outcomes like this budget, whether from failure of imagination or just reflexive kowtowing to corporations.
posted by klangklangston at 10:32 AM on July 16, 2013 [60 favorites]


yoink: "It's a sample budget. It isn't offered as a procrustean bed which can never be altered or amended in any way. The idea is to teach people how to make a budget and to try to live within their means."

Yeah, but it's a sample budget that assumes a priori that someone has to work two minimum wage full time jobs in order to eke out the barest living without children. If your "means" are based on 75 hours or so of work a week, that's fucking tragic.
posted by maudlin at 10:32 AM on July 16, 2013 [13 favorites]


A sample budget that doesn't include a line for food is pretty goddamned stupid, and, all other issues aside, completely and totally worthy of criticism and derision.

Food is on there. It's not counted as a monthly expense, but part of your daily spending budget (see the "journaling" section). The monthly expenses cover things like bills, then you divide any excess by 30 days to come up with how much money you have to spend daily.

Again, not an endorsement of McDonald's employment practices in general, but this really doesn't seem like an awful thing. Best case scenario, every employee fills this form out, sends it to head office and demands more money. (Not that I'd expect that to go well.)
posted by melgy at 10:32 AM on July 16, 2013


re the 2nd job, I'm assuming that's the spouse/partner's job? Not a second full time job for one person?

If it is, then the budget is even more ludicrous. One, it would be a totally insane assumption to make. Two, it makes items like twenty-dollar insurance even more fantastical.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 10:33 AM on July 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


re the 2nd job, I'm assuming that's the spouse/partner's job? Not a second full time job for one person?

I did this dance in 2009 (see my comment above).

I ended up finally getting an additional job delivering pizzas/counter person from 4-10.

My shift at Panera was 6am-2pm, I would drive to the pizza place, and sit in my car for an hour and a half, and work there from 4- 10 PM.

Pizza place was 7 days a week, (6 hours a day), Panera was 5 days 6-2PM with a mandatory unpaid lunch hour.

You save money because all you do is work and sleep.
posted by Debaser626 at 10:35 AM on July 16, 2013 [21 favorites]


zachlipton and GenjiandProust's comments remind me of something I tried very very very very hard to forget. "Just in time" scheduling for work shifts in which you can show up for your Jamba Juice job and then the manager decides it's a slow day and sends you home, only paying you for the 30 minutes that you worked, instead of your full shift.

From the linked article:
Walmart carved out the low road on scheduling in the 1990s, with its round-the-clock schedules and intensive use of part-timers. Jamba Juice, Pier One, and Aeropostale now use software that cuts shifts into chunks as small as 15-minutes. Last-minute schedule changes result when the software predicts customer traffic based on the weather forecast or recent sales patterns.

The results are stunning. A survey of 436 New York retail workers last year found that 70 percent didn’t know their schedules more than a week ahead of time. Only 17 percent had a set schedule.
posted by spamandkimchi at 10:38 AM on July 16, 2013 [39 favorites]


( sorry, dabug, I could have worded that better. It would be an insane assumption on the budget maker's part, not yours.)
posted by Benny Andajetz at 10:39 AM on July 16, 2013


At those wages, you are just breaking even. How are you supposed to save up for school, or what have you, to improve upon your station ?

Who has time for a partner?

George Orwell made those exact same points -- that substistence jobs offer no opportunity for a future or a wife, and that the "only holiday is the sack" -- in Down and Out in Paris and London, way back in 1933.
posted by Gelatin at 10:41 AM on July 16, 2013 [29 favorites]


(no worries, I didn't read your response that way!)
posted by dabug at 10:42 AM on July 16, 2013


Oh for fuckssakes, does metafilter get insufferable. It looks to me the hole point of the exercise is to see how fast the money goes. Plug in some numbers, and *gulp* that $2060 a month from two jobs is really kind of not much of a living. Leave it to MeFites to assume nobody will ever realize this, that is the goal of the system, or whatever unhinged hyperbole can reliably be dredged up around here.
posted by 2N2222 at 10:42 AM on July 16, 2013


How much do they suggest one should budget for torches and pitchforks?
posted by Cookiebastard at 10:42 AM on July 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


It looks to me the hole point of the exercise is to see how fast you end up in the hole.
posted by Floydd at 10:44 AM on July 16, 2013 [20 favorites]


How much do they suggest one should budget for torches and pitchforks?

Does anyone do installment plans anymore? Probably not, huh?
posted by limeonaire at 10:44 AM on July 16, 2013


They didn't budget for heating, so pitchforks only.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 10:45 AM on July 16, 2013 [25 favorites]


Meanwhile, David Brooks thinks he knows why men don't have jobs.
posted by Legomancer at 10:45 AM on July 16, 2013 [7 favorites]



i guess food and gas and clothing and student loan payments is supposed to come out of the the "leftover" $725/month.

and who gets car AND home or renter's insurance for $100/month?
posted by sio42 at 10:48 AM on July 16, 2013


David Brooks is a schmunt.
posted by Cookiebastard at 10:49 AM on July 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


sio42: and who gets car AND home or renter's insurance for $100/month?

Mine is way under that, but it's probably a combination of having USAA, only having liability insurance for one cheap car, being over 25, and having no driving offenses at all.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:50 AM on July 16, 2013


It looks to me the hole point of the exercise is to see how fast the money goes. Plug in some numbers, and *gulp* that $2060 a month from two jobs is really kind of not much of a living. Leave it to MeFites to assume nobody will ever realize this, that is the goal of the system, or whatever unhinged hyperbole can reliably be dredged up around here.

Weirdly, I think the person working 70+ hours a week in crummy job(s!) trying to deal with no real health insurance, kid costs, or real food already realizes it's not much of a living. What's sick is that this was written by and produced by people who probably clear double the hourly wage of this fake employee's chart. Richsplaining? Wealthsplaining?
posted by jetlagaddict at 10:51 AM on July 16, 2013 [22 favorites]


When I worked at The Gap in the early '90s, they used to schedule us for "on-call" shifts, where we had to be available, and then mayyyybe they'd call us in. So you couldn't work during those hours at some other job, and you probably wouldn't get called in and paid anyway.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:51 AM on July 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


♫ You've been going strong all day, you deserve a break today, at your other job ♫
posted by Flunkie at 10:54 AM on July 16, 2013 [19 favorites]


It looks to me the hole point of the exercise is to see how fast the money goes. Plug in some numbers, and *gulp* that $2060 a month from two jobs is really kind of not much of a living.

You really, truly think that the goal of a website created for a fast food company by a credit card company is to show people how to be fiscally responsible?
posted by xbonesgt at 10:56 AM on July 16, 2013 [30 favorites]


You really, truly think that the goal of a website created for a fast food company by a credit card company is to show people how to be fiscally responsible?

Libertarians are nothing, if not optimistic.
posted by klanawa at 10:58 AM on July 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


Jamba Juice, Pier One, and Aeropostale now use software that cuts shifts into chunks as small as 15-minutes.

Wait. This cannot mean they're calling people in to work 15 minutes a day. Please tell me this is not what it means, and that I've just misread it.
posted by Spatch at 11:00 AM on July 16, 2013


On a related note, a deal to avert the so-called "nuclear option" on filibuster reform means that the Senate will confirm nominees to the National Labor Relations Board
(though Obama will need to replace a couple of recess appointments) and Richard Cordray will at last become the director of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau.

I wonder if these agencies, which can finally function thanks to the removal of obstructionism to their leadership, might provide some counterweight to the awful state of low-wage labor in the US.
posted by Gelatin at 11:02 AM on July 16, 2013


I tried very very very very hard to forget. "Just in time" scheduling for work shifts in which you can show up for your Jamba Juice job and then the manager decides it's a slow day and sends you home, only paying you for the 30 minutes that you worked, instead of your full shift.

I find this to be more infuriating than minimum/low wage alone. Because they *pretend* that they're hiring workers for the hours scheduled, but what they're really doing is hiring these people to be available full time -- more, in some cases -- but paying them part-time minimal wages.

It's not only exploitation, it's fraud.
posted by weston at 11:02 AM on July 16, 2013 [44 favorites]


Wait. This cannot mean they're calling people in to work 15 minutes a day.

Well they don't tell YOU that. They make you set aside your whole day and then send you home after 15 minutes.
posted by like_a_friend at 11:02 AM on July 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


God, so much fucked up in this country right now.
posted by saul wright at 11:04 AM on July 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


It sure is a lot of work to be poor in America. I can't see why anyone would do it.
posted by ckape at 11:04 AM on July 16, 2013 [11 favorites]


David Brooks thinks he knows why men don't have jobs.

Let me guess. It's women's fault, right?
posted by emjaybee at 11:04 AM on July 16, 2013


You people are forgetting: it's an honor just to be considered for a job!
posted by blue_beetle at 11:04 AM on July 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yep. That's the really sad part. Unless you're a manager or some kind of lead, you are part time. And in order to get there, you have to come to work sick as hell, work ridic hours, and have almost 24/7 availability. At least that's what the girls who worked at the retail store I worked at for about a year had to do.

For me it was part time, an actual 2nd job, but I felt really bad for them.
posted by sio42 at 11:07 AM on July 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


And by "get there" I mean "be a manager or a lead".
posted by sio42 at 11:10 AM on July 16, 2013


Can someone explain how David Brooks has a career? Is he somebody's son? Does he have some major blackmail material? Was it a genie wish?
posted by The Whelk at 11:11 AM on July 16, 2013 [13 favorites]


The biggest problem with this, to me, is the extra second job and the insane working hours it suggests. I've been living on less than $2000/month for a long time as a college student (or biological technician), and if you are in a place with a reasonable cost of living it's really not that bad. It's basically a college student's existence. Of course, this is only viable if you are young, healthy, and don't have children, and you are totally screwed in the event of an emergency.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:12 AM on July 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


On the plus side when people can't afford food the options will be starve or take up arms and overthrow this dystopian nightmare world. Go team corporation then, I guess?
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 11:12 AM on July 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


When you look at the net effects, there's a strong argument to be made that it's much better for society for you to steal from a McDonald's than it is to help run McDonald's, for every position of authority in McDonald's almost, if not completely, all the way down to shift manager.
posted by jason_steakums at 11:12 AM on July 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


At least until their insurance runs out, and I'm sure their assets are insured for a hell of a lot more than their workers.
posted by jason_steakums at 11:14 AM on July 16, 2013


If they live in Canada they could try the David Tsubouchi diet.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:14 AM on July 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is there a link to this in the Wikipedia entry for "Adding Insult to Injury?"
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:15 AM on July 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh hey one other thing. How many of you eat at McDonald's or a fast food chain restaurant? If this sort of thing bothers you boycott them. I'm sure that there are meta people here who have eaten at one of these places in the last year. Besides their food is shit for you. You could call it Boycotting for the Ethical Treatment of Labor.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 11:16 AM on July 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


Politico: Obamacare penalties spawn 'skinny' plans
The health law spells out in detail the comprehensive coverage that insurers have to provide on the new insurance marketplaces or exchanges. But it’s nearly silent about what the employers who provide insurance to a majority of Americans need to include in their health plans.

“There are no rules on how good that coverage has to be,” said Gretchen Young, senior vice president of health policy at the ERISA Industry Committee.

...

Skinny plans will have to cover preventive services like vaccines and cancer screenings without any cost-sharing — a requirement of all insurance under the health law. They can’t put a cap on annual benefits, as limited benefit, or mini-med, plans typically do now. But the lack of a cap is largely symbolic because the plans don’t cover the services that run up medical bills.
posted by XMLicious at 11:17 AM on July 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


They Might Be Giants have written the theme song for your minimum-wage so-called life.
posted by Zack_Replica at 11:20 AM on July 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


Can someone explain how David Brooks has a career?

Someone has to sell conservative policies and doctrine* in language that is palatable to NPR listeners and readers of the New York Times.

(*In this case, "the unemployed choose to be without jobs.")
posted by Gelatin at 11:25 AM on July 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


heat was always included in my rent. jus' saying.....
posted by jpe at 11:26 AM on July 16, 2013


I mean it makes fiscal sense. Pay people as low as you can, and then have another entity (US government) pay more so they can fix up their car and come in everyday, but nothing else really.

Someone at the welfare office needs to ask these people where they work and then go bill their employers.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 11:27 AM on July 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


"that is the goal of the system"

The goal of the system is "Fuck you, got mine."
posted by klangklangston at 11:28 AM on July 16, 2013 [9 favorites]


heat was always included in my rent. jus' saying.....

Rented three different apartments and one house before buying. Heat--heck, no utilities--included in any of those.
posted by xedrik at 11:29 AM on July 16, 2013


Oh hey one other thing. How many of you eat at McDonald's or a fast food chain restaurant? If this sort of thing bothers you boycott them. I'm sure that there are meta people here who have eaten at one of these places in the last year. Besides their food is shit for you. You could call it Boycotting for the Ethical Treatment of Labor.

And send them a letter telling them why you're doing it. Phone, email and social media as well. I feel like a lot of boycotts probably just look like a normal tiny downtick in sales. But if intent is declared by a sizable number of boycotters with multiple communications each, it can make someone wonder how many silent boycotters are involved in any sales slump. Actually, even if you've never even eaten there before and never intend to, it's worth telling them that there's zero chance of getting your business if they don't stand up and do the right thing for their workers.
posted by jason_steakums at 11:29 AM on July 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wait. This cannot mean they're calling people in to work 15 minutes a day. Please tell me this is not what it means, and that I've just misread it.

That's exactly what it means. It's commonplace in retail jobs.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 11:32 AM on July 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


to the guy named after electronics components: Why on Earth would McDonald's and VISA put up a page designed and intended to illustrate in great detail that it's impossible for a human to live on the pittance a job at McDonald's pays? Like, I could see Naomi Klein or someone putting up something meant to illustrate that message, but VISA? Why??

Basically, I am having, uh, quite a bit of trouble understanding their potential motivation. It might just be because I'm having a failure of imagination, though. Can you help me out?
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 11:36 AM on July 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


heat was always included in my rent. jus' saying.....

How are mom and dad these days?
posted by Thorzdad at 11:36 AM on July 16, 2013 [18 favorites]


I tried very very very very hard to forget. "Just in time" scheduling for work shifts in which you can show up for your Jamba Juice job and then the manager decides it's a slow day and sends you home, only paying you for the 30 minutes that you worked, instead of your full shift.

In Canada there is a mandatory requirement for 3 hours pay minimum to avoid this.
posted by srboisvert at 11:38 AM on July 16, 2013 [40 favorites]


Why on Earth would McDonald's and VISA put up a page designed and intended to illustrate in great detail that it's impossible for a human to live on the pittance a job at McDonald's pays?

One guess...They honestly, truly believe this is a valuable tool and they are helping their employees cope in these hard times, utterly blind to the fact that their shitty employment practices are part of what makes these times so hard for their employees. Yes, management really can be that blindered and clueless.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:40 AM on July 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


When you say "in Canada" I hear "in a land of myth and a time of magic".
posted by elizardbits at 11:40 AM on July 16, 2013 [63 favorites]


In Canada there is a mandatory requirement for 3 hours pay minimum to avoid this.

Eek! Socialism!
posted by Gelatin at 11:42 AM on July 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Canada can be pretty damn sweet at times, I tell you. I ain't never moving back home to the States.
posted by Kitteh at 11:43 AM on July 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Utilities included does not equal lives at home.

My heat and electric and gas are included in my rent. I live in a very old building that does not have individual meters.
posted by sio42 at 11:44 AM on July 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


One guess...They honestly, truly believe this is a valuable tool and they are helping their employees cope in these hard times, utterly blind to the fact that their shitty employment practices are part of what makes these times so hard for their employees. Yes, management really can be that blindered and clueless.

I can easily see something as simple as:

MIDDLE MANAGEMENT: "Oh yeah, my boss offhandedly mentioned this idea in a meeting three weeks ago, we need you to toss up a page for workers on budgeting your minimum wage paycheck by close of business today."

DESIGNER: "Um, sure, do you have any numbers for me or any-"

MIDDLE MANAGEMENT: "Just get it done."
posted by jason_steakums at 11:44 AM on July 16, 2013 [12 favorites]


jpe: "heat was always included in my rent. jus' saying....."

This was a long time ago, in a galaxy far away.
posted by boo_radley at 11:46 AM on July 16, 2013


Utilities included does mean included, though. You still pay for it. And it's definitely not the norm, at my last rental place I had to pay water, garbage, electric, gas, the whole shebang.
posted by jason_steakums at 11:46 AM on July 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm honestly curious about this - Would it just bankrupt these companies to decide one day, "Hey, paying people minimum wage is just stupid. Let's be fiscally responsible and start paying a base salary of $10.00 an hour! We'll reap positive press, more job applicants and it'll be a net benefit for everyone!"? It would diminish profits a bit, I'm sure, but it seems like they waste more money than they would end up spending on increased wages.

I understand that the point of business is to make money, but do they have to have ALL of the money? It's not as if you get a bonus upon death for having all the money.
posted by BrianJ at 11:46 AM on July 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


My guess for why they did this is that they thought it would be good PR to have some sort of financial planning calculator up, but that they didn't especially care whether it would be useful for any of their employees, since:
  1. Their employees aren't particularly important to them — the workplace is designed so that employees can be seen as fully interchangeable and replaceable unskilled labor units rather than as distinct humans, and,
  2. Despite the potential PR advantage gained from putting up a sham financial planning tool, putting up a real financial planning tool is impossible, because surviving on a McDonald's salary is impossible. But this is okay, because see point 1.
But that's just my guess — and I do have a remarkably bad imagination when it comes to understanding the motivations of major corporations.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 11:48 AM on July 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


In Canada there is a mandatory requirement for 3 hours pay minimum to avoid this.

Be quiet, for God's sake! Harper might hear you.
posted by Shepherd at 11:50 AM on July 16, 2013 [23 favorites]


I'm honestly curious about this - Would it just bankrupt these companies to decide one day, "Hey, paying people minimum wage is just stupid. Let's be fiscally responsible and start paying a base salary of $10.00 an hour!

I doubt it, but it'd certainly reduce profits.
posted by Gelatin at 11:53 AM on July 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


In Canada there is a mandatory requirement for 3 hours pay minimum to avoid this.

In BC, crepuscular vulgarian and former Premier of the province Gordon Campbell changed that from 4 to 2 hours. So, the same greedy impulses exist here also.
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 11:53 AM on July 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


When I worked at The Gap in the early '90s, they used to schedule us for "on-call" shifts

Barnes and Noble was doing this through at least September of 2012 (they must have started after 2006).
posted by drezdn at 11:58 AM on July 16, 2013


The restaurant business is notoriously a thin profit margin business. (Hence, waiters and waitresses depending on tips.) Maybe the real problem is that we insist on cheap fast food as a society. So in a sense we are all doing the exploiting.

The thing is, McDonald's wages are appropriate for teenagers working a first job. Not so much an adult trying to live.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:01 PM on July 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


Be quiet, for God's sake! Harper might hear you.

We have more to worry about in Hudak, who wants to make Ontario a right-to-freeload province.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 12:04 PM on July 16, 2013


The thing is, McDonald's wages are appropriate for teenagers working a first job.

Correction: Teenagers under the age of majority and not supporting themselves.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:04 PM on July 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


The restaurant business is notoriously a thin profit margin business. (Hence, waiters and waitresses depending on tips.)

They seem to be doing okay here in Canada where servers are required to be paid at least the minimum wage ($10.25/hr, here).

I'm honestly curious about this - Would it just bankrupt these companies to decide one day, "Hey, paying people minimum wage is just stupid. Let's be fiscally responsible and start paying a base salary of $10.00 an hour! We'll reap positive press, more job applicants and it'll be a net benefit for everyone!"?

You have to force them to do it through legislation. They'll never do it voluntarily.
posted by junco at 12:06 PM on July 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is that Comic Sans?
posted by goethean at 12:06 PM on July 16, 2013



The thing is, McDonald's wages are appropriate for teenagers working a first job.


Only if you think teenagers are subhumans who deserve worse treatment from society.
posted by srboisvert at 12:07 PM on July 16, 2013 [30 favorites]


The restaurant business is notoriously a thin profit margin business.

Yeah:
April 19, 2013

McDonald’s eked out a higher profit for its first quarter, the company reported Friday, even though its aggressively promoted Dollar Menu did not lift sales.

[snip]

For the quarter, McDonald’s earned $1.27 billion, or $1.26 a share, compared with $1.267 billion, or $1.23, a year ago. Revenue edged up 1 percent, to $6.6 billion.
(Hence, waiters and waitresses depending on tips.)

Which doesn't apply to fast food restaurants, of course.
posted by Gelatin at 12:07 PM on July 16, 2013 [8 favorites]


Man, the next Occupy style movement is gonna be ugly, mark my words.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 12:08 PM on July 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


Would it just bankrupt these companies to decide one day, "Hey, paying people minimum wage is just stupid.

Demos put out a report on this issue (in the retail sector) last year. Report | Infographic

They are trying to make the best case for a wage increase, and they include an assumption that paying better yields productivity, yet even their analysis makes it clear that it would cost retailers a lot of money, only some of which would be made up for in increased sales. This is why regulation exists - profit seeking firms are not going to pay living wages to low-skill workers if they can get away with doing otherwise.
posted by yarrow at 12:10 PM on July 16, 2013 [8 favorites]


Reading this and being the one responsible for the family budget, I'm curious as to what the minimum wage per hour would actually have to be to be able to support a person working ONLY a 40 hour/week. Since I like numbers, I did some back of the envelope calculations. I used the link's prices for most things except where noted below:
- $200 for food
- $200 for cable/internet/phone/entertainment
- $150 gas
- $200 health insurance
- $80 for household expenses and clothes
- $200 for repairs/an emergency fund
- 40 hour week, 50 weeks a year
- Federal taxes only
- Single person with no children, pets, student loans, etc.

This results in needing about $2200 per month. Or about $30,500 gross. $15.20 an hour.
Eliminating the emergency and savings items, and working/paid vacation every single week gives me about $26,000 or $12.60 an hour.

Obviously there's a lot of YMMV but it's pretty eye opening what it might cost to actually live as a semi-independent adult, and what the federal minimum wage is now. It almost guarantees someone with a family working one or more minimum wage jobs is going to have a very hard time of it.
posted by skest at 12:10 PM on July 16, 2013 [14 favorites]


Not to worry Metafilter denizens, soon enough McDonalds will be mostly automated and then you won't have to be upset about them paying their employees so little.
posted by dobie at 12:10 PM on July 16, 2013 [8 favorites]


April 19, 2013

McDonald’s eked out a higher profit for its first quarter, the company reported Friday, even though its aggressively promoted Dollar Menu did not lift sales.

[snip]

For the quarter, McDonald’s earned $1.27 billion, or $1.26 a share, compared with $1.267 billion, or $1.23, a year ago. Revenue edged up 1 percent, to $6.6 billion.


I'm not a business guy, but it strikes me that the system seems fundamentally flawed when a $1.27 billion dollar profit is seen as week only because it's not stronger than the previous year. Shouldn't we be measuring profit for profit, and not the rate of change of profit for profit?
posted by Think_Long at 12:11 PM on July 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm not a business guy, but it strikes me that the system seems fundamentally flawed when a $1.27 billion dollar profit is seen as week only because it's not stronger than the previous year.

Shareholders require growth. If your numbers are down, they'll dump the stock and you'll get bad press. It's dumb as shit, and it's why we're destroying the planet.
posted by junco at 12:13 PM on July 16, 2013 [39 favorites]


Maybe the real problem is that we insist on cheap fast food as a society. So in a sense we are all doing the exploiting.

I don't think so. I think there is a pervasive message from neoliberal governments and multinational corporations that it is our individual choices as consumers that affect the environment, or labour conditions, or economic conditions, but that is an illusion. IMO there is a disproportionate amount of blame allotted to individuals when it is large, powerful interest groups like the ones I named above who really hold the reins.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:14 PM on July 16, 2013 [14 favorites]


and who gets car AND home or renter's insurance for $100/month?

We do, however, my husband and I both have liability only (albeit, much higher than state minimums) car insurance as our cars are old and very high mileage. Renter's insurance isn't all that expensive, either. Of course, we are also in our late 30s, married, no accidents or tickets on our record, and I don't drive all that many miles.
posted by SuzySmith at 12:14 PM on July 16, 2013


Shouldn't we be measuring profit for profit, and not the rate of change of profit for profit?

The cult of "maximizing shareholder value" demands constant growth, preferably in double digits, which is why, for example, investors are starting to flee China for elsewhere in Asia now that China's rapid economic growth shows signs of slowing.

Yes, of course it's unsustainable, but when you're only looking at the next quarter -- which is, after all, what your bonus is likely based on -- who cares?
posted by Gelatin at 12:16 PM on July 16, 2013


The restaurant business is notoriously a thin profit margin business. (Hence, waiters and waitresses depending on tips.) Maybe the real problem is that we insist on cheap fast food as a society. So in a sense we are all doing the exploiting.

The thing is, McDonald's wages are appropriate for teenagers working a first job. Not so much an adult trying to live.


Umm no. McDonalds does NOT have a thin profit margin, and I also wouldn't consider it a "restaurant" as much as a "factory outlet store". Are you seriously saying that they have a very thin profit margin? McDonalds?

Even minimum wage jobs shouldn't be considered "appropriate for teenagers working a first job" because there are adults working for that same pay trying to make a living. It isn't appropriate at all.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:20 PM on July 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's worth noting that many of the people arguing against raising the minimum wage now profited immensely from minimum wages which were much higher in real terms than the current minimums.
posted by KathrynT at 12:22 PM on July 16, 2013 [11 favorites]


So maybe the reason we as a country buy so much cheap fast food isn't because of anything that could reasonably be understood as a "choice," but instead because none of us have any fucking money.

This is why I think coming at this from the consumer end is useless, and why I think we should instead use the awesome power of the state to regulate and control employers.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:23 PM on July 16, 2013 [8 favorites]


The minimum wage in this country is reprehensible. If the minimum wage had kept up with inflation it would be over $10 an hour. If it had kept up with productivity? It would be $21.72.

Considering I think myself doing well on not much more than $22 an hour, this last fact made me cry.
posted by Foam Pants at 12:28 PM on July 16, 2013 [16 favorites]


The health law spells out in detail the comprehensive coverage that insurers have to provide on the new insurance marketplaces or exchanges. But it’s nearly silent about what the employers who provide insurance to a majority of Americans need to include in their health plans.

So our only salvation is to forgo employer-sponsored insurance altogether, pay the $600 penalty and get whatever coverage we can browbeat our politicians into putting into medicare and medicaid?

Jesus wept.

Actually, on second thought, I'm OK with this, right after we pass the bill that says that mandated insurance in ACA has to equal in coverage the coverage of having no insurance: whatever these piss-ant plans are lacking up to that, the corporation pays in a penalty that goes to fund medicare and medicaid.
posted by eclectist at 12:28 PM on July 16, 2013


Well, okay, actually I think that we should institute a guaranteed minimum income funded out of taxes on wealth and on financial transactions... but that's not going to happen in the United States anytime soon.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:30 PM on July 16, 2013 [12 favorites]


The minimum wage in this country is reprehensible. If the minimum wage had kept up with inflation it would be over $10 an hour. If it had kept up with productivity? It would be $21.72.

Of course, the income from that productivity is going somewhere...
posted by Gelatin at 12:34 PM on July 16, 2013 [8 favorites]


Yeah, I can't see a lot done on the consumer level that would actually directly impact them unless you can get a huge number of consumers to donate to an advocacy group that would buy out a significant portion of McD's shares to throw some weight around. Which is a pipe dream. (Though I have idly wondered what could realistically happen if a group like that could automate the raising of capital from seed funds by setting up their own algorithmic trading servers, using those oft-abused financial tools as a force for good. Just keep rolling funds into buying more servers and go all debt jubilee on the minor but crippling debt of severely impoverished individuals with the profits or something. Charity write-off for the funders, volunteer staffing, open source software...)

But it's still worth making the effort as a consumer to agitate against these practices because it can turn into bad PR for the company and it can create the atmosphere in which it's perceived that this idea's time has come. So it's not a waste, even though it's not a direct solution.
posted by jason_steakums at 12:35 PM on July 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's not like VISA is forcing Mickey D's to pay its workers shit wages.

Similarly, it is not like Mickey D's forces anyone to go no further than a minimum wage job. St. Alia's comment is correct. Minimum wages jobs are not designed to be career-track jobs or sole sources of income. They are for the demographic outliers of teenagers making some pocket money on their first job.

If you are otherwise able-bodied but have made the minimum investment in yourself, society has a reward for you. It is called the minimum wage.

So maybe the reason we as a country buy so much cheap fast food isn't because of anything that could reasonably be understood as a "choice," but instead because none of us have any fucking money.

This is comical. How much do you think fast food employees make in other countries? When I was last in Japan a few weeks ago, I noticed a few "help wanted" signs at various fast food places and convenience stores. The minimum wage for that region was 759 yen/hour, or $7.64/hour at today's exchange rate. This is lower than some American states' minimum wages. Most places were advertising 800 yen/hour with maybe 950 yen/hour or so for late night shift work. EU minimum wage is general 8 to 10 euros per hour.

It has nothing to do with Americans' love of Big Macs. Make the minimum wage whatever you like. It is still always going to be the minimum.
posted by Tanizaki at 12:35 PM on July 16, 2013


jason: I find your scheme for algorithmic trading intriguing and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:36 PM on July 16, 2013


If you are otherwise able-bodied but have made the minimum investment in yourself, society has a reward for you. It is called the minimum wage.

It's funny because that's the same reward millions of people get for absolutely busting their asses to no end and getting caught in a death spiral with no way out.
posted by jason_steakums at 12:37 PM on July 16, 2013 [72 favorites]


jason: I find your scheme for algorithmic trading intriguing and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

My Newsletter, Vol 1 Issue 1: "Can somebody who knows anything about how this stuff actually works tell me how dumb this idea is in practice? Cause I've got a sneaking suspicion the thing I thought of for a few minutes in the shower is totally unworkable for like a million reasons I'm unaware of."

Unfortunately that's all I got :/
posted by jason_steakums at 12:40 PM on July 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


heat was always included in my rent. jus' saying.....

You probably don't live in the northeast. Water is included in my (and everyone's) rent here in Massachusetts, but I presume that isn't the case in California. In the winter I sometimes pay over $300 for heat in my two bedroom apartment. It's true I don't really pay any over the summer, but it's pretty insulting not to see it on a budget.

My heat and electric and gas are included in my rent. I live in a very old building that does not have individual meters.

Valid point.
posted by maryr at 12:43 PM on July 16, 2013


Minimum wages jobs are not designed to be career-track jobs or sole sources of income. They are for the demographic outliers of teenagers making some pocket money on their first job.

I have no interest whatsoever in what our economic systems are "designed" to do, and I'm not sure why anyone would have an interest in that. I mean, for one thing, what on earth gives you the idea that our economic systems are "designed" in any meaningful sense? I'm much more interested in what they are rather than what they're intended to be. Casual observation leads me to suspect that what most minimum wage fast food jobs actually are (again, without regard for any intentionality whatsoever on anyone's part) are bad-paying jobs for adults from various disadvantaged classes.

If you are otherwise able-bodied but have made the minimum investment in yourself, society has a reward for you. It is called the minimum wage.

Yeah, this idea that everyone individually chooses to make or not make investments in oneself, without concerns for the amount of potential resources available to those individuals, and without regard to the broader social contexts those individuals are in, seems to be on the face of it utterly absurd. Are you making some sort of "talented tenth" argument? I don't get it.

I suspect you're thinking of the economy as a sort of morality play, a system designed to sort the good from the bad, to reward the good, and to damn the bad. Is this correct? Because on the one hand, this seems to bear no connection to what the economy actually is, and on the other hand, it seems like a radically un-Christian way of relating to other humans. I see no reason to do anything but reject it wholesale.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:43 PM on July 16, 2013 [55 favorites]


The right loves to lecture everybody about our great American history; how Washington, Lincoln, Adam Smith and God are what make us the beacon of all that is good. Here's the history they never mention: business, as a whole, has NEVER voluntarily given workers ANYTHING they didn't absolutely have to. The only things that enabled our escape from the Gilded Age were striking workers, violent confrontations and government regulations. It doesn't jibe with their revisionist history, but it's the truth.

Waiting on business to do the right thing is useless - they never have and they never will.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 12:45 PM on July 16, 2013 [15 favorites]


Tanizaki, 8 Euros is $10.50 in USD and far above our minimum wage. 10 Euros is over $13 which is above the liveable wage Washington DC is losing Walmarts over.
posted by maryr at 12:45 PM on July 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


If you are otherwise able-bodied but have made the minimum investment in yourself, society has a reward for you. It is called the minimum wage. (emphasis in the original)

So there are no holders of college degrees working minimum wage jobs? No one who had formerly held down a better job with higher wages? Are you kidding?
posted by Gelatin at 12:46 PM on July 16, 2013 [34 favorites]


I mean, for one thing, what on earth gives you the idea that our economic systems are "designed" in any meaningful sense?

I was using the term metaphorically, much as one might say that a shark's teeth are "designed" to eat meat. While both the economy and evolution are not designed from the top down, I think this turn of phrase is pretty common.

I suspect you're thinking of the economy as a sort of morality play, a system designed to sort the good from the bad, to reward the good, and to damn the bad. Is this correct?

No, that is not correct.
posted by Tanizaki at 12:46 PM on July 16, 2013


10 Euros is over $13 which is above the liveable wage Washington DC is losing Walmarts over.

I suspect you only consider that a "liveable wage" if 40 hours per week are guaranteed. You may have noticed the recent trend of increasing part-time labor.
posted by Tanizaki at 12:48 PM on July 16, 2013


If you are otherwise able-bodied but have made the minimum investment in yourself, society has a reward for you. It is called the minimum wage.

Oh my god. You know what people (who are employed and generally older and pretty conservative) say to people who are unemployed? They say, "Get a job! I bet McDonald's is hiring! You just don't want to work, that's your problem."

And they say that to people who have a college degree and have debt and are unable to find a job.
They say that to people who were once working a salaried position and have been laid off.
They say that to absolutely anyone who is jobless because they do not have a single fucking clue.

Do not get started on this you deserve minimum wage bullshit because my University of Chicago-educated-was-unemployed-for-two-years-and-couldn't-even-find-work-in-retail-in-December foot will find your ass so fast your head will spin.
posted by phunniemee at 12:48 PM on July 16, 2013 [80 favorites]


No, that is not correct.

Then using the word "reward" in the context of a minimum wage fast food job was an odd choice.
posted by Gelatin at 12:48 PM on July 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


I was using the term metaphorically, much as one might say that a shark's teeth are "designed" to eat meat.

Sharks die if they don't eat meat. Our economy grinds along if people are forced to live off of minimum wage just fine. Those workers just become chum or payday loans, insurance fraud, and cheap fast food.
posted by maryr at 12:48 PM on July 16, 2013


Minimum wages jobs are not designed to be career-track jobs or sole sources of income. They are for the demographic outliers of teenagers making some pocket money on their first job.

49.4% of minimum wage earners are 25 or older. It's true that minimum wage earners are more likely to be teenagers than the general population, but that's still millions of adults, people who have jobs, making poverty wages insufficient for independent living.
posted by theodolite at 12:50 PM on July 16, 2013 [30 favorites]


Unemployed is bad enough. Working poor should be criminal.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 12:51 PM on July 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was using the term metaphorically, much as one might say that a shark's teeth are "designed" to eat meat. While both the economy and evolution are not designed from the top down, I think this turn of phrase is pretty common.

Well and so but anyway, you're claiming that there's some abstract ideal design of the McDonald's job that we're failing to follow, something that goes like "this is a job for teenagers looking for pocket change! And anyone who is not that, and who nevertheless has to take a job at McDonald's, is doing it wrong!" This seems like a bizarre and unnecessary mystification, given that instead of redirecting through a difficult-to-see abstract ideal intent "behind" a job, we can just look at what the job — the thing right in front of us — actually is.

Basically, this species of shark hasn't lived off of meat1 for generations, and I don't see why we should still pretend that that's what it does.

I suspect you're thinking of the economy as a sort of morality play, a system designed to sort the good from the bad, to reward the good, and to damn the bad. Is this correct?

No, that is not correct.


Then what's that business about minimums and societal rewards about? I don't understand it at all, if it's not about sorting good from bad, smart from dumb, strong from weak, obedient from headstrong, and diligent from lazy.

1: I suppose in this goofy analogy, "meat" means "teenagers." And yet, despite the shark's teeth being "designed" for eating teenagers, what it mostly eats are adults from disadvantaged backgrounds...
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:52 PM on July 16, 2013 [7 favorites]


No, that is not correct.

You made a moral judgement on minimum effort, by claiming that it was "rewarded" by minimum wage. That is the only conclusion, given that you neither provided empirical evidence that anyone earning a minimum wage (let alone a majority or all) had put in the minimum level of effort nor proved that few or no able-bodied people who had put in greater than your arbitrary definition of "minimum" had minimum wage jobs.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:53 PM on July 16, 2013 [15 favorites]


Also, given that women and minorities earn less than white men, what exactly are they being "rewarded" for?
posted by zombieflanders at 12:54 PM on July 16, 2013 [8 favorites]


Then what's that business about minimums and societal rewards about? I don't understand it at all, if it's not about sorting good from bad, smart from dumb, strong from weak, and diligent from lazy.

If "reward" somehow offends you, then perhaps "result". If you sneeze while driving, your reward may be a crash. You can know that I wasn't been literal because I didn't say "literally" as has become so popular these days.

The business about "just what do you mean by 'reward'?!" and "just what do you mean by 'design'?!" are pretty silly. Now people are going into absurd tangents like, "ok, so sharks eat meat, right? well, McDonald's serves meat, ok? ok, bear with me, here....oh wow man, 'bear'. Bears eat meat, too. So McDonald's is like if a bear is riding a shark...."
posted by Tanizaki at 12:57 PM on July 16, 2013


You made the shark analogy.
posted by maryr at 12:59 PM on July 16, 2013 [21 favorites]


If you are otherwise able-bodied but have made the minimum investment in yourself, society has a reward for you. It is called the minimum wage.

You know, I never really thought I would say this unironically, but, dude... check your privilege.
posted by entropicamericana at 12:59 PM on July 16, 2013 [63 favorites]


You're the one obfuscating, dude. What is the system you're talking about if not a morality play meant to separate the good from the bad, to reward the good, and punish (or maybe just "allow punishment to fall upon") the bad?
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 1:00 PM on July 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


If "reward" somehow offends you, then perhaps "result". If you sneeze while driving, your reward may be a crash.

Dude, that's not offensive, it's just sloppy writing. You appear to have written something totally different than you intended to -- don't blame the people who read your words, rather than your mind.
posted by KathrynT at 1:00 PM on July 16, 2013 [16 favorites]


Anyways, even if that were all true about what minimum wage is designed for, it's not a convincing argument for not making the minimum wage a livable wage.
posted by jason_steakums at 1:00 PM on July 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


If "reward" somehow offends you, then perhaps "result".

Apart from the fact that this is weaselly bullshit, I'll rephrase: what is the lack of effort that resulted in minorities and women making less money than white men?
posted by zombieflanders at 1:02 PM on July 16, 2013 [13 favorites]


If all McDonald's employees were teenagers getting a bit of mad money, their budget chart would be quite different. However, in the example in this article, not only has VISA postulated an adult working full time, they have postulated an adult working nearly two full time jobs at nothing more than minimum wage, along with a budget that is insulting in its original priorities and design. Deriding the people slogging through third shifts as having made the "minimum investment" in themselves seems unnecessarily insulting.
posted by jetlagaddict at 1:04 PM on July 16, 2013 [20 favorites]


If "reward" somehow offends you, then perhaps "result".

The former implies virtue where the latter does not. You might want to consider your words more carefully rather than blaming others for reading their plain and obvious meaning.

And anyway, I'd still dispute "result." Yes, there are those in society who have made only the "minimum investment" in themselves, but they are not the full set of those working minimum wage jobs. Working parents, college degree holders, and those recently laid off from better paying jobs all spring to mind with no effort at all as examples of those who don't fit the morality play you still seem to be writing here.
posted by Gelatin at 1:06 PM on July 16, 2013 [9 favorites]


I'm honestly curious about this - Would it just bankrupt these companies to decide one day, "Hey, paying people minimum wage is just stupid. Let's be fiscally responsible and start paying a base salary of $10.00 an hour!

I doubt it, but it'd certainly reduce profits.


A corporation has but a single purpose: to maximize revenue for its shareholders. In the unlikely position that someone were in a position to pay workers more than needed and somehow one day decided to do so, his own employment would last until the next board meeting. As the saying goes, it is hard to get someone to understand something when his job depends on him not doing so.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:06 PM on July 16, 2013


So I care very, very deeply indeed about language and think that a lot of people let themselves act in profoundly soul-destroying ways when they hide behind sloppy language — their own souls, and the souls of others to whom they spread their ill-considered, ill-stated ideas. Fortunately, this is a place where it's, well, quite hard to get away with that. I can't bring myself to be particularly sympathetic to the "I use sloppy language to gloss over how un-Christian my ideas are, but it's okay because everyone uses sloppy language" argument in any context, but it's an especially poor argument when deployed here, on Metafilter.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 1:07 PM on July 16, 2013 [13 favorites]


In the unlikely position that someone were in a position to pay workers more than needed and somehow one day decided to do so, his own employment would last until the next board meeting.

Not necessarily.
posted by Gelatin at 1:10 PM on July 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


[A couple comments removed, cut it the hell out.]
posted by cortex at 1:13 PM on July 16, 2013


That philosophy was there from the start with Costco, though, wasn't it?
posted by jason_steakums at 1:14 PM on July 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Thorzdad: "Obviously, the person who put that together has never actually tried to get a store manager to reliably schedule you in a way that makes holding-down a second job remotely possible, and get any sleep during the week."

Good managers do this. Why? Because it's literally the only way within their power to improve employee satisfaction in any concrete way. A raise is probably out of the question if the employee is good because they hit the top of the pay scale after two tiny raises. A promotion is out of the question because the existing managers and shift leaders aren't going anywhere. Nothing left but to not be a dick about the schedule, if you can.

Of course, if you're not considered a "good" employee, you get fucked so that the people who are can get a reasonable schedule.

St. Alia of the Bunnies: "The restaurant business is notoriously a thin profit margin business."

Restaurants, yes. Chain fast food, not so much, unless your food cost is way out of whack because you aren't predicting sales well enough. Everything has to be done by the book, and that book has been written in a way to make everything as cheap as possible. Grocery stores are much more capital intensive and have smaller margins, just to pick one example.
posted by wierdo at 1:18 PM on July 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Speaking of japan's minimum wage...
posted by smidgen at 1:19 PM on July 16, 2013


If memory serves me correctly, yes, Costco's salary rate is part of a strategy that hopes to balance the outlay in terms of worker retention, productivity, and other benefits. Thus the phrase "more than needed" is a little squishy.

But I'd also point out that there seems to be little concern among corporations about paying executives more than needed.
posted by Gelatin at 1:19 PM on July 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


But I'd also point out that there seems to be little concern among corporations about paying executives more than needed.

I'd like to see the budget calculator with an option for average McDonald's executive pay, with each item in the budget figured in minutes of work instead of dollars.
posted by jason_steakums at 1:21 PM on July 16, 2013 [10 favorites]


in Canada where servers are required to be paid at least the minimum wage

what are you talking about? Servers have a lower minimum wage, I think it's like 8.50 or something.

And yeah, good luck finding full-time work. I got hired on as a full-time worker in food service about a year ago and then they just up and changed it to part time, with continued assurances that it was "only temporary". Augh. So glad I don't work there any more.
posted by windykites at 1:22 PM on July 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


and who gets car AND home or renter's insurance for $100/month?

Umm... I do. Single, male, 29. Drive a car worth $15K (current blue book value), driving 15K miles/year, clean record, no accidents. $500 deductible full coverage. I have more than minimum for liability, underinsured/uninsured motorist, medical, etc.

Have $30K renter's insurance in a good neighborhood in Portland. Also have riders for earthquake, guns, electronics, beefed up personal liability, medical.

I pay $96/month total for both. I'm not sure how I've managed that cheap of insurance, and realize it's not the norm.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 1:35 PM on July 16, 2013


what are you talking about? Servers have a lower minimum wage, I think it's like 8.50 or something.

In BC, minimum wage for "liquor servers" is $9/hr, and $10.25 for everyone else, including waiters/waitresses who don't serve liquor directly to customers. I wasn't aware that the "liquor server" wage applied to wait staff who serve alcohol. On the other hand, compare this to the $4.77/hr that tipped servers receive in my home state.
posted by junco at 1:36 PM on July 16, 2013


As a point of reference, going by the total compensation listed on page 18 of this pdf for the five named executives, they could cumulatively afford 33,915.89 months of $600/month rent in 2011.

The lowest paid executive named could pay one month's rent in 146.5 minutes, less time than it takes to sit through The Dark Knight.
posted by jason_steakums at 1:39 PM on July 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


Ah ha, in Ontario they get $8.90.
posted by windykites at 1:42 PM on July 16, 2013


$4.77/hour? That's unhuman. Jeepers.
posted by windykites at 1:44 PM on July 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


windykites, the federal mandated wage for tipped employees is $2.15 an hour.
posted by KathrynT at 1:45 PM on July 16, 2013 [10 favorites]


There's no reason unemployment or sub-living wage employment needs to exist economically. The federal reserve not only loans money to banks, for free (no interest), but they also buy up bonds to give a fee lunch to the investor class.

If the government instead figured out how much a living wage was and just paid people to do work we could have zero (or near zero) unemployment. Any able bodied person who wants to lay concrete for $12/hr and decent health coverage would be employed. We could do this and be revenue neutral today, and taking into account the money multiplier and stimulus effects have higher GDP growth and tax revenue within a year.

It would also force corporations to pay a living wage or their employees would work for the government. We could also end food benefits for employees of major corporations, saving the taxpayers even more money. No more subsidizing Walmart and their ilk.

We could do this today and the economy as a whole would be vastly better off. Their is no economic reason not to. But there are many many political reasons. Once you understand what those are and who really controls the decision making in this country you'll understand why democracy is fundamentally broken.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 1:52 PM on July 16, 2013 [21 favorites]


If you are otherwise able-bodied but have made the minimum investment in yourself, society has a reward for you. It is called the minimum wage.

Metafilter's Own Barbara Bush.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 1:55 PM on July 16, 2013 [23 favorites]


I recall that one of the common complaints among the rich about FDR was that after the Second New Deal, it was much, much harder to find domestic servants willing to work for peanuts. A populace kept desperate, and therefore meek and compliant, and therefore cheap to hire for any job, is by many people seen as a tremendous social good. Anything else leads to inflation, dontchaknow.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 1:56 PM on July 16, 2013 [9 favorites]


Mister Fabulous: "I pay $96/month total for both. I'm not sure how I've managed that cheap of insurance, and realize it's not the norm."

Full coverage on our ~$14,000 car is about $75 a month. Renter's insurance would be about $20. When I had an old car it was about $16 a month for 50/100/50 liability. It was $20 with a different insurer without multi-car and multi-policy discounts. That's with two drivers, one with an speeding ticket from NH (which is aged off now, but somehow the rate didn't drop). However, we live in the middle of the country where stuff tends to be cheap. $600 for rent in a studio or one bedroom with all utilities paid isn't unheard of around here. $750 if you live in a nicer area or have a two bedroom.

So yeah, those things aren't necessarily out of line depending on where you live. Except for one really fucking big caveat. I get cheap car insurance because I have passable credit. Everything is cheaper for me because I have passable credit. Don't have to pay deposits for utilities, don't have to pay higher rent or bigger deposits on a place, don't have to pay 15 or 20 percent interest to buy a car, etc, don't have to use the rent-to-own place if I move and don't have furniture, because I have the income to buy stuff outright from the thrift store or the credit to get a JC Penney card and buy better stuff with a year to pay it off at no interest.
posted by wierdo at 1:56 PM on July 16, 2013 [7 favorites]


" This was a long time ago, in a galaxy far away."

Last year in New York. its probably a regional thing.
posted by jpe at 1:57 PM on July 16, 2013


Do keep in mind that the cheapest rents tend to be found in the neighborhoods where renter's insurance and auto insurance are extremely expensive. When I lived in Hamtramck, MI (a "suburb" of Detroit that's surrounded by Detroit on every side)*, the only way I could afford car insurance was by going through a west-coast-based insurer that out of ignorance had accidentally failed to properly redline the town.

*: A footnote for pedants: okay, so it's not totally surrounded by Detroit; one corner of it touches Highland Park, another enclave that is (modulo its connection with Hamtramck) itself also completely surrounded by Detroit.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 1:59 PM on July 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


...the federal mandated wage for tipped employees is $2.15 an hour.

Not that there aren't also lots of restaurants and bars getting away with a "tips only" policy, and counting on their employees to be too uneducated to know better, and/or too poor and overworked to be able to take legal action.

That's the boat I was in about fifteen years ago, WHEN IT WAS STILL ABOUT TWO BUCKS AN HOUR!
posted by Cookiebastard at 2:35 PM on July 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you know the chorus, please feel free to sing along.
Legomancer: “Meanwhile, David Brooks thinks he knows why men don't have jobs.”
Yes, of course. Men without jobs don't want to work. Hearing someone as smart as David Brooks — whom I guess must have been copying off of Charles Murray's paper — must assuage the consciences of those at the top who exported the American Dream along with all the industry and jobs that made America great. All so they make an extra nickle a piece.
srboisvert: “In Canada there is a mandatory requirement for 3 hours pay minimum to avoid this.”
Socialism!

That's what they'd call any attempt to introduce even the most basic protections for workers in the United States. Socialist, liberal, tyrannical regulatory overreach. Because they believe it's there God given right to fuck over their workers, since they believe workers always fuck them over, the Theory X assholes. It's like they watch A Christmas Carol and only see the part when Scrooge is a dick, and completely miss the part where he learns his lesson and becomes as good a friend, as good a boss, and as good a man, as the good old city knew. Gah!

*Kicks over a trash can and stalks away cursing and muttering*
posted by ob1quixote at 3:01 PM on July 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


What do we do?
posted by stoneweaver at 3:09 PM on July 16, 2013


Keep complaining and worrying. It's part of the force that drives human progress. Life has actually never been so good for the poor in the history of mankind and we complain louder and frothier than ever. And that's a good thing.

In a hundred years, we'll see non universal access to robots that will automatically fix any knowable disease as a travesty, and it will likely seem that way to a lot of people.

*ducks*
posted by dobie at 3:14 PM on July 16, 2013


I suppose you're broadly right, but I would not advise you to go downtown in your nearest city and tell these people yourself how lucky they are to be poor today.

Sure is tiresome how the structure keeps perpetuating, though. I don't see that as an optimal future.
posted by forgetful snow at 3:21 PM on July 16, 2013


I'm not certain life is better for the poor now than it's ever been. Wages and welfare for us have been dropping pretty consistently (note the comparisons upthread between the minimum wage now and the minimum wages from the mid-20th-century), basic goods like education, housing, and healthcare have been getting more expensive at a rate far outstripping inflation, and though I'd like to make an argument about how things are better now for poor people in non-majority races, it seems like black and latin@ people are still treated as fully available for hyperexploitation at will.

It's certainly worse for the poor here in America than it is in Australia, where a cheap hamburger isn't so cheap, but at least the people who make them have enough money to live as humans instead of as thralls.

So I would like to respectfully raise the idea that maybe we are complaining because things are getting worse for us, rather than better.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 3:22 PM on July 16, 2013 [13 favorites]


I read dobie as comparing it to the pre-modern poor, not just the last century.
posted by forgetful snow at 3:31 PM on July 16, 2013


The pre-modern poor were pretty feisty, by most measures feistier than we are, though little of that history gets taught. I dunno if it counts as "pre-modern," but if I had my druthers everyone would learn in school about Captain Swing, the Rebecca Riots, and about how throwing food riots on a regular basis was crucial for the survival of the lower classes in industrializing England.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 3:34 PM on July 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sounds like their lives were quite hard back then.
posted by forgetful snow at 3:39 PM on July 16, 2013


I would never presume to tell someone how happy they should be with their life, but if you're looking for some positive statistics:

Well, you could also mention the infant mortality rate improved by 5 times since 1950.

The average life expectancy increasing by over a 1/3rd since 1950.

Declining death rates due to disease.

80% of the US has access to the Internet, which presumably includes many of the poor. This means that they have access to more knowledge than Bill Clinton had when he was President of the United States. Not to mention nearly free entertainment and communications.
posted by dobie at 3:41 PM on July 16, 2013


Whoops, meant to include a link to the wikipedia page for John Ball at the top there. But making another comment gives me an excuse to include the best bit of my favorite sermon:
When Adam delved and Eve span, Who was then the gentleman? From the beginning all men by nature were created alike, and our bondage or servitude came in by the unjust oppression of naughty men. For if God would have had any bondmen from the beginning, he would have appointed who should be bond, and who free. And therefore I exhort you to consider that now the time is come, appointed to us by God, in which ye may (if ye will) cast off the yoke of bondage, and recover liberty.
Unfortunately, Ball was six-centuries-and-change early (and still counting) in making the postulate that the time appointed had come.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 3:42 PM on July 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


forgetful snow: apologies; I'm addressing the side of the claim that says that we're louder now because things are easier. We're not louder, and could stand to learn some loudness from our forebears.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 3:44 PM on July 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


returning to the topic of the thread (and preparing to shut my damnfool mouth for a change), I just don't think that any amount of gadgetry makes up for the misery imposed by such a low income. And life expectancy for us is actually declining, currently, even though life expectancy for the rich is increasing.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 3:52 PM on July 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


dobbie can I trade my internet access for a stable job I could raise a family on? I'll just never use the internet and we can go back to the 1950s when people could get a job that would support a one worker family with a wife and 1.5 kids with just a highschool education. Oh and affordable healthcare. The latest boner medication isn't going to do a whole lot for me if I can't afford to get a broken leg fixed.

Hell take my cell phone too. And my TV. Can I make that trade? Cause I think I would be better off. If you claim we're better off than a time I would gladly jump in your magical time machine to go live in I think your claim is disingenuous at best, and flat wrong at worst.

(But black people shouldn't be treated like dirt. The 1950s can keep that shit. And the homophobia. Really any of that wackadoodle jesus America stuff.)
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 3:54 PM on July 16, 2013 [11 favorites]


Well, you could also mention the infant mortality rate improved by 5 times since 1950.

The average life expectancy increasing by over a 1/3rd since 1950.

Declining death rates due to disease.


I'd like to see these plotted by income quartile.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:32 PM on July 16, 2013 [8 favorites]


But was things that much better in the 50s? Wikipedia shows that the poverty rate is lower now and has been consistent since since mid 60's....
posted by asra at 4:34 PM on July 16, 2013


Well, so far as I know in the fifties you didn't have right-wing ideologues blathering on about how poor households own ALL of the latest gadgets and that's clearly evidence that they aren't poor. (Warning, heritage foundation link, support at your own risk.)

I could probably find everything on that list on my local craigslist right now. Most likely being sold by poor people who need the money more than the gadgetry.
posted by ActionPopulated at 4:43 PM on July 16, 2013


Pope Guilty: Well, it's not broken out by quartile, but this Krugman piece compares life expectancy for the top half and the bottom half of the income distribution. Here's the paper he's getting his data from, which I (unfortunately) haven't yet found time to read.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 4:48 PM on July 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yep, exactly as I suspected. Thanks, YCTaB.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:09 PM on July 16, 2013


I have lady parts and would prefer we not go back to the 1950s.
posted by maryr at 5:24 PM on July 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


(The bras look draconian.)
posted by maryr at 5:24 PM on July 16, 2013


Polio kind of sucked, too.
posted by rtha at 5:44 PM on July 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Did they account for any payroll taxes in these calculations?
posted by dialetheia at 5:49 PM on July 16, 2013


How many of you eat at McDonald's or a fast food chain restaurant? If this sort of thing bothers you boycott them.

I'll probably have coffee there today. But it's cool. Because we have industry based unions to advocate for workers. For example, the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Union has agreed to a new award for McDonalds workers that includes things like minimum shift payments of 3hrs and domestic violence leave entitlements. Adult casual wages are over $21ph and health insurance is unnecessary due to universal health care.

Come on over!
posted by Kerasia at 5:49 PM on July 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


I would totally boycott McDonald's over their terrible wages if I weren't already boycotting McDonald's because of their terrible food.
posted by BlueJae at 6:40 PM on July 16, 2013 [13 favorites]


Each year the National Low Income Housing Coalition does a report called "Out of Reach" which assess, among other things, on an MSA by MSA basis how many hours a person would have to work, at minimum wage, to pay for housing that counts as "affordable" (i.e., not more than 30% of income on housing). The results are always sobering - and very different from the $600/mo in the sample budget.

The Housing Wage in Out of Reach captures the gap between wages and rents across the country, and is the estimate of the full-time hourly wage that a household must earn to afford a decent apartment at the HUD estimated Fair Market Rent (FMR), while spending no more than 30% of income on housing costs. The 2013 Housing Wage is $18.79, exceeding the $14.32 hourly wage earned by the average renter by almost $4.50 an hour, and greatly exceeding wages earned by low income renter households.
posted by Measured Out my Life in Coffeespoons at 7:48 PM on July 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm reading this thread and am suddenly struck by this thought: a little over three decades ago I had a minimum wage job in Sarasota, Florida, and was supporting myself. I was budgeted to the penny, pretty much, but I ate, had gas for my car, and a roof over my head.

I don't think that's possible to do these days at all.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:55 PM on July 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


Yeah, but people bitch about socialism any time the public wants to fix that.
posted by klangklangston at 8:11 PM on July 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Looking through that Heritage Foundation link above it struck me that material possessions aren't a good indicator of poverty, in fact, not owning some of the material possessions on the list might indicate you're actually better off than the average person.

I don't need to own a car because I either live in a high rent CBD area or my company provides me with a car to use.

I don't own an air conditioner because I live in a unit with good insulation and favourable sun exposure / aspect in winter and summer months.

I don't own a microwave because my job gives me enough time to cook fresh meals every time I want one and I don't need to rely on leftovers or frozen meals.

I don't own a television because my life is fulfilling enough that I don't need to be spoonfed entertainment.

I don't own a landline because I'm technologically savvy enough to get by without one.
posted by xdvesper at 8:12 PM on July 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


The comfort of the rich depends upon an abundant supply of the poor

-Voltaire
posted by double block and bleed at 8:19 PM on July 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


Not sure if it's already been addressed upthread (long thread) but with regard to companies sending workers home after 15 minutes of work, there are laws (your local laws may vary) in place to combat that.

In California, if you show up for a scheduled shift, you are entitled to 4 hours' pay (or half of what your scheduled shift would have been) as soon as you show up. If they send you home 1 minute later, you still get the 4 hours.
posted by ShutterBun at 8:51 PM on July 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


I get cheap car insurance because I have passable credit.

When I wrote about my costs, I completely forgot to consider that. I have good credit, therefore nearly everything is cheaper despite me making considerably more than minimum wage.

How fucked up is that?
posted by Mister Fabulous at 12:25 AM on July 17, 2013


"Get a job! I bet McDonald's is hiring! You just don't want to work, that's your problem."

The McDonalds, the Jack in the Box, the Subway, the Safeway, the Rite Aid and the Payless Shoe Store nearest me are not hiring, and have not been for eight months. David Brooks can, respectfully, consume my defecate, which is a taste he's probably used to.
posted by mephron at 12:53 AM on July 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wow. Having left the States in 1997 – read this in the worried, shocked speechless state I'm in now – it is just stunning how minimum wage has stagnated, hours have risen, cost of life has risen (especially gas), and transportation is still assumed to be the car because public transportation hasn't evolved much past an iota. Seriously, it's like looking into a time capsule, except for the obvious: it shouldn't BE a time capsule.

Over here (France), the current minimum wage is given as a monthly sum, since most full-time (35-hour workweek) jobs are paid monthly: 1,430.22€ gross (9.43€/hour), 1,120.43€ net after employment taxes... national healthcare included. A single person without children will pay 0 (zero) income and property taxes since the SMIC is purposefully set as the "zero income tax" rate, at which and below which no one pays income or property taxes (the latter are indexed on your income tax rate).

Direct comparisons are pretty difficult, due to the following:

- first and most obvious, national healthcare.

- second and less obvious, transportation, especially since I can hardly believe this doesn't exist in the States (apparently??), you are reimbursed for travel to and from work. This is French law; your employer must reimburse you for transportation you use to get to your office/working location. As an example, I pay 365 euros/year for a transportation subscription that gives me unlimited travel in my region, not just city, but region that covers about 1/8 the entire country, and France is twice the (physical) area of Oregon, for comparison. It covers bus and tram, not train (slightly more expensive), and half of it (180 euros) is reimbursed by my employer. That's 50 cents a day, or about 15 a month, to go anywhere between the outskirts of Marseille and the Italian border. Naturally, it presupposes an excellent existing public transportation system, and here's the thing: it didn't really exist here until about a decade ago. When I first arrived, there weren't that many buses, and they were old and falling apart. There was no tramway. A heck of a lot of work was done, roads were made bus-only, a tram line was built in Nice, another is in planning stages, etc. and so forth. Europe is not a haven of preexisting transportation nirvana... the French Riviera is very similar to many places in the States in that it is mountainous, people are sprinkled here and there without easy access to public transportation, it's simply not possible to build new roads in many places (thus the re-structuring of current ones), and to get anything done requires a massive amount of motivation on the part of the government, as well as support from inhabitants/voters. And since, yes, taxes pay for it, the burden is held by those who pay the most... not by minimum wage earners, who pay no income or property taxes.

- the maximum legal number of hours a week (actually, 7-day period; it doesn't reset on a certain day of the week, for instance) is 48, and that includes overtime. It is illegal for an employer to make you work more than 48 hours for any given period of 7 days. There are still workaholics, usually managers who will work hours under the table. They aren't that numerous, though, given that the average hours worked in France, part-time included, are 38/week.

- in addition to the maximum number of hours worked, there is a minimum number of hours, again at country level, of rest per 7-day period, and per day. Every worker must have at least 11 consecutive hours/day of rest, and a period of minimum 35 consecutive hours per week (a 24-hour day + the 11-hour daily minimum). In that Wikipedia article I linked just above, it's in the section titled "repos hebdomadaire" (weekly rest [period]).

- for part-time work, an employer may not modify an employment contract – which must stipulate hours worked per week – without the express, written consent of the employee.

- meals are also reimbursed by the employer, though it can depend for part-time work. They always are when full-time. The legal minimum is currently just above 5 euros/day. And that's whether you eat at a restaurant or bring your own food: no matter what, you will be reimbursed for them, and it's not taxable income. So add about 90-100 euros/month there (depends on how many days you work in a month).

Now to the actual numbers. Yikes. What the heck.
- I pay 30/month for unlimited ADSL that would include television (equivalent to what y'all call "cable") if I had a TV. This is pretty standard in France.
- I have a stinkin' FREE mobile phone contract linked to my ADSL subscription. I do actually pay a euro (single euro) a month for 20 megs of 3G data; I'll up it eventually to an unlimited data contract that's 16 euros/month. Oh and phones cannot be locked to providers here. They can be sold by providers, but they can't be locked to one.
- I pay 40 euros/month in electricity for my 480sq.ft apartment.
- On the other hand, I live on the Riviera (sigh) and pay 700 euros/month in mortgage for said apartment.
- Home insurance costs me 20 euros/month.
- Heating is included with our apartment building fees; those cost me 100/month.
- I'm gluten-intolerant (diagnosed), so food's a bit more expensive, but my budget stays around a steady 80 euros/week, for 320/month.
- My hyperactive fluffball companions cost me about 30 euros/month (budget includes food and at least a once-yearly vet visit, divided by 12 months to get that figure).
- I don't budget for healthcare because the costs are ridiculously low. Seriously, last year I had to go to the hospital for a freak infection, spent several hours in urgent care, and ended up paying sixteen euros or something. Okay I'll check my blog... ah, here it is: 18.50, eighteen euros and fifty cents.

I'll skip our paid vacation because my heart is already hurting enough for y'all in the US.
posted by fraula at 5:43 AM on July 17, 2013 [25 favorites]


The thing is, McDonald's wages are appropriate for teenagers working a first job. Not so much an adult trying to live.

People jumped on this comment, but I interpreted it as "For a teenager who lives at home and is getting a summer job as a way to earn spending money, minimum wage is fine." I think the problem is that you can't pay people less for the same work just because you perceive their needs to be less. My first job was at Pizza Hut in 1986 or so and I worked a full 40 hours/wk in the summer for $3.35/hr. It was grueling work dealing with dinner rushes, washing dishes, scrubbing floors, etc. I was happy to have a little money to spend and used it to go out with friends and buy a few CDs or comics. I walked a few miles to get there and bummed rides home when I could. But of course there were people doing the same work who were trying to keep a car up (because of crap public transport), rent an apartment, raise a kid, and so forth. A wage like that is ridiculous for anyone trying to live independently.

Also as I have moved up the ladder and ended up in a high-paying corporate job, my daily thoughts about work are along the lines of "This is easy! Thank goodness I don't have a *hard* service job any more." Sure, you need different skill sets and there might be a different type of stress, but any job where you can use the bathroom any time and drop by other people's cubes to chat for a few minutes is clearly easier than any shift job.

The stuff implying that people get out of the system what they put in is sort of a fairy tale and pretty offensive. Love it or hate it, capitalism is graded on a curve. If every single person got a degree in nanotechnology and busted their ass day and night improving themselves, there'd still be winners and losers. Sure, some people make bad choices and bear responsibility for them, but lots of people work hard and still don't get ahead. In fact, if you *have* gotten ahead, you've depended on those who didn't to get you there. People who make it to the 1% or the 5% and crow about how amazing they are cause my eyes to roll. I have worked in a lot of successful companies and I can tell you that there are a lot of not-that-bright and not-that-hardworking people drawing big salaries. But the myth that the best among us get ahead lives on, and a lot of those who make it don't seem to care a lot about those who don't.
posted by freecellwizard at 6:22 AM on July 17, 2013 [12 favorites]


Over here (France), the current minimum wage is given as a monthly sum, since most full-time (35-hour workweek) jobs are paid monthly: 1,430.22€ gross (9.43€/hour), 1,120.43€ net after employment taxes... national healthcare included.

you are reimbursed for travel to and from work

meals are also reimbursed by the employer


None of this stuff comes for free, of course. France's unemployment rate is currently 11%, higher than it has ever been in the U.S. since the Bureau of Labor Statistics started keeping records.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 6:50 AM on July 17, 2013


The comfort of the rich depends upon an abundant supply of the poor

-Voltaire


He knew this firsthand as a man who was able to devote his life to writing because he became very rich by gaming a government lottery, insider trading, and usurious money lending. A lover of the downtrodden, that Voltaire.

I commend to your attention Ménage et finances de Voltaire.
posted by Tanizaki at 7:33 AM on July 17, 2013


It's nice when the derails are so obvious.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 7:36 AM on July 17, 2013


Th

Tanizaki: "The comfort of the rich depends upon an abundant supply of the poor

-Voltaire


He knew this firsthand as a man who was able to devote his life to writing because he became very rich by gaming a government lottery, insider trading, and usurious money lending. A lover of the downtrodden, that Voltaire.


Whether he was a beneficiary or a victim of what his axiom described has no bearing on the truth of the axiom.
posted by double block and bleed at 7:39 AM on July 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


None of this stuff comes for free, of course. France's unemployment rate is currently 11%, higher than it has ever been in the U.S. since the Bureau of Labor Statistics started keeping records.

None of that has been proven to be the causes of their high unemployment, either.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:41 AM on July 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


> "France's unemployment rate is currently 11%, higher than it has ever been in the U.S. since the Bureau of Labor Statistics started keeping records."

However, the current percent of the U.S. population living in poverty (as opposed to unemployed) is more than 16%, including almost 20% of American children.

At least 15% of the U.S. population is "food insecure" for at least part of the year. It's probably a bit more than that, since poverty levels have increased since the year that number was reported. Food insecure means that they do not have access to enough food for an active, healthy life.

Unemployment may be a poor statistic to look at in what is effectively a discussion of the fact that in the U.S., you can be employed and still not have a livable income.
posted by kyrademon at 7:45 AM on July 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


No one claims that living on the minimum wage alone is easy. But people should be free to choose to work for (or below) what the minimum wage is now, as long as both sides find this beneficial. If you take out the lowest rungs of the economic ladder, you make it harder for people at the bottom to climb up the ladder. It's well-known that McDonald's is exactly the kind of job that helps people do this successfully: people can work there when they have no experience, so this experience lets them get a better job, which can lead to a still better job, etc.
posted by John Cohen at 7:50 AM on July 17, 2013


I hate to go back to Krugman on this (I need to start doing some of my own reading, rather than just cribbing off of him), but he's been running occasional pieces on how the French economy isn't as bad as reporting in the Anglo-Saxon world would have us believe.

Money quote:
Young French are much less likely to be working, as we’ve already mentioned. So are older French, because of policies that made early retirement financially attractive. But in prime working years, surprise! The French employment picture, at least as of late last year, was significantly better than ours.
There's this common cultural idea that being decent to each other is an expense, and if we throw too much decency around, we'll run out — and boy, we'll be in trouble then! This is another version of the "economy as morality play" idea. In this version, if the economy on the whole is bad, it's because we've just been too profligate, and the way to fix it is by inflicting suffering on ourselves (or more frequently, on other people) to balance out the pleasure experienced when the economy is good.

I mean, it's a tidy little storyline. I can see why people like it. I can also see why it leads people to disbelieve in the sustainability of non-barbaric practices like Costco's living wage, or the Australian minimum wage, or Western European worker protections.

Nevertheless, it seems to me that the storyline that goes "a pack of brazen thieves have bled all the money out of the nation, and that's why we're all broke" more accurately describes the situation we're experiencing than the "we were happy and now we must pay by being sad" one. Not least because it seems that all the boomtime happiness accrued to just a few people, but all the austere sadness seems to fall on us instead of them.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 7:51 AM on July 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


(In contrast, by the way, the poverty rate in France seems to be somewhere around 5%. The poverty rates are calculated differently so are not directly comparable, but the French poverty threshold is by most measures slightly higher than that of the United States.)
posted by kyrademon at 7:52 AM on July 17, 2013


No one claims that living on the minimum wage alone is easy. But people should be free to choose to work for (or below) what the minimum wage is now, as long as both sides find this beneficial. If you take out the lowest rungs of the economic ladder, you make it harder for people at the bottom to climb up the ladder. It's well-known that McDonald's is exactly the kind of job that helps people do this successfully: people can work there when they have no experience, so this experience lets them get a better job, which can lead to a still better job, etc.
Are you from the moon? Mars maybe? What planet are you visiting from? Because clearly you haven't been on this one long...
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 7:54 AM on July 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


No one claims that living on the minimum wage alone is easy. But people should be free to choose to work for (or below) what the minimum wage is now, as long as both sides find this beneficial.

When both "sides" have equal power, we can talk about this. Don't try to argue that random Joe Schmoe has the kind of power required to negotiate wages with Giant Corporation as if they were on equal footing with no risk of exploitation for either. In fantasyland, maybe, but not in this reality.
posted by rtha at 7:59 AM on July 17, 2013 [10 favorites]


Yeah, apparently exploitative contracts entered into under the threat of starvation are a type of freedom.

What's especially funny is that people who believe in this "but uh I should be free to sell my labor for anything I want!" version of freedom tend to be vehemently opposed to anything that can get us better contracts — things like minimum wage regulations, worker safety regulations, collective bargaining, and so forth.

For my part, I'll be perfectly fine with the end of the minimum wage the second we get a minimum income.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 8:04 AM on July 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


"... as long as both sides find this beneficial."

And if people being hideously underpaid for their work don't find it beneficial, they are free to tell their employer so! I am sure that McDonald's acts promptly to raise wages the instant such a thing is ever pointed out to them.
posted by kyrademon at 8:07 AM on July 17, 2013


But people should be free to choose to work for (or below) what the minimum wage is now, as long as both sides find this beneficial.

This is called Freedom To Contract. And like half the arguments we are having these days, this was an argument used by business at the turn of the last friggin' century. (History in this country generally stops sometime around Reagan, I know, but jeez...)

It TOTALLY ignores the uneven power each party has when making the contract. The ONLY eventual outcome of a system like that is downward pressure on wages. A race to the bottom. Like what we are living right now.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:35 AM on July 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


It TOTALLY ignores the uneven power each party has when making the contract. The ONLY eventual outcome of a system like that is downward pressure on wages. A race to the bottom. Like what we are living right now.

I, dark rosé socialist though I am, actually favour freedom to contract, but only where power is to some extent balanced by a state supplied Basic Income funded from progressive taxation. If we want markets to do the job that libertarians (pretend to) want them to do, we have to ensure that working actually is an option, not a necessity. Thankfully, increases in productivity make this possible. Unfortunately, the wealthy don't actually want people poorer than themselves to be free to contract in any meaningful sense.
posted by howfar at 9:08 AM on July 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


It TOTALLY ignores the uneven power each party has when making the contract.

Most contracts are made between parties with unequal bargaining power. For example, when you send a package by FedEx, who do you think has the bargaining power when it comes to the terms of the shipment? The next time you send something overnight, cross out the indemnification provisions and liability waiver and see if they still accept your package. You have zero bargaining power.

Read the back of a concert or sports venue ticket sometime and it will really blow your mind. Unequal bargaining power, in and of itself, cannot invalidate a contract.
posted by Tanizaki at 10:16 AM on July 17, 2013


One person says "is," the other says "ought,"
and so their debate gets tied in a knot.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:22 AM on July 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Read the back of a concert or sports venue ticket sometime and it will really blow your mind. Unequal bargaining power, in and of itself, cannot invalidate a contract."

If only there was some way to mitigate the unequal bargaining power, especially in instances with a broad public harm. I mean, we could use laws to set the bounds of contract terms, but clearly that's some sort of science fiction solution. What might work in the real world?
posted by klangklangston at 10:25 AM on July 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


Unequal bargaining power, in and of itself, cannot invalidate a contract.

Correct, but that misses the whole point. Your references are to voluntary economic transactions. Employment is another concept, altogether. Since the Freedom of Contract argument was first made, we as a society implemented policies to even the power disparity of the parties - the right of workers to organize, minimum wages, workplace health and safety regulations, etc. We made the decision to somewhat level the playing field, and the economy benefited.

Now, we've spent the last 40 years or so weakening all those concepts and we're heading quickly back to square one.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 10:28 AM on July 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


If only there was some way to mitigate the unequal bargaining power, especially in instances with a broad public harm. I mean, we could use laws to set the bounds of contract terms, but clearly that's some sort of science fiction solution. What might work in the real world?

Luckily, I speak sarcasm. The solution is called "unconscionability", but just having unequal bargaining power does not get you there.
posted by Tanizaki at 10:31 AM on July 17, 2013


So it is possible that what you're missing is that the argument at this late stage of the conversation isn't about whether particular contracts are good or bad or whatever, but instead over contractarianism itself. Our friend who blundered in here to talk about abstract freedom to contract assumes that contracts:
  1. Stand as the legitimate/legitimating foundation of our politics and ethics,
  2. Explain how our economic systems work, and,
  3. are inherently just by their very nature as contracts.
These assumptions are all completely nuts.

Incidentally, are you still of the mind that the American labor system is just and fair, and that anyone damned by it deserves damnation?
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:42 AM on July 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


Luckily, I speak sarcasm. The solution is called "unconscionability", but just having unequal bargaining power does not get you there.

Unconscionability is a great, noble, and necessary thing. But, as the only bulwark against exploitation it's weak and unwieldy. Every disputed contract would have to be litigated and, of course, not everybody can afford that. That leaves the bulk of the power to the already powerful.

Better for a SOCIETY to set minimum acceptable standards, no? Otherwise, why even have a society?
posted by Benny Andajetz at 11:09 AM on July 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


There's no such thing as society, only individuals and families :)
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 11:16 AM on July 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Read the back of a concert or sports venue ticket sometime and it will really blow your mind.

With kids and a minimum wage salary I would be able to afford one of these tickets in about 11 or 12 years. Maybe.

Your privilege is still showing.
posted by dogwalker at 11:19 AM on July 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


I find it really weird--unbelievable, almost--that otherwise intelligent people are unable (or is it unwilling?) to perceive the structural reasons behind underemployment and poverty. As I said earlier, I think it's because of the popular narratives about personal "choice." I can see why this way of framing things could appeal to those who benefit from privilege, but I find it harder to understand why it would appeal to someone in dire straits.

The more I think about it, maybe it's because no one likes to feel powerless. If you are unemployed and poor, and someone tells you that it's because you have not invested enough in yourself--made enough effort, gotten enough schooling, whatever--even though it might be maddening, it also implies some hope. Why, if you just make more of an effort, you will have a better job!

"You need to change yourself," while insulting, sounds much easier to accomplish than "We all need to work together to change the system so the good things can be shared more equally." Plus that sounds suspiciously like socialism, a widely misunderstood and feared concept.

Encouraging people to think of themselves as free agents with the "right" or "freedom" to negotiate everything as an individual is irresponsible, because it totally fails to take into account the glaring power imbalances that exist between, for example, a multinational corporation and someone working the counter at McDonald's.

Society benefits as a whole when there is a safety net so that people don't fall through the bottom. The benefit is that we don't end up living like Mad Max.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:23 AM on July 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


People who've never known poverty, or who were once poor but have forgotten poverty, are often deeply, deeply invested in the idea that they have food, shelter, and clothing for themselves and their children by dint of their effort and skill alone. If larger forces — forces bigger than their sorry skins — can play a role in determining whether their kids get food, this means that they're at risk. Acknowledging this risk is terrifying; it's much more comforting to pretend that you and your children are safe, and moreover will remain safe, because (the reasoning goes) safety depends on nothing but putting in a reasonable amount of individual work and effort.

I guess the tl;dr version of this is that our privileged friends are, well, scared stupid by the idea of poverty, and are in denial about how it could happen to decent hardworking folks just like them.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 11:32 AM on July 17, 2013 [17 favorites]


Moreover, the idea that maybe they have food, shelter, and clothing because they're wrapped up in a system that denies the same to others, that takes the labor of others and gives them nothing back, that's also terrifying, since it suggests that their comfortable lives might be morally gray at best. It simply feels better to pretend that the way one lives doesn't hurt anyone else. Especially given that (he says, typing on a macbook pro, wearing clothes and eyeglasses manufactured in China, eating an apple likely picked by a hyperexploited migrant laborer) there's very little an individual can do to clean themselves of the moral taint imposed by participation in this system.

Admitting powerlessness is hard. Unfortunately, it's also necessary.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 11:37 AM on July 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


Eek! Socialism!

I just got back from a business trip to Germany with a bunch of Texans and I have a lot of angry words to say about their derision of "socialism". Granted, I was working with people higher up on the wage scale than fast food workers - manufacturing and white-collar technical people, mostly - but I think what I saw there was a shining example of how a society can be compassionate and humane to its workforce and still be a powerhouse of economic productivity. Things like having a living wage, mandated (paid!) time off, mandated breaks during the day, and reasonable working hours create more productivity, and people with leisure time and money in their pockets do crazy things like spend that money and turn the wheel of economy.

And yet all that the Texans could think about was how much in taxes these Germans paid. I mean, fine, they do pay a higher portion of their salary to the government. But it also means there aren't people dying in the streets because they can't afford to go to the emergency room and the standard of living means everybody can have nice things like clean parks and accessible transit. In almost the same breath as crying "Socialism!" they also started bitterly complaining about decreasing wages and benefits at their own company and didn't seem to see the disconnect there.

I also learned that if you're an office worker in Germany you're legally required - required! - to have access to a window. I think there are more regulations about the humane treatment of livestock than there are for office workers in the US.
posted by backseatpilot at 11:41 AM on July 17, 2013 [13 favorites]


I find it really weird--unbelievable, almost--that otherwise intelligent people are unable (or is it unwilling?) to perceive the structural reasons behind underemployment and poverty.

Unwilling.
posted by phunniemee at 11:53 AM on July 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


And yet all that the Texans could think about was how much in taxes these Germans paid. I mean, fine, they do pay a higher portion of their salary to the government.

Probably a slight derail, but this comment is made and accepted on faith all the time. I have a sneaking suspicion that it's just not true - or at least not as true as most people believe. We pay so many separate taxes and fees and premiums and copays, etc. that our financial obligations are probably not that different from our "socialist" counterparts. And we get squat, by comparison.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 11:54 AM on July 17, 2013 [9 favorites]


I'm comfortable saying that the underlying reasoning behind right-wing contractualist thought goes as follows:
  1. The strategies the powerful use to get the better of the people they contract with are natural and good, while
  2. The strategies that the meek can use to get the better (or, well, not the better, the same) of the people they contract with are unnatural constraints on the freedom to contract, and therefore abhorrent.
It's a pretty funny trick, right?
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:04 PM on July 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


People who've never known poverty, or who were once poor but have forgotten poverty, are often deeply, deeply invested in the idea that they have food, shelter, and clothing for themselves and their children by dint of their effort and skill alone.

This is, I think, fairly plainly true, but I suspect it works in tandem with an empirically well supported aspect of the cognitive illusion of control. People, even when not externally invested in the belief that they control a situation, are likely to overestimate their level of control over tasks that they are initially successful at. Successful people, it seems, are cognitively predisposed toward overestimating the extent to which their success is a product of skill or labour, rather than chance. This is troubling, because it suggests that decision-makers (almost by definition economically successful) are, taken as a group, likely to underestimate the role of chance in economic success.
posted by howfar at 12:29 PM on July 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


We pay so many separate taxes and fees and premiums and copays, etc. that our financial obligations are probably not that different from our "socialist" counterparts. And we get squat, by comparison.

Probably because the Germans don't have a rent-seeking middleman picking their pockets at every level.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 12:35 PM on July 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


That's weird. I don't give my premiums and co-pays to a rent-seeking middleman. I give them to my insurance company (and its shareholders). In turn, they negotiate a price with my medical providers in a system where the pricing structure is entirely opaque to end users like me. Am I doing it rong?
posted by rtha at 12:42 PM on July 17, 2013


oh my god, "dark rosé socialist." I'm totally stealing that phrase...
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:42 PM on July 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


rtha: so the distinction you're drawing is between rent-seeking middlemen and middlemen who provide a legitimate service?
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:46 PM on July 17, 2013


"Luckily, I speak sarcasm. The solution is called "unconscionability", but just having unequal bargaining power does not get you there."

Hmm. How did that work before we had modern labor laws? Did it lead to a Gilded Age where robber barons lived in opulent wealth while children were mangled by looms and immigrants died by the score in rank slaughterhouses?

Or are you attempting to move the goalposts away from the very real structural constraints on labor versus capital into a technical legal point, in some sort of "Win the quibble, ignore the argument" strategy?
posted by klangklangston at 12:49 PM on July 17, 2013 [8 favorites]


"Luckily, I speak sarcasm. The solution is called "unconscionability", but just having unequal bargaining power does not get you there."

Actually, in many jurisdictions, the solution is legislation. In the UK, for example, consumers are primarily protected by the Sale of Goods Act 1979 and the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977, along with the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999. Thus far, the economy has not collapsed as a result of too much regulation.

Things aren't impossible just because they don't happen to happen where you happen to be.
posted by howfar at 1:01 PM on July 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


while children were mangled by looms and immigrants died by the score in rank slaughterhouses?

Who do you think made just about every technological device you've ever owned? Those places still exist. We've just outsourced them.
posted by Tanizaki at 1:07 PM on July 17, 2013


Who do you think made just about every technological device you've ever owned?

Well this is just an argument for a piece of deregulation I would support: free movement of labour to match the current free movement of capital. It's odd how few "libertarians" argue for that one, isn't it?
posted by howfar at 1:10 PM on July 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


while children were mangled by looms and immigrants died by the score in rank slaughterhouses?

Who do you think made just about every technological device you've ever owned?


So we agree, then. Our economic arrangements are fundamentally unjust, built on the intense exploitation of others, and someone who behaves as if its judgements are just is risking their soul by doing so.

Whew. Took us long enough to get there...
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 1:10 PM on July 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


rtha: so the distinction you're drawing is between rent-seeking middlemen and middlemen who provide a legitimate service?

Maybe I misheard or misunderstood the "rent-seeking middlemen" dogwhistle? Where I learned dogwhistle, that rent-seeker is not a good legitimate job creator there might be a little sarcasm here like an insurance company, but rather a sneakthief who takes profits from those job creators by nefarious means.

Upon re-reading, I can see how that statement can be taken to mean those insurance companies themselves, yes?

Maybe I should go get some lunch.
posted by rtha at 1:21 PM on July 17, 2013


Who do you think made just about every technological device you've ever owned? Those places still exist. We've just outsourced them.

To countries that espouse exactly what you support, not coincidentally.
posted by zombieflanders at 1:23 PM on July 17, 2013


To countries that espouse exactly what you support, not coincidentally.

Please tell me more about what I support. Will you be doing so with a device made in a factory with suicide nets?
posted by Tanizaki at 1:26 PM on July 17, 2013


Yeah, I don't think it's quite right to bear false witness against Tanizaki like that. He understands that economic injustice exists and staunchly opposes it.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 1:27 PM on July 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


There is an argument in Tanizaki's head that he thinks he is making, and that is not the argument that comes across when he writes and it is also not the argument anyone in this thread is making. He's here to be contrarian.
posted by phunniemee at 1:34 PM on July 17, 2013 [7 favorites]


I have not commented in this thread, because I can't think of anything to say that wouldn't make me depressed for the rest of the day.
posted by JHarris at 1:37 PM on July 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't think anything has changed from this thread from a couple years ago.

I just don't agree with the idea that a person needs to be special to suceed (by which I mean have a decently comfortable life). It should be not just possible but expected that people will make mistakes or bad decisions or have misfortune befall them and still live well. We have the resources to allow this. It frustrates me that this view is seen by so many as unrealistic or even unjust.
posted by Wretch729 at 2:17 PM on July 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


What do we do?

You could start by rephrasing that question to what is to be done?
posted by klue at 4:26 PM on July 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Tanizaki, I have a question about your views.

Suppose that it's not possible to live on minimum wage work and, for whatever reason, that's the only employment a person is able to get. Maybe they made bad choices as a kid maybe the economy sucks, whatever. But they also can't feed themselves or provide housing for themselves or their family on a minimum wage.

What are we, "we" being society I guess, supposed to do? We can't let people die on the street. We have to feed and cloth people and provide a minimum of housing. I mean if a person doesn't have a house (apartment, etc.) or is starving they'll start robbing people, like right now, because otherwise they'll die. They don't have a choice.

So it seems to me that we either have to make the minimum wage something that is livable (like $10 or $12 an hour again depending on where you live etc.) or we have to provide government support (i.e. raise taxes) to these people. Or lock up starving people for committing crime they can't help because otherwise they would die (which is even more expensive because you have to pay for guards).

So given the constraint that people have to eat, do you support putting more people in prison (which would mean raising taxes or the defict), raising the minimum wage (which would raise the cost of goods sold), or government subsidies for the poor (which would mean deficit spending or raising taxes)? If you think that what I am saying is a false dichotomy can you explain to me why?

I think that there are a lot of people that can't get by on minimum wage and we're kind of making this choice by default right now by subsidizing poverty and putting more people in prison. A lot of people here would rather raise the minimum wage. Is there a reason to prefer the former over the latter?
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 6:07 PM on July 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


"We can't let people die on the street.

Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?

(Leaving aside that people do die in the street.)
posted by klangklangston at 6:49 PM on July 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


So one reason why I'm not grilling Tanizaki on his views at this point is that I think his weirdness up thread is due to how he hasn't really thought about this topic at all — which is strange, for a Christian, but I guess there's a lot of strange Christians out there, who think strange things about what Christianity is about.

I figure it's best to give him some time and space to think, instead of trying to press him on stuff he's not prepared to handle.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 8:56 PM on July 17, 2013


So, you aren't grilling him, just implying he's got a strange religion?

That seems... uncharitable.
posted by maryr at 9:55 PM on July 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


You're right, there's no reason to get snide. Retracted, with apologies.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 9:57 PM on July 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Jesus was a socialist.
Just sayin'.
posted by phunniemee at 4:40 AM on July 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Get a clue, McDonald’s: The other insult no one’s talking about, Paul Campos, Salon, 18 July 2013
The unstated assumption behind the McDonald’s budget is that the working poor must be educated about financial planning. And that assumption is in turn a belief that is deeply embedded among America’s cultural elites – including among many people who consider themselves political progressives.

That belief is: The working poor are poor because they are at bottom spendthrifts, who don’t know the value of a dollar.
posted by ob1quixote at 9:21 PM on July 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


Yeah, no, as one of the poors, it's more that the working poor tend to be less educated, and that includes less fiscally educated, population-wise. People should be learning that credit cards and check cashing places are rip-offs designed to fuck them and that living within your means makes the inevitable crises easier to weather.

If Campos could get over being outraged, he'd realize that teaching people to budget can go along pretty well with teaching them why their budget won't work and how McDonalds is fucking them.
posted by klangklangston at 11:34 PM on July 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I agree that helping people with low incomes understand all the ways they get fucked by almost every place they make or spend money is a good idea. However, I also agree with Campos. If McDonald's really wants to help, they should take half their profits and give their workers a $2/hr. raise.
posted by ob1quixote at 1:15 AM on July 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Regarding one of the individuals that lives on minimum wage.

Mr. Newton, then 86, had been working as a janitor at the complex for more than 20 years, ever since he moved here from Trinidad. His salary then and now: minimum wage.
...
Besides, the lawyer says, no one has the heart to fire a 99-year-old man who never arrives late or leaves early, who never says no or asks for a raise.
...
He unbuttons his shirt, smooths it across a metal hanger, hangs it on the back wall; replaces his pants with coveralls, the same he has worn for 13 years. He's the only employee at Bama who still wears a uniform. In all that time, Stephens says, Mr. Newton has asked for only one thing: A new ball cap. But he won't wear it to work. "Only when I get dressed up."


Sounds quaint doesn't it. How nice. Shouldn't others be content to live as he has? I mean he can do it right?

His alarm beeps at 3:30 a.m.,... He rolls over slowly and prays:

"Please, Lord, give me the strength to get up."
...
By now it is 5:45 a.m. The two-block walk to the bus takes him 20 minutes, his tiny steps scraping the sidewalk.


How'd he come to this station in life you ask? Well the building he worked at was sold and purchased by another company, he came to work like normal and the new company was magnanimous enough to let him stay on.. here's how that uplifting conversation went

"They sold the building," Jackson remembers telling him. "This is no longer Harry Bell's."

"No matter, Cap'n," Jackson remembers him saying. "I come with the property."


His outlook? Mostly good, and why not, he's blessed to live in this great country and have the best job on the planet.

The monthly senior pass costs $35 — almost five hours worth of sweeping. "I am lucky," he says. "God bless America!"

...........................

In case you couldn't tell, FUCK THIS UNNECESSARY SHIT THAT MAKES PEOPLE INTO PROPERTY SLAVES WORKING UNTIL THEY'RE 99 YEARS OLD AND CONVINCES THEM THEY LIKE IT AND ARE BEING TREATED FAIRLY BECAUSE THEY HAVE A BALL CAP TO GET DRESSED UP IN.

*deep breath*. I wish there was a god to bless the Mr. Newtons of the world, but I don't see how that can really be reconciled with the whole loving god thing so many people espouse. Good luck justifying how this guy deserves to be rewarded with, literally, as little as possible and that he is in the proper place in our society based upon the choices he's made in his life with regards to his, apparently, "minimum investment" in himself.

I see my great grandfather in him. I really do. Big Paw was Native American and so dark as to be confused as African American, his grandfather was actually listed that way on the census because being African American was preferable to being Native American to many in those days. He worked his entire life in jobs like this, collecting cans on the side of the road, riding his bicycle (sometimes, if times were good, self-rigged with a chainsaw motor drivetrain) to church and to work, and died in much the same position in society Mr. Newton is in. It turns out mom and dad actually cared for him in our home, which I had forgotten because I was so little, in his last year(s) or he would have died on the street in a ditch somewhere I have no doubt.

Did he let it bother him? I don't know, I was too young to think about things like that, but my family has never made mention of him in terms other than respectful admiration of his disposition towards life and his work ethic and his willingness to help others. I remember sitting in his lap and him calling me Kudzu, because I was growing so fast. Both of these gentlemen deserve better.
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:47 AM on July 19, 2013 [10 favorites]


Libertarians, They're Lovin' It!
posted by tonycpsu at 11:33 AM on July 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


You know, there's some arguments you can make about budgets and McDonald's and minimum wage, but we should all agree that Megan McArdle is a horribly clueless human being at best and a horrible human being at worst.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 5:06 PM on July 21, 2013


Megan McArdle is a horribly clueless human being at best and a horrible human being at worst.

She is certainly not clueless; she's a very smart woman. I find her politics deeply objectionable, but I don't think that gives anyone enough data to say she's a horrible human being.

Full disclosure: I was friends with her at school and we're vaguely reconnected thanks to the era of Facebook. We struggled in a lot of the same ways at the dreadful school where we crossed paths and were on the same bus route. She was always nice to me.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:27 PM on July 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I find her politics deeply objectionable, but I don't think that gives anyone enough data to say she's a horrible human being.

The idea that a person having horrible anti-human politics doesn't make them a horrible person is disgusting and needs to be wiped away like a turd left on a table by child who doesn't understand why everybody doesn't think he's terribly clever for having put it there.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:19 PM on July 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Er, I agree with Pope Guilty, although I'd probably have put it in different terms. Heh.
posted by JHarris at 7:54 PM on July 21, 2013


Why Andrew Sullivan is right about Megan McArdle, but not in the way he thinks.

Why Friends Don’t Let Friends Cite The Atlantic’s “Business and Economics Editor”: Further to the Megan McArdle is Always Wrong chronicles.

And, perhaps my favorite, wherein McArdle is savaged by her own commenters for her innumeracy and tendentious reasoning.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:25 AM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


When can McArghle be sent off to languish in a cow shed so that she stops taking up valuable publication space?
posted by klangklangston at 12:14 PM on July 22, 2013


The idea that a person having horrible anti-human politics doesn't make them a horrible person is disgusting and needs to be wiped away like a turd left on a table by child who doesn't understand why everybody doesn't think he's terribly clever for having put it there.

If I have to weigh:

(a) the number of people I've been acquainted with who hold/promote political ideas I find inhumane who nevertheless do decent and even admirable things and appear to otherwise be not-horrible in notable ways

vs

(b) the possibility that it's the understanding of good/evil and how it manifests in humans you articulated above that's comparable to an early stage of childhood development

I know which one I'm going to pick.
posted by weston at 1:33 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Doubling McDonald's wage would only cost $.68 per burger.
posted by stoneweaver at 2:14 PM on July 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


Err, does that account for the MASSIVE amount of inflation that would ensue if McDonald's (and hence just about every other minimum wage job) suddenly doubled?

I somehow doubt it.
posted by ShutterBun at 2:37 AM on July 31, 2013


Inflation isn't the result of wage increases, which don't increase the overall amount of money available.
posted by odinsdream at 7:48 AM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm probably just not well informed about this but as a publicly traded company wouldn't McDonalds be exposing themselves to a massive shareholder lawsuit for breach of fiduciary duty if they raised prices, presumably cuting into their profits, without being able to show that it would benefit the business? Especially if their competitors didn't follow suit?
Isn't that the problem with the way our economy is structured?
posted by Wretch729 at 7:54 AM on July 31, 2013


Or I guess I should say the executives at McDonalds would be opening themselves to a lawsuit, since my vague understanding of those is the money goes back to the corp not to the shareholders?
posted by Wretch729 at 8:02 AM on July 31, 2013


The total amount of money may not increase, but its velocity will most certainly increase.
posted by ShutterBun at 8:34 PM on July 31, 2013


I'm probably just not well informed about this but as a publicly traded company wouldn't McDonalds be exposing themselves to a massive shareholder lawsuit for breach of fiduciary duty if they raised prices, presumably cuting into their profits, without being able to show that it would benefit the business?

Prices go up and down for all kinds of reasons. I am no expert, but I think I can pretty safely say, if that were the case, then they would have been in jeopardy many many times before now. And any fast food company that pays its employees more than McDonalds does would be in similar jeopardy. So, no.
posted by JHarris at 1:23 AM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


JHarris you're missing my point. Obviously prices fluctuate but usually for business related reasons. There's a huge different between the company's leadership saying "Oh, we raised the price of a bigmac x cents because beef prices went up" or "we lowered the price of a soda z cents because we did market research that shows it will drive y more customers to the combo meal and we'll make more money" and them saying "so, shareholders, we just gave away our q% of our profits on burgers because we want to feel better about ourselves. Dividends will be cut accordingly. You're all cool with that right?"

I assume if McDonalds were to actually want to raise prices to raise wages they could, the leadership would just have to sell the shareholders on it by doing market research to show it would be good PR, would improve productivity, or whatever. So maybe they could do it, but I think it's a bit pat to say "oh well for only 68 cents per burger McDonalds could double wages" when in fact the way corporate law is structured seems to me to indicate that it isn't very easy to do that, even if you were a nice non-greedy CEO.
posted by Wretch729 at 9:00 AM on August 1, 2013


Inclined to agree with Wretch729. My particular take: it's not bad capitalists that are the problem, it's bad capitalism.
posted by howfar at 7:55 PM on August 1, 2013


Certainly it would not be legal for a CEO to act as suggested under British company law. There is a duty to maximise profit, with other things as secondary considerations.
posted by howfar at 7:57 PM on August 1, 2013


McDonald's and the Fate of the Middle Class
posted by dogwalker at 7:21 PM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Found it. I posted it first in the Nation thread, but I couldn't find this one, which had dropped somewhat in my Recent Activity list. But I feel very strongly about this, so I'm going to post the links here too. They provide some needed context about the whole shareholder-value-is-king idea:

Salon/Alternet: The Shareholder Fallacy
Forbes: Is the Hegemony of Shareholder Value Finally Ending?

In summary: the idea that increasing shareholder value is the only aim of a business originated in 1972, and has no basis in law. It's part of the bill of goods the American public has been sold by conservatives.

But what if we were to grant the malicious logic of shareholder value?

and them saying "so, shareholders, we just gave away our q% of our profits on burgers because we want to feel better about ourselves. Dividends will be cut accordingly. You're all cool with that right?

This ignores the fact that, when you pay employees more, you DO get something out of it. You get happier employees who are less likely to purposely sabotage your business, or steal from the workplace, or quit out of hand for greener pastures requiring you to hire some other poor schmuck. They're happier, and healthier, and it has nothing the fuck to do with feeling better about yourself. Seriously, your whole argument here infuriates me, and usually when I get this mad in a thread I just quietly excuse myself from it. But I felt I should respond to this reasoning instead of letting it stand. It makes me angry because people thinking like this is a large chunk of the reason I struggle to make ends meet week to week.
posted by JHarris at 9:24 PM on August 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm sorry to have upset you JHarris! I should make it clearer that I'm certainly not in favor of the logic of shareholder primacy and I tried to make the same point you do in my second comment that even if you did allow its logic raising wages could be defended, though I phrased it as improved productivity rather than the more empathetic way you mentioned happier people who wouldn't leave or sabotage the business.

I am surprised to read in the Nation article (thank you for posting it!) that there isn't a legal basis for the idea of shareholder primacy, though if Senator Franken is misinformed about this legal issue I think it's understandable that a random nonexpert like myself is too.

My intention was only to push back against the idea that there is a simple fix to the problem of low wages that is only blocked by overt greed. With or without a basis in law the ideology of shareholder primacy is powerful and omnipresent, not to mention that McDonalds doesn't operate in a vacuum: were the company to raise prices in order to raise wages without other similar companies doing the same the competition would gain their price-concious customers.

The problem is systemic and cultural and what infuriates me is when people just shrug and assume that greedy people are deliberately setting wages low in order to screw over the poor. Wages are low because our society has made political choices (I like fellow mefite Zompist's summary) that incentivize profitability over sustainability, equality, or happiness. I think that simply wishing that powerful corporate executives would raise wages or being angry that they don't is foolish. Change will come from the collective action of individual choosing to be more thoughtful consumers (e.g. by supporting a company like CostCo that actually pays a decent wage and has been rewarded economically for doing so) and more thoughtful voters, not demonizing McDonalds for not magically making everything better.
posted by Wretch729 at 1:56 PM on August 12, 2013


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