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Sat Jul 27, 2013, 12:15 AM

Big Mac says get another job

Since I last knocked heads with The Atlantic's David Freedman over Big Food and its potential to "end obesity"—see his piece, my response, his (odd) response to my response, our joint appearance on a Minnesota Public Radio show, and one more follow-up by me—there has been more fast food news than I can keep up with, most of it involving McDonald's, a company Freedman places at the vanguard of the anti-obesity effort.

The first item involves wages. It doesn't seem to have occurred to Freedman that one way Big Food contributes to our national weight problem is by paying its vast army of workers a pittance. Poverty is heavily associated with obesity and other chronic health conditions. The industry profits by holding costs down, and it does that in part by paying as little as possible. A 2012 analysis by the Food Chain Workers Alliance found that 86 percent of the 20 million people who work within the food chain—that's a sixth of the overall US workforce—bring home less than a living wage. Food-system workers are 50 percent more likely to rely on food stamp (SNAP) benefits than the overall working population, the report found. Not surprisingly, the food-system workforce is getting restive—hence recent strikes by Walmart workers, as well as walk-offs by fast-food employees in New York City, Detroit, Seattle, and St. Louis and fast-food/retail worker strikes in Chicago and Milwaukee. Fast-food workers in seven cities plan to strike next week.

Perhaps in response to such mounting pressures, McDonald's was recently moved to gift its employees with a "Practical Money Skills Budget Journal," "brought to you by Visa Inc. and Wealth Watchers International." Get a load of the "sample monthly budget," which has generated much hilarity across the internet:


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Reply Big Mac says get another job (Original post)
MindMover Jul 2013 OP
NYC_SKP Jul 2013 #1
Igel Jul 2013 #3
NYC_SKP Jul 2013 #4
davidn3600 Jul 2013 #2

Response to MindMover (Original post)

Sat Jul 27, 2013, 12:41 AM

1. OMG. Sample Monthly Budget assumes two jobs. You have to get a second job.


And the numbers they put on budget items are a fucking joke.

Health insurance: $20/month. Bullshit, my COBRA is over $1,300.


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Response to NYC_SKP (Reply #1)

Sat Jul 27, 2013, 11:34 AM

3. It's a sample not a model.

And this entire debate was silly from the first time it was brought up.

I've come to the conclusion that up front the producers should have made clear that the work wasn't going to be turned in for credit and that each numbers would be different, and even each person's budget categories would be different. I'd have found this insulting, but apparently a lot of people really need to be told this because it's just not that obvious.

In school we were shown process skills and, as examples, given sample problems. Few kids are confused enough when given their own problems to say, "But the numbers here are different from the sample."

Many have problems when they have to take a general skill--"solving for x in 3x^2 = y"--and apply it to different letters ("But Mr. Igel, there's no x in 4.6t^2 = d!" "You solve for t." "They never showed me how to solve for t. Just for x." "Here, Mehitabel. Just replace t by x. 4.6x^2 = d." "You can do that?" "Yes, Mehitabel, you can do that." "Oh, that's a lot easier. I can do that!" :facepalm

Being able to generalize is a really, really important skill. It's one that doesn't often show up on written education standards.

The McDonald's budget is similar to the kinds of budgets I've seen kids in life-skills classes working on--they live at home, and when they graduate high school typically stay at home but sometimes have two jobs. Most of the McDonalds workers where my kid went to get his crappy meals were in high school or recent graduates and not from the most high-income families. Then you could tell the poor kids from the kids who weren't by the budget categories they added. "Help with mortgage" versus "saving for trip to France".

I suspect part of this is also a "don't blame the poor" strategy. If the poor can be made better off by budgeting, then the employers are somewhat less on the hook to raise wages. Everybody can be made better off by budgeting, except possibly vendors that rely on impulse buys. However, if it's pointed out, then they're, in some small way, responsible for doing more.

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Response to Igel (Reply #3)

Sat Jul 27, 2013, 10:59 PM

4. It doesn't matter. That's not a living wage.


If it's supposed to be for kids living at home then they could make that clear in the presentation.

But it's not.

I'm old enough to remember when a people independent of their parents could live on minimum wage.

This a terrible attempt to condition people to accept less and believe that if they can't make the budget then they'd better have two jobs.

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Response to MindMover (Original post)

Sat Jul 27, 2013, 12:42 AM

2. And then McDonalds will get mad when the employees turns in availability for their 2nd job


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