Calhoun's Can(n)ons for August 5, 2013
How much extra would you be willing to pay for a Big Mac if that extra amount got the person handing you your burger above the Federal poverty level income?
That's the question The Daily Beast asked on their website and they installed a McPoverty Calculator that lets you try out the number of pennies needed to accomplish that feat. (http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/08/01/the-mcpoverty-calculator.html )
It's a timely question since many of McDonald's and other fast food workers from KFC and Burger King are staging protest strikes in several cities around the country and Congress is being urged to raise the minimum wage, which the Census Bureau sets at $23,000 for a family of four.
Naturally, McDonald's, which made $5 billion in profits this year, cried poor and declared that if their workers got a pay raise, they'd go broke and have to shutter their restaurants and throw people out of work. They even went to far as to partner with Visa on a website with what they must have thought was a helpful line-item budget for their poverty-wage workers. Their helpful advice was to get a second job, spend $0 for heating and pay $600 for rent. All of which gave comedians a field day and caused a good many people to blow their McCoffee through their noses at McDonald's arrogant, clueless Marie Antoinette presumptions. ($600 for rent? In New York City? Really?)
Meanwhile, the usual suspects showed up: Conservative Talking Point Pols declared that these minimum wages are just fine for these kinds of jobs since they're being held by teenagers earning extra money for school. This was followed by Bleeding Heart Liberals pointing out that the average fast-food worker is 29 years-old and many of those have families to feed. Then the discussion degenerated into the usual contemptuous rant about "moochers" who shouldn't have kids they can't support. All followed by conservatives' favorite false narrative about "job creators, " a narrative that fails to understand that the wealthy CEO of McDonald's isn't the job creator, the minimum-wage worker with a few extra coins in his jeans is the real job creator, since he doesn't park his money in offshore accounts, he spends it on more goods and services, all of which drives our demand and supply economy.
Also lost in the squabbling is the unmistakable fact that America has tragically shipped its well-paying jobs overseas, leaving it a low-wage service economy and turned itself into Detroit -- A hollowed out shell with the income disparity between the few haves and the many have-nots reaching historic and unsustainable limits. Even rapper Jay Z, a man who knows something about vast wealth and income disparity, observed on Bill Maher's "Real Time" show, that he didn't want to scare the white folks, well, scare 'em just a little, but the racial and economic disparity in this country will ultimately lead to problems since you can crush people just so far and then you've got real trouble. A sentiment expressed by Voltaire 150 years ago when he aptly observed, "History is filled with the sound of silken slippers going downstairs and wooden shoes coming up."
While fast food workers are wearing sneakers, not wooden shoes, the destabilizing stairway remains. As does the Basic Question: What kind of society do We The People want to live in? Detroit? Or MiddleVille, USA, where a person working full time takes home a living wage that can support himself and his family. A place where society's wealth returns to the stabilizing middle, where honest workers, not Wall Street Gamblers, have real value and get the breaks.
So what does it take to begin to create that decent society? That's the question The Daily Beast asked: How much extra for a Big Mac are you willing to pay to ensure that the person handing you your food has a chance at a better life? According to their McCalculator, it's twenty cents.