Reading this NPR piece on the Occupy Wall Street protests, I came upon a true “let them eat cake” moment:
One man, who declined to give his name, but said he has worked on Wall Street for nine years, just shook his head. He was wearing a grey wool coat and his hair was neat and combed back. He stood at that corner for a while.
“This is ridiculous,” he said. “I just don’t understand why they’re not out trying to find jobs.”
He said he works 75 to 80 hours a week, so he deserves to be part of the one percent. He says he chose a degree in finance so he could make a lot of money.
I told him what Nathan Storey had told me. He was laid off in 2008 and still couldn’t find a job.
The man shook his head.
“He could get jobs at McDonald’s,” he said. He conceded however that minimum wage isn’t much money and he said he was willing to pay more taxes.
But he said he truly believes if you want to make money in this country, you can work hard and do that.
“This is the land of opportunity,” he said.
There appears to be a disconnect in the anonymous gentleman’s statement that he entered finance so he “could make a lot of money” and his assertion that if you “want to make money in this country, you can work hard and do that.” Yes, “the land of opportunity” is the U.S.’s advertising slogan but that is as relevant in practice as “The King of Beers” is for Budweiser.
His McDonald’s comment is both unoriginal and condescending, as if working in the fast-food industry is a viable option for people who have trouble finding jobs. Sure, many companies are calluously choosing not to interview job applicants who are unemployed — their way of capitalizing further on the poor job market — but having McDonald’s on the resume won’t improve the situation.
He should also know that a bad economy usually doesn’t trickle down. It’s the jobs near the bottom of the 99 percent that are the first to fall. Why does he suppose there are all these job opportunities at McDonald’s? Or does he think any reasonably educated person is preferable to the usual applicants at the fast-food chain? If so, then what are they supposed to do if what used to be the middle class takes their jobs — find work as medical school cadavers?
But let’s propose that there are McDonald’s positions for anyone who wants one. The federal minimum wage is $7.25. Even if you had the opportunity to work 75 to 80 hours a week (you won’t, as you’d be eligible for benefits and overtime), that’s about $30K a year. You’ll be exhaisted and won’t see your family but you’ll be content with the knowledge that you can provide them with so little.
Meanwhile, after nine years, our guy on Wall Street is possibly making around $300 to $500K. That breaks down to around $100 an hour at a 75/80-hour work week, which is slightly more rewarding. He can also get sick once in a while and send his kids to college.
Obviously, our economy can’t work if everyone is either in the finance or fry-making industry. It’s also telling that there’s no other default job that people like this guy can mention. The underlying message is “go away, stop bothering me with your problems, and serve me.”
There is a difference between having a middle-class work ethic and being an all-day, licked down to the center of the Tootsie Roll pop sucker. It’s like being the doting boyfriend while your girlfriend is fooling around with your best friend, brother, uncle, father, and family priest. It can get to the point that even the noblest person would rather die annoying the 1 percent than quietly serve them for the off chance of a pat on the head.
“Ronald’s not a bad guy”…
McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson responded to criticism that the fast-food giant’s advertising directly targets children with perhaps the creepiest statement possible.
“We are not the cause of obesity. Ronald is not a bad guy,” Mr. Thompson said Thursday. “He’s about fun. He’s a clown. I’d urge you all to let your kids have fun, too.”
I’d question equating eating at a fast-food restaurant to “having fun.” And isn’t he basically promoting the marketing strategy that presents McDonald’s as a sort of mini-Disney World with cuddly mascots and good times until the inevitable negative consequences? Actually, it sounds a lot like Pleasure Island from Pinocchio.
Mr. Thompson has been trying to revive sales at the fast-food chain, which recently reported its fourth monthly global same-store sales decline since October, when sales at restaurants open at least 13 months fell for the first time in nine years.
Don Thompson is McDonald’s first black CEO — although he never refers to the chain as “Mickey D’s.” Anyway, if he can’t turn things around quickly, I hear Mitt Romney is interested in replacing him.
Mr. Thompson told shareholders on Thursday that the company is seeking to add more healthful items to the menu. The chain has added fat-free milk and apple slices to kids’ meals, recently introduced breakfast sandwiches made with egg whites and, in some markets outside the U.S., is selling skewers of kiwis and pineapples.
“We would like to sell more fruits and veggies,” he said.
When a restaurant uses the term “veggies,” all you should expect are oddly textured iceberg lettuce and those diced tomato chunks that are the same red as a Jersey girl’s tan.
I also can’t believe people still fall for the egg white scam. Most of the nutrients in an egg comes from the yolk, and eaten in moderation (about two a day), the cholesterol level is nowhere near as problematic as the oil-drenched hash browns, the sodium-stuffed sausage, or even the empty calories from the bread that accompany the breakfast sandwich.
I do admire the nine-year-old girl who asked Thompson to stop “tricking kids into eating your food.”
Still, as odious as the kid-centric ads are — especially the one in which Ronald appears to abduct a small child, the commercials that try to present McDonald’s food as part of a “hip” and “active” lifestyle are arguably just as appalling. They can’t even cast just one person who looks as if they might each this stuff regularly rather than size zero models.
Posted by Stephen Robinson on May 23, 2013 in Capitalism, Social Commentary
Tags: Don Thompson, McDonald's, Ronald McDonald