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McDonalds Tells Workers to Toil 70 Hours a Week, Use Ripoff Payroll Cards as Part of “Financial Literacy”

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The poor have to endure not just the indignity of struggling to survive, but also from having to listen to pious lectures on how they really can proper on their meager incomes.

The McDonalds/Visa/”Wealth Watchers” version of this “let them eat cake” comes in the form of a website that drives home the message that if low wage workers like McDonalds employees just mustered up enough budget discipline, they can achieve “financial freedom”. The use of math, one imagines, is intended to make the advice seem objective rather than cynical and self serving. ThinkProgress, which pounced on this spreadsheet, pointed out how unattainable this sanitized, prettily-formatted elite fantasy is.

Screen shot 2013-07-17 at 12.16.07 AM

Now it’s not hard to notice that these lovely patronizers anticipate, in a super duper high unemployment economy, that the industrious budget-preparer will have TWO jobs. And how much time might that entail?

Wellie, the spreadsheet starts from after-tax dollars. Using current employee FICA payments of 6.2% and the 2012 Federal tax tables, and assuming this is a single worker who takes the personal exemption and standard deduction and pays no state income tax, this worker gets roughly $28,950 in pre-tax income. ThinkProgress tells us that McDonalds pay “averages” $8.25. I’m not sure where they got that, since other reports (Glassdoor) show McDonalds’ jobs postings paying well under $8, and a Bloomberg story recounted how a 20 veteran was still getting only minimum wage in Chicago…which is $8.25. So we’ll used $8.25 even though this looks like creative accounting from McDonalds’ PR department.

We’ll assume our laborer making $28,950 in gross pay works 50 weeks a year. Divided by $8.25, that’s 70.2 hours a week, or more than 10 hours every day.

Now you can clearly see how the expense side is equally unrealistic. Remember, it’s politically important to show that even low income workers can save, so notice how “savings” is the first “expense”. Notice also that is shows $20 a month in health “insurance”. Funny, McDonalds’ own health plan, which is meager (don’t get seriously ill, the maximum payment in a year is $10,000) and only some of its full time workers are eligible, costs $14 a week. $14 x 4.5 weeks a month = $63. So McDonalds can’t even make its own bare bones program work in this fairy tale budget. But those poor folks get their bread and circuses in the form of $100 for phone and cable. Needless to say, $600 a month won’t get you far in the rent category in a lot of major cities either. And how are you going to be able to hold down those two jobs if you live out far enough to have cheap rent but you have to spend a lot of time commuting?

Now let’s look at what is left. That $25 a day is supposed to cover food, gas, clothes, shoes, laundry, cleaning and personal care products, medication (OTC and prescription co-pays, which will be large given how cheap the medical plan is), dental treatments (no way does a $20 a month plan include dental), entertainment, and any travel to see family or friends.

Now the site tells you how to meet these goals:

Screen shot 2013-07-17 at 1.00.00 AM

So someone who is exhausted and time stressed is exhorted to use public transportation (they probably have to but presenting necessity as a virtue is patronizing).

And if they are working two jobs, how likely is it that they can maintain enough in the way of personal relationship to find someone to carpool with, even before we get to the odds of having schedules mesh? And of course, the low income person is supposed to be able to cook and plan.

The piece de resistance, however, is that this site pushes payroll cards:

Screen shot 2013-07-17 at 1.09.47 AM

Even though McDonalds was embarrassed by ThinkProgress into acknowledging that its employees who own homes might need to pay for heat, it’s apparently not backing down on the use of payroll cards that are being examined by Federal and state prosecutors for possible violations of minimum wage and consumer protection laws. A Consumer Reports study from 2012 looked at a large sample of these cards and found that workers were likely to incur $10 to $30 in monthly charges, with $15 to $25 typical.

In other words, low income workers must strenuously avoid doing everything Big Money and Big Food and Big Retail are trying to get you to do through multibillion public relations and marketing campaigns, and use as many of the public services that these same firms are in the process of destroying.

But with all this, the claim is that “You can have almost anything you want as long as you plan ahead and save for it.” See what nice well scrubbed healthy looking people are promoting this-budget-your-way-to-virtue theology:

Screen shot 2013-07-17 at 1.33.01 AM

And look how easy renting an apartment is, according to link that takes you to Visa (well except for the creepy and aggressive hawking of credit reports):

Screen shot 2013-07-17 at 1.36.58 AM

It might help if we leave the Orwellian “Wealth Watchers” version of a McDonalds worker’s financial prospects and look at the reality. From Bloomberg last December:

Tyree Johnson scrubs himself with a bar of soap in a McDonald’s (MCD) bathroom and puts on fresh deodorant. He stashes his toiletries in a Kenneth Cole bag, a gift from his mother who works the counter at Macy’s, and hops on an El train. His destination: another McDonald’s…

He needs the makeshift baths because hygiene and appearance are part of his annual compensation reviews. Even with frequent scrubbings, he said before a recent shift, it’s hard to remove the essence of the greasy food he works around…

Johnson, 44, needs the two paychecks to pay rent for his apartment at a single-room occupancy hotel on the city’s north side. While he’s worked at McDonald’s stores for two decades, he still doesn’t get 40 hours a week and makes $8.25 an hour, minimum wage in Illinois…

Johnson begins most days the same way: picking cigarette butts out of the shower drain of a shared bathroom, using a tissue so he doesn’t touch them. While there’s a “No Smoking” sign posted inside the hotel where he lives, that doesn’t stop the other occupants who share the showers, sinks and toilets.

His rent at the hotel in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood is $320 a month. Johnson usually can’t cover it all at once, so he’s allowed to pay $160 every two weeks, or even $80 a week, for his first-floor room. He’s late on November rent and owes about $100 — some of it a late-payment fee, he said. Since falling behind, he’s put off buying a Dell laptop for $99 that he found online.

“Forget about that computer,” Johnson said. For now, he’ll keep going to a local Apple store when he wants to update his Facebook page in his efforts to find someone nice to date and to stay in touch with his father.

A pay stub of Johnson’s shows that he earned $8,518.80 through Sept. 9 this year at the store that gives him most of his hours. He was able to work only 52 hours during the two- week pay period ending that date because the restaurant was being remodeled, he said. A statement of earnings from his other McDonald’s job shows that he worked fewer than 12 hours over two weeks, earning $95.45 before taxes.

And his early efforts to better himself didn’t help. Johnson took out a student loan in 1987 right after high school to take a six month course and get a computer certification. He was able to finish paying off the loan only a couple of months ago.

So the message of the well-off to the struggling is work long hours at grossly underpaid jobs, when those “long hours” can’t even be cobbled together in this crappy economy, and then work really hard the rest of the time to stretch your meager earnings as far as humanely possible. This is just a prettied-up version of Dickensian sweatshops. The working conditions and hours are somewhat less grinding and we now have more varied forms of cheap entertainment, but the underlying premise is similar: the elites prefer a savage, mercenary version of capitalism to the less ruthless one that labor was able to win out of its protracted, hard-fought battles. The resulting coarsening of social relationships and a waste of human potential are costs the top brass seem only too happy to incur.

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139 comments

    1. Clive

      Hi indio

      I’ve hesitated before making this comment as I’m sure you didn’t intend to fall into the same trap that the feature was trying to highlight.

      Just because people flip burgers (or wait table, or cut hair, or pump gas, or work the checkouts) doesn’t make them dumb.

      It’s so-oo-ooo easy, so seductive, so much part of our culture today to equate status, employment and the perceived “worth” of one’s career with an individual’s qualities as a person.

      But some of the kindest, intelligent, most “human” people I know struggle to make the average wage. But daily, I encounter direct reports to C-suite direct reports who are, almost universally, egocentric, uncaring, exploitative, selfish, immoral and (luckily, there is some justice) thoroughly miserable people you’d ever want to run a mile from.

      Please then, if you can, try not to be judgemental about any class of labor. Some people are smart. Some don’t have super-high IQs. Some people are lucky. Some people don’t get dealt the best hand in life. If we’re “successful”, we’ve all made our own luck to some extent, but sometimes we’ve just been the passive beneficiary of random good fortune.

      1. YankeeFrank

        indio wasn’t saying McDonald’s workers are dumb, he was saying whatever corporate slug thought up this “PR attempt” was dumb. And indeed, he is correct. The shamelessness alone is astounding.

        1. Clive

          That’s not at all the way I read it YankeeFrank, but if I’ve made a mistake I’m more than happy to apologise.

          1. Eric Patton

            Whoever thought up this publicity idea at McDonald’s is dumber than the burger flippers.

            Highly classist, and common coin on the left.

            As I’ve said over and over and over again, the coordinator-class left hates, loathes, detests, and despises the working class. This is just another example.

            1. Lori

              A very cheap shot indeed. While we must acknowledge that technocratic liberals (who are not leftists, by the way) exist, we must also communicate effectively that non-technocratic and non-elistist liberals and leftists exist. While a subset of the liberal movement, and a much smaller subset of the leftist movement, have a patronizing attitude to the poor, the kind of rightist populism that speaks of “welfare Cadillacs” is nothing short of vicious.

              There is some discussion of whether the “dumber than burger flippers” is primarily about how dumb burger flippers might be, or how dumb PR people might be, and some willingness to give Indio the benefit of the doubt. I’m not inclined to do so, because it’s quite clear to me that the stereotype of the dumb burger flippers is the premise upon which the “humor” in the statement rests.

          2. LAS

            Clive,

            You’ve said the truth very well.

            Beyond what you say, I often think if we could each of us learn to feel content with not being the smartest one in the room, we’d all get along a lot better.

      2. Dave

        I’m sure this varies on a regional basis, but very few make flipping burgers at McDonald’s a lifetime occupation. It is mainly a starting job, with a starting pay level, and many are young folks who still live at home. Many others are retired folks who need something to do or a little extra cash.

        This is a common way to characterize these sort of jobs. Act as if they were expected to support a family to push an agenda and conveniently ignore the fact that they are entry level. Contrary to unrealistic expectations of many of the immature, most folks don’t start at the top.

        1. anon y'mouse

          how about the fact that they don’t even support the person working them?

          so everyone who works at mcD’s or the like is supposed to be a student living at home (rent free) or a retirement person subsidizing their pension/SSI and hopefully with a fully paid off mortgage?

          what if there are no other jobs in your area? what if you are an inner-city minority, whose school experience only prepared you to do THIS kind of work.

          how is a person slaving 70 hours to not-totally-support themselves supposed to engage in any kind of training? are they supposed to attend community college in their spare hours? how do they afford said training?

          in an “ideal” world, I would agree with you that only people who needed -extra- money should take these kinds of jobs. we aren’t living in an ideal world. there are very few *slightly better, and better paying* jobs, and us here at the lower end are constantly being told that we are not qualified for them, or must pay for our own training and engage in years of trying to get into the right classes/programs for the right technical specifications to obtain a living wage job, all while working to stay fed & housed.

          just because you knew a few kids who worked at a McD’s in college to pay for their books doesn’t mean that all employees will fit that bill.

          http://digital.films.com/play/H6FQCW

        2. bluntobj

          The difficulty with “entry level” jobs assumes that there are an equal number of higher level jobs, either at the current enterprise or other enterprises that can pay more and offer advancement.

          I note that you seem to be in the wrong decade if you are still under the illusion that this is the current state of America.

          Please note that the following features of our mixed economy destroy those jobs that you would classify as “non-entry level”:

          1. Productivity and efficency. Eliminate as much middle management as possible, and automate tasks such that “low skill” workers can do them.

          2. The famed “offshoring”, and subsequent “onshoring” that follows. Using techniques from #1, jobs are automated and de-skilled, offshored, then onshored as the costs rise in the offshoring market. These jobs are wage minimized, and can be controlled by fewer managers.

          3. Experience and education. Contrary to current memes about education, it does not prepare you to do high skill work. Education merely prepares the student to be an entry level worker in the supposedly high skill field, but that entry level position has been subjected to #1 and #2, and there are far fewer of them. At this point, the experience needed to get to the middle class jobs will be very difficult to earn, and barring providence and luck the student will find that the low skill “entry level” job is now their career.

          I recognize the improbably high level of providence and luck that I myself have been the recipient of, and it outweighs my skill. There are far more that have not been this lucky, and I don’t subscribe to the old ideas about employment, unemployment, and what it takes to find and keep a job these days.

          As a final note, please consider that the majority, 60%+, of jobs in the US, or the world for that matter, are low-skilled. Consider what you know of income stratification (the top 20% of earners, 1%’ers etc.), and realize that most Americans have jobs like these, have always had jobs like these, and with all that is occuring in the world are likely to only have jobs like these.

          I’m not a pessimist, but confirmation bias is everywhere, and it is very evident in the memes relating to employment.

          1. cwaltz

            I despise the term low skilled. It takes a great deal of skill to grit your teeth and bite your tongue when some schmuck decides to berate you. And while these jobs may not require great amounts of intellect, they often require physical stamina and an abundant amount of emotional fortitude since every human being in the world seems to think they are better than you because you are in a “low skill” job.

            I’ve worked paraprofessional and low skill and I’d offer up that the low skill was a much harder job then the paraprofessional. I’d also offer up the biggest difference when I performed the jobs wasn’t my “skill level” but was credentialing that prevented my employer from just picking up any Tom, Dick or Harry off the street to fill my position. In the military before I was credentialed in my field I performed it as an On the job trainee. Many of the people who run around saying “get an education” seem to fail to realize that many of their skilled labor jobs at one time in history did not require near the amount of “skill”(which should read credentialing) it does today.

            Additionally if skill were truly a determining factor in wages there would be no six figure golden parachutes for CEOs who don’t perform to standards. We all know how that works. In short, “low skill” is the convenient excuse businesses use to underpay workers and pocket more profit and nothing more. It’s used as a wedge between white collar and blue collar laborers and white collar workers seem to fall for it every time.

        3. JCC

          Entry level or retirement? C’mon. Nearly half of the line people that work at the only McDonalds within 25 miles of my house have been there since the place opened 10 years ago. The only faces that change are the shift managers, and most of them have lasted a good two or three years.

          And boy-o-boy are they all, understandably, unhappy grouchy people.

        4. Carla

          “I’m sure this varies on a regional basis, but very few make flipping burgers at McDonald’s a lifetime occupation.”

          Dave, try this version: “I’m sure this varies on a regional basis, by very few WANT to make flipping burgers at McDonald’s a lifetime occupation.”

          There, fixed it for ya.

          Fixing your empathy and compassion quotient is entirely up to you, buddy.

          Now, as to addressing the very existence of McDonald’s, which is an affront to human health, the food system, and the planet that we all call “home,” can’t fix that for ya today, but hope to contribute to such efforts so that we can do so in the near future.

          Have you tasted that sh*t?

        5. ScottB

          For what it’s worth: in Oregon, where I live, half the people who work in “limited-service” restaurants (fast-food, etc.) are 25 or older, and more than a quarter are 35 or older. Per the Census Bureau, Local Employment Dynamics database.

      3. indio007

        I didn’t mean to imply burger flippers are dumb.Sorry, I guess I could have phrased that better.

        1. peace

          @digi_owl nice, apt reference to Calvinism.

          Calvin revolted against Catholic doctrine regarding poverty, asceticism and modesty. Calvinist doctrine attributes wealth, status and success as signs of preordained blessedness. The wealthy were blessed at birth with God’s grace. The poor for some reason deserve – and should unquestioningly accept – God’s disapproving judgment. This is fundamental to American values and American appraisals of the justness of success and failure. Hofstadter’s “Social Darwinism in American Thought” is relevant.

          1. peace

            Catholic doctrine: suck it up politely in poverty so you can get into heaven.

            Calvinism: suck it up politely in poverty because you’re damned.

            1. F. Beard

              Who cares what Calvin said? The Bible is authoritative for Christians and says this:

              My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called? James 2 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

              1. Lori

                The practice of “pay[ing] special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes” in the above Biblical parable sounds a lot to me like the practice known as “networking,” which I would define as deciding who to spend your time with based on how much they can do for your career. FWIW, I find blaming people’s disappointment with the J.O.B. market on insufficient willingness to “network” at least as patronizing as blaming personal insolvency on lack of “financial literacy.” Both are a mixture of apologetics for the status quo, and the psychology of “kick ‘em when they’re down.”

            2. Charles LeSeau

              But you might not be! If you work your ass off, you just might be one of the select!

    2. Lexington

      The irony is the people responsible for this monstrocity are, according to the neoliberal rhetoric that pervades public discourse, “high skill” workers who are entitled to a secure middle class lifestyle by virtue of the status confered by their credentials and the nature of their job, even if what they are producing is self evidently crap.

      Meanwhile the front line workers who are creating actual value for McDonalds are “low skill” workers who should be grateful to be paid just enough to avoid the indignity of starving to death in a ditch.

      Capitalism. Ain’t it grand?

      1. cwaltz

        The old wisdom was if you worked hard that you deserved to succeed(and there is no way in God’s green Earth a 70 hour work week isn’t working hard enough.)

        The new wisdom is that if you are unfortunate enough to be a low level worker for a billion dollar corporation that even if you work harder than average and commit yourself to two jobs you should have to grovel and be called a freeloader by investors living off the silver spoon that daddy gave them.

        1. Nathanael

          This is the part of the elite psychology which comes from feudalism — the idea that the serfs are born to be serfs and should never try to rise above their station.

          Unfortunately, they’re missing the other half of the feudal psychology — noblesse oblige, the idea that the powerful have responsibilities to the poor.

          1. F. Beard

            They’re missing the second half because they erroneously think the US is a meritocracy when it is instead a “creditocracy.”

          2. Lexington

            This is the part of the elite psychology which comes from feudalism — the idea that the serfs are born to be serfs and should never try to rise above their station.

            Funny you should mention that, because this got me thinking about how the tyranny of “skills” in our contemporary economic discourse isn’t really that far removed from the tyranny of birth in a feudal one.

            When you really examine the self justifying mythology of our elites what does it amount to other than the claim that “I’m a wealthy and powerful person because I’m better than other people, and the fact that I’m better than other people is proven by my wealth and power”.

            It’s politically expedient to dress up this fallacy with a lot of talk about “meritocracy” but when you really think about it the psychological distance is surprisingly small between the beneficiaries of our “meritocracy” and a medieval aristocracy.

            1. digi_owl

              Especially when one consider that a person is more likely to complete higher education if his or her parents already have such. And typing that i remind myself that before the Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution, usually only children of nobility were educated in any way what so ever. So in a sense, one kind of feudalism has been replaced by another.

      2. Yves Smith Post author

        From what I can tell, most “high skill” workers spend a lot of their day in meetings, so their “high skills” consist primarily of:

        1. Political tea leaf reading

        2. Blame shifting

        3. Exaggerating accomplishments

        4. Sucking up

        5. Kicking down

        1. Yalt

          All too true. But even if we restore some meaning to the two phrases, why should “high skill” jobs pay more? Tasks that give scope to the exercise of one’s powers and skills tend to be relatively pleasant. Nobody even has to pay me to do the things I do well–they’re what I do with as much of my own time as I can spare once the necessities of life are taken care of. It’s the mind- and body-numbing tasks, the tasks that make no use of my particular mental or physical capacities, that require incentive. (That incentive might be as simple as the understanding that somebody’s got to do it and as long as the crappy work is fairly distributed I’m willing to do my part.)

          It’s a useful thought experiment (and it would be even more useful if it weren’t confined to thought) to imagine a labor market without desperation. What sort of incentive would you have to give–not just pay but perhaps even more importantly how would you have to treat them–to get people to give you a substantial portion of their life working the line at McDonalds (or fill in your own choice of job–there are many far worse) if they truly had the choice of refusing–not just a choice among bad jobs but the option of refusing bad work and ill treatment altogether?

          I’m guessing it would turn our societal pay scales completely upside down.

  1. J Sterling

    It’s a ratchet. The less money people can cope on, the less the employer class will pay them.

    This is also why appeals to welfare “paying more than work” are bullshit. If welfare paid less, they’d pay less for work. The *point* of welfare is to be better than the lousiest work.

  2. Richard Kline

    The insidious aspect in this contemptible piece of corporate propaganda, to me, is the ‘Weight Watchers’ parallel from the ‘_Wealth_ Watchers’ phrase. See the whole notion is that the workers are, well, fat and dumb. They need to be on a ‘financial diet’ but are just too, well, well DUMB to figure it out themselves, and ‘do the right thing.’ So their padrone, caring guy that he is, will ‘put them on a diet’ that they really need. See, they SPEND too much. And thus, they expect to be _paid_ a bit more. But what ol’ corporate padrone knows they really need is _to live on less_, and to WORK MORE. That way, they won’t be demanding more from Padrone #1, they’ll just work that dumb fathead off their ass by putting in a little ‘extra effort’ for themselves with Padrone #2.

    This is really how the wealth class thinks. To them, the working class are fat, dumb, lazy, and demanding things which they don’t deserve when they should really WORK HARDER and SHUT UP. The wealthy thinks the rest of us need to go on a spending diet, and to make a bit more effort. Propaganda like this starts to make ‘The People Armed’ look good . . . .

    1. Let Them Eat Yellowcake

      This all is revoltingly reminiscent of the mega-multi millionaire who was on TV recently saying people need to accept that they will have to work until they are 80. I believe this fat fock was interviewed in his villa in Dubrovnik.

      God he would look good with a neck as long as his arms.

  3. dbk

    Lawyersgunsmoney also caught this and managed to post a screenshot with “O” for heat, presumably in Illinois. A number of readers observed that heat may well be included in rent, but if this was assumed, why identify it as a line item at all? Others noted that they figured heat was included in the electricity bill, which they found unnaturally high – though a quick check indicates that average electricity costs in Chicago are $182 a month. (And btw, rent for a one-bedroom apt outside the center of the city averages $950.)

    What kind of health insurance does $20 a month buy, half a Medicaid co-payment (so, for a couple, that would mean one-fourth visit to an outpatient community health center a month, i.e. three visits a year)?

    When did food stop being a line budget item and get shifted to “spending money” (I always thought this referred to funds for “discretionary” spending, i.e. money available for non-necessities like entertainment, travel, etc.)? I just got back from rural Illinois, where a family of two is hard-pressed to eat (decently but modestly) on less than $80 a week for food (and some small non-food items e.g. toothpaste, paper towels).

    What about that $20 or so per month for the payroll card, shouldn’t that be included as a line item?

    The budget itemizes for car payments and car insurance, but what’s the car going to run on, good vibes? Gas costs over $4 in Illinois (at least it did 10 days ago; at a lowish 8000 mpy (very low in rural Illinois) and with an old car (cf. $150 per month payment) getting 20mpg, that would mean around 400 gpy – or $1500+. What about service? Licensing fees?

    Is basic clothing “discretionary”? What are the people who created this assuming, that their employees will be receiving free clothing from some charity?

    And the advice … how could someone working 62 (or 74) hours a week possibly find the time to plan their shopping and meal schedule for the week (much less prepare everything at home, from scratch, which is cheaper than buying packaged food)? When will someone working those hours find their local library (also being subjected to brutal budget cuts with layoffs and reduced hours) open so they can borrow books (which they will be reading when, exactly?) and videos?

    It’s not just the very unrealistic content of this “suggested budget” or even the many necessary expenses totally omitted (dentist visits, say, even if only for absolute emergencies like absesses; clothing detergent/washermat costs – it cost $3.00 to wash and dry one load, at three loads a week that’s about $40 a month)that I find so inhuman and inhumane. It’s the tone – perhaps other commenters can find the adjective to describe it that is eluding me.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      The need for a heat line comes out of their fantasy that someone with this income has a house. Of course, they could have inherited one….my below the poverty line lobstering uncle who got a PhD at 74 lived in a house he’d inherited.

      Plus if you live in a rental in a place with no decent rent regs (a LOT of places) the landlord might underheat and you the tenant wind up running heaters (which would show up in the electrical bill but you could conceptualize it as a heat charge).

    2. cwaltz

      The health insurance line item is particularly egregious when you consider that even the “fine” works out to 2% of a family income which is $40 for this particular budget.

      Then again what can you expect from a place that didn’t bother to budget in a grocery budget even though food is a fairly common household expenditure and was once considered the basis of determining poverty levels.

      1. PeonInChief

        Most budgets include things like food, incidentals (laundry, personal care) and such as line items. This budget considers them discretionary because, were they to include them and come up with reasonable figures for those, there would be a deficit instead of the $750 shown as “spending money.”

    3. cwaltz

      The whole budget was just lazy. They could have gone to the USDA site and gotten an idea of the cost of food but that would have made it that much harder to pretend these households get $25 dollars a day extra to subsist on instead of having an expenditure that pulls that number down to less than $13 a day(for 2 people) for expenses like gas or putting tires on the car on the USDA thrifty plan.

    4. PQS

      LGM suggested that the 20$ a month for health insurance was for a Gilded Age solution of a bottle of whiskey to dull the pain……

      This whole thing is just cruel. And I love how they had to add a second job paying almost as much as the first to even have enough money for the “necessities”.

      Someone at McD should have to answer for this, preferably on TV.

    5. cwaltz

      The tone struck me as both callous and contemptuous. It’s like someone in the McDonalds home office got in a snit over workers “whining about their pay” and decided to show them how “easy” it is to save on minimum wage. Then they got bored by the whole effort of it all and just randomly started placing numbers on line items.

      They never bothered to look at what a 70 hour work week might look like. Up at 530 AM for a 6-3 shift( 40 hours not including the hour long lunch break.) Get home to get ready for job 2 at 3:30. Dress and leave by 4:30 pm to work shift at 5PM. Work 5PM-1AM (30 hours not including hour long lunch break.) Get home 1:30 AM and SLEEP for FOUR HOURS. On your days off or on your staggered days of work follow the pithy advice of McDonalds and meal plan and shop to save money and do laundry so you have clean clothes for work. Pray you don’t get sick while getting an average of 4 hours sleep at least 3 nights weekly since the ass in McDonalds home office only allotted $20 for health care in his mock budget.

    6. sharonsj

      I believe their other suggestions to save money were to turn off the heat and lights. If a family has no heat and lights, Protective Services comes and takes away your kids. I bet the family’s bills will go down then!

  4. Clive

    I kind-a knew all this on some remote, intellectual level — how the poor and the working classes are viewed by elites. I also knew, again, at as a theoretical concept, how this denigrating worldview had now well permeated into popular culture — the kind of people or organisation which could produce this “Financial Literacy” education site either had no qualms or concerns about what it was they were doing, or if they did, the managed to suppress them.

    But seeing it, reading it, studying the language, the concepts expressed in it, the mind set of the people who compiled it, the enterprises which funded it, the audience who are supposed to use it… it was the most sinister and downright creepy thing I’ve encountered in a long while.

    It made me think for the first time in a while about what is society ? The best description I’ve come across is where the effort, risks or negatives and the rewards, benefits and positives are all shared equally. Forcing a group of people in society to live like the unfortunate example workers referenced in the practicalmoneyskills advice site are supposed to live because another group of people won’t give up on a few meaningless tickets or a bit of their mountain of paper wealth is a sign of a society committing a slow suicide.

    1. lorac

      what’s wrong with McD – and other like employers – paying a living wage, so that employees don’t have to rely on tips?

      1. Yalt

        It would cut into their profit margins?

        I hope some of the comments here are meant ironically because, honestly, how hard is this to understand? A century and a half after Marx and people still seem to be struggling with the notion that capital often acts like capital, sees it as some sort of moral failing and not a structural necessity. If you’re in middle management and you don’t at least pretend to think of your workers as a cost to be cut wherever possible you’ll quickly find yourself in an “entry level position” yourself.

        If you want McDonald’s to pay a living wage, get a living wage ordinance passed and get it enforced. Or, better, join the quite-possibly-hopeless struggle to change the system so that it’s possible to make these decisions from some standpoint other than the corporate shareholder.

  5. Clive

    Sorry for second comment but I also wanted to make a separate point, more specific to a particular issue.

    When you go into some big corporate outlets, especially McDonalds, Starbucks, Supercuts (to name a few, there are others) corporate policy makes it impossible to leave a tip. I imagine it’s on the checklist when they get inspected by the brand compliance officer or whatever they have. There’s a charity box (to instil a sense of how much the brand cares about the poor unfortunates) and the corporations get endless good press about their community work (http://rmhc.org.uk/where/rmhc_houses/southampton/ is a case in point near where I live, ironic when you consider who is actually paying for this corporate bleeding heart spin — their low paid employees are effectively taxed to create this monstrous big business ego boost) but it is very difficult if not impossible to reward the staff on-the-spot.

    Tips are an essential part of this kind of service sector. I’m not sure what the best response is. For me, I always give a gratuity to the server (but this doesn’t take care of the back of house). You could say “boycott” them but that’s not going to be effective — they’ll just squeeze labor harder. If everyone fills out a comments card saying “I want to be able to leave a tip” perhaps it would change corporate policy. Regardless of what we actually do, it (making sure we get a tip to the people who work there or highlight the fact that we want to but can’t) is the one thing we can *all* do to make a difference.

  6. petridish

    So, this is a website, right? Like on the internet? I didn’t see internet on the budget.

    Oh, I just reread the post and I guess that after Johnson updates his facebook page at the Apple store he checks the McDonald’s website for tips on managing his “wealth.”

    Is it just me or has the word “wealth” been inappropriately used so many times that it has been rendered completely devoid of meaning?

    As as aside, when I typed the word “facebook” above, I got the red, squiggly spell-check line. When I right-clicked, I was informed that “facebook” should be capitalized. It is, apparently a proper noun. Well, excuse me!

  7. allcoppedout

    I interviewed a few people forced to do back to work courses through our local jobcentre last month and found some had been put through 3 days based on ‘Chicken Soup For the Soul’ – some dire self-help drivel. Everyone talked to me about being demeaned and not helped at all. My professional opinion on the content is ‘dangerous quackery’.
    Training is often very patronising and teaching the intellectually challenged difficult. Years ago, doing some customer service training whilst broke doing my PhD, I was in some despair trying to get my adolescent monsters to do eye contact and pour out the polite burger chain robot call of ‘Next customer. How may I help you’? The situation wasn’t helped by stupid uniform hats with long peaks – so a typical head down presentation by these kids gave the customer no sight of a face at all. I got by with some jokes. The kids admitted the reason they were so crap was partly embarrassment that working for the burger chain was a very open demonstration of their failure.
    Burgers at Casey Jones were very good and clearly decent meat. Sold off by British Rail the meat was replaced almost immediately by some rubberised stuff, the fries sloppy instead of crisp. The chain failed – not enough customer service and how to live cheap hygiene training must have been the reason!

  8. petridish

    I just love the bullet points on the screen shot of the “Money Guides”–”Renting an Apartment,” “Buying a Car” and my personal favorite, “Welcome to the Real World!” I wonder what’s in that last one. Should be something like “On what we pay you, you’ll never do the first two, so get used to it.”

  9. cwaltz

    The pamphlet sloppily appears to assume that everyone is a two person household since if you actually read it then you’ll see entries from journaling that suggest after 7 days of logging your purchases that you and your partner should get together to “add both sets of expenses.” Whoopsie, we forgot to tell you that if there are two of you then you BOTH can’t spend $25 dollars a day in expenses, you actually each get $12.50 for food, gas or other purchases.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I should have spelled that out. I assumed a single person since the expenses would be lower, even if you allowed for somewhat higher taxes (higher standard deduction for a couple). So assuming one person on $25K after taxes was MORE favorable all in. And they later show that scrubbed kid with the car keys, all their imaging is of single people, not couples.

      1. cwaltz

        The whole entire exercise was so poorly constructed that all the people who made the sample leave you to do is guess why they chose the random budgetary numbers they did(although stuff like the housing amount is the formulaic 30% that the government suggests be utilized as percent of budget.) Yes, a budget is a guideline. However, you aren’t setting a guideline up to succeed if you aren’t realistic and I can’t think of anything less realistic then randomly pretending that expenses like food or gasoline are discretionary expenses(flexible yes, discretionary no).

        If I were VISA I’d be embarrassed to have my name attached to that model. It’s very poorly constructed.

  10. F. Beard

    Well, McDonald’s has now pretended it cares for its workers. So hopefully that’s a slippery slope (via cognitive dissonance) to McDonald’s actually caring for its workers.

    But hey, since our system is just and allows true competition then surely all profits are justified, aren’t they? If only!

      1. anon y'mouse

        slaves cost too much.

        I know that in America this opinion will be counted as racist, but slavery makes the owner RESPONSIBLE for the health of his workforce. that doesn’t mean luxury, but it does mean making sure that they have enough essentials to do the work. any slave-owner can be compared to someone with a working animal—if they have any brains at all, they know that the animal can only do its job if the essentials are provided. if you let the animal work without food, or with injuries, pretty soon you will have a dead animal and a lost investment.

        wage slavery means that the business owner is not responsible for anything but his profit. it removes even the minor incentive to provide -enough- to live on. if they aren’t paying enough for YOU, then there are 500 others who will take the job believing that even one loaf is better than none. believing that yourself and knowing that prospects elsewhere are slim, you will probably stay put and suffer as well.

        you can starve, be homeless, be overwhelmed with stress-based illnesses. it isn’t the business-owner’s responsibility to care about you. if you’re lucky, you have a family that will do so. some of us aren’t lucky in that regard either.

        so, as bad as it sounds, theoretically slavery would be better as at least in confers the responsibility to the -owning- class.

        1. LifelongLib

          IIRC there was an actual defense of slavery (written prior to the Civil War) that made these points — you treat what you own (slaves) better than you treat what you rent (wage labor). Of course it fails as a defense of slavery but it’s an interesting point about labor.

          1. anon y'mouse

            needless to say, but I will anyway, that I do not condone any kind of slavery for any reason whatsoever.

            unless it’s how you get your sexual kicks, and even there can be problematic from a psychological standpoint.

        2. Min

          Wage slavery and debt peonage are not peculiar to capitalism, but that’s what we are getting. Welfare now has a strange place in this system in the US. Walmart and McDonald’s employees may be eligible for food stamps and other public aid. That means that the public, including other businesses, are subsidizing Walmart and McDonald’s, and it also means that those employees are stigmatized as “takers”, as a drain on society.

        3. Yalt

          The practice of slavery was of course quite different from your theoretical exercise and I think the differences speak well of our admittedly meager regulatory and legal protections. It places some limits on the behavior of the employer/owner that may be invisible to us now but would have greatly improved the lives of slaves:

          -the employer/owner can’t kill you if you try to leave.

          -there are limits on the physical discipline an employer/owner can administer; there aren’t any bullwhips in the back room at our local McDonalds.

          -it’s at least illegal to use even the carrot and stick of job advancement/job loss to procure sexusl favors from an employee; it certainly can’t be done with the direct power of life and death, a threat bearing the full support of society and the law, in the way it was routinely done with slaves.

          -employers may make it difficult for their employees to have a family life but at least they can’t separate their employees’ families at gunpoint.

          I for one wouldn’t want to turn the clock back.

  11. John

    Where is what food will cost per month?

    I don’t see it on there.

    Or, is McDonalds like WalMart just assuming their workers will get food stamps because they are paid so little money.

    1. cwaltz

      They didn’t bother to put food on there just like they didn’t bother to at least make the health care cost the minimum 2% in fines a person would receive and instead just threw a $20 on the line.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      As indicated in the post, that comes out of the $25 a day. Eating is apparently not part of a budget, it’s discretionary.

      If you scroll further down on the page, you’ll see how they show grocery purchases come out of the $25 a day. Their example is that you can get by on $70 of groceries a week. Or perhaps they assume workers dive into garbage cans for meals, or forage from what grocery stores put out on their curbs to supplement their spending.

      1. PeonInChief

        The people who prepared this haven’t been to the grocery store lately. I haven’t either, but my husband, when I asked why we were spending as much at the grocery store every month as the McD budget allows for “monthly spending”, informed me that prices were much higher than I remembered. He then told me what some of the things I like to eat cost. I shut up.

        1. cwaltz

          The thrifty plan at the USDA allows for $40 for a male between 18 and 50 and $37.50 for a female between 18 and 50 on a weekly basis.

          When you utilize $70 a week for two people(or use $40 for 1 person budget with 2nd job) and consider a $30($35 for the extra expense of second job) gas fill up all of a sudden that $750 decreases to $350($450 for a single person). And if you go farther and set a realistic health care budget that includes the 2% consequence of going insurance free of $40 and a $110 rolling cost that allows for $1320 in medical expenses throughout the year you end up with $200 in discretionary income for a 2 person household or ($300 for a 1 person household). If I were to hazard a guess $200 for two people didn’t sound nearly as “the sky is the limit” as $750 and neither did $300 when you are working 70 hour work weeks.

          I’d be at loathe to ask where they found full coverage for a car with a payment and rent homeowners insurance for $100 as well. The oldest has full coverage on our insurance for a 2001 mustang and it is almost $200 a month for an under 25 driver. And I guess the car payment considers that you’ll have money to plunk down on a car since even the base amount excluding interest on a 6 year loan is $10,800 and most base model prices exceed that.

          It’s positively sad that what they see as a “sky is the limit” budget I see as a fairly bare bones budget and saving every penny of the other, discretionary, and savings would still mean that a household would work all year to afford a year of community college(5 grand a year) so they can get better than entry level pay and maybe someday be able to afford a family.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            There wasn’t much other spending on the sample plan, so I therefore infer the grocery store visits would also have to cover stuff like laundry detergent, toothpaste, aspirin, dish soap, etc. Clearly you don’t buy stuff like that every visit, but that sort of thing is probably an additional $5-10 a week.

  12. diptherio

    “The resulting coarsening of social relationships and a waste of human potential are costs the top brass seem only too happy to [have their employees] incur.”

    There, fixed it for ya.

  13. rob

    Another insult in this whole case,is when these employee’s are getting minimum wage;Mcdonald franchises’ generally do ALOT of business.Most of the Mcdonalds I see are almost always quite busy.Some are slammed.
    I don’t know any store/franchise owners personally anymore,but twenty years ago when I would do installations for a chain operator.Those stores could bring in $10,000-15,000 PER DAY.Even a slow store could bring in $5,000 per day.
    For Mcdonalds and their franchise organization to pretend like they can’t bump up the pay scale,$5/hr,without ANY detriment to themselves;is a crock.
    Rather they pay high fee PR firms to come up with this CRAP…

    1. cwaltz

      I don’t know a single person that wouldn’t be willing to pay a quarter more for a sweet tea or burger if it meant the guy making his food got a pay raise to cover expenses. Particularly when you consider that if you don’t pay it on the front end for wages you end up paying it on the back end in taxes for subsidizing food or housing.

  14. ambrit

    Friends;
    I see a subtle process of de-socialization being promoted here. Assuming for a moment that the folks in charge of this propaganda exercise aren’t complete idiots, then the impossibility of this spreadsheet is the message. As noted above, the average low wage worker is not, as elite propaganda asserts, dumb. The workers know somehow, even if only in the back of their minds, that something like this spreadsheet is impossible. “Work makes you free,” indeed! So, what’s a decent thoughtful low wage worker to do? That’s the brain buster. Just like with the original “Final Solution” double bind, the trick is for the elites to manipulate the subjects while said subjects are trying to solve the impossible question. Thus, when an individual or group is preoccupied with impossibilities, they cease controlling their own actions. They fall out of society, or at least what passes for society for the elites. What is far worse, the working class, (let’s call a spade a spade,) fractures along internal lines under the stresses of the myriad “Catch 22″s imposed upon it. Voilla! Neo Liberal Paradise!
    Allow me to illustrate my contention with a personal anecdote.
    A month or two ago, I was walking down an aisle in the DIY Boxxstore I toil mightily in, and spotted a ‘merch card’ lying in the middle of the walkway. So, kind hearted slob that I am, I pick up said card and cruise on up to the Customer Service desk.
    “Hey, what’s up with this,” I ask the two cashiers on duty.
    “Dunno,” answers one. “Looks like a merch card to me.”
    “Who knows,” replies the other. “Probably thrown away after using. Toss it.”
    “No you don’t,” I reply. “I’m curious, and not yellow.” (That cultural quip was totally lost on the two twenty-somethings.)
    “Suit yourself,” replies the first cashier. Giving the other cashier a ‘what a dumbass’ look, she slides the card through the reader. “Hey, bingo! It’s got a hundred bucks on it. You win the lottery oldtimer.” She hands me the card back.
    Like the fool that I am, my next remark is, “Someone dropped this. They’re going to be very pissed, and really want it back. Where’s the lost and found?”
    Giving the other cashier a really profound ‘what a dumbass’ look this time, the first cashier says. “You’ve been here how long?”
    “Just cut out the sarcasm you,” I reply. “This doesn’t happen to me often.”
    “All right, all right. Take it to the money room and turn it in there.”
    “Thank you sweet young lady,” and off I go.
    At the money room door, not being among the exalted ones allowed inside, I tell my tale to the junior manager there and ask, “How long is it held, and when do I get it if it’s not picked up?” (Greedy, greedy greedy old man that I am.)
    “Oh,” she replies to my avaricious query, “you don’t find out, and any money not picked up in three weeks is automatically credited to the Boxxstore Employees Relief Fund.”
    “You mean that this is completely altruistic of me?” I reply.
    “Consider this as being your way of helping the less fortunate than yourself.” She actually does the evil grin routine at this juncture.
    “You know that this the perfect disincentive to honesty, don’t you?” I pose the question in all seriousness, hoping to get some reply to judge the thinking of the junior managers with. She doesn’t fall for it.
    “Stop with the philosophy. We’ve got a store to run. Don’t you have something you should be doing?” She tries to fix me with the stare of doom so beloved of managers the world over. I don’t fall for that.
    “Some day when we’re not so busy, we can have a discussion about cognitive dissonance.” My parting shot.
    “Go back to work.”
    The brain buster here, as you’ve doubtless figured out by now, is; “What to do with found money?”
    While the noble and base sides of my personality are fighting it out, the corporation reaches in and snatches the prize.
    I never could find out if the card was claimed.

    1. anon y'mouse

      I worked for about a week in a Goodwill. apropos of your comment about “found” money and someone else’s above about the impossibility of tips, they SCHOOLED us on the fact that any money on the premises that was not in the pocket of a customer or inside your employee locker was corporate property (they are a corporation, just a “not for profit”). they explained that if some hapless customer were to do something such as leave a few cents in change on the counter, or if you found money lying on the floor or even, chance-of-all-chances, in the pocket of some merchandise (laboriously sorted and placed by disabled workers paying a gov’t subsidized wage lower than the minimum, I kid you not) you would be fired if you didn’t turn it over to your manager.

      they basically told us not to carry our own cash on the premises (hence the locker) or we’d have to explain where it came from.

      this is not why I quit, by the way.

    2. F. Beard

      “What to do with found money?” ambrit

      I suppose that depends. In college, when I had no money to eat with, I found a couple bucks on the ground several times. That hotdog with mayo, fries and black coffee was delicious! But now I would let it lay for someone who needs it more. But if it were a couple hundred or a couple thousand, THAT I could use for, example, some new contact lens and various car parts. But I suppose I would let that lay too since I REALLY do have faith that God will provide as necessary.

      1. AbyNormal

        “God will provide as necessary”…F Beard

        Children are the most visible victims of undernutrition. Children who are poorly nourished suffer up to 160 days of illness each year. Poor nutrition plays a role in at least half of the 10.9 million child deaths each year–five million deaths. Undernutrition magnifies the effect of every disease, including measles and malaria. The estimated proportions of deaths in which undernutrition is an underlying cause are roughly similar for diarrhea (61%), malaria (57%), pneumonia (52%), and measles (45%) (Black 2003, Bryce 2005). Malnutrition can also be caused by diseases, such as the diseases that cause diarrhea, by reducing the body’s ability to convert food into usable nutrients.

        According to the most recent estimate that Hunger Notes could find, malnutrition, as measured by stunting, affects 32.5 percent of children in developing countries–one of three (de Onis 2000). Geographically, more than 70 percent of malnourished children live in Asia, 26 percent in Africa and 4 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean. In many cases, their plight began even before birth with a malnourished mother. Under-nutrition among pregnant women in developing countries leads to 1 out of 6 infants born with low birth weight. This is not only a risk factor for neonatal deaths, but also causes learning disabilities, mental, retardation, poor health, blindness and premature death. http://www.worldhunger.org/articles/Learn/world%20hunger%20facts%202002.htm

        Madness slunk in through a chink in History. It only took a moment.
        Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things

        1. F. Beard

          Life can be a brutal learning experience but remember we started in a Garden and one day all nastiness will end and many who are last will be first.

          Meanwhile, can’t we eliminate an obvious evil, which is a government-backed counterfeiting cartel which precludes honest sharing in favor of stealthy looting?

    3. ChrisPacific

      You could have kept the card, left your contact details and asked them to give them to anybody who inquired. That would at least have stopped them from benefiting if they decided to be evil about it.

      My mother used to turn found banknotes in to the police. I remember asking (after she did that with a $20 note that we’d found) why she bothered, and suggesting that it was very unlikely the owner would ever check. She replied: what if it belonged to a child who had been saving for months at $1 a week to buy something, and had dropped it on the way to spend it? That stuck with me for some reason – I think because it showed me what kind of person my mother was. I’d say that was well worth the $20.

  15. Mary Gorgeous

    Phew! McDonalds. They’ve been the subject of scorn for decades. Unfortunately, food (and prisons) say a lot about a country. Walmart, Starbucks haven’t adopted similar worker castigation, which they’ll be encouraged to do based on the success of the countries largest employer. If there were a better way to smother overhead by building a superior sweat shop-prison, capital knows no restraint. Hopefully, workers rebel in ever larger numbers, as they are starting to, within the fast food machine. This is where the anti-union money men need to be hit hard. Bring the casino right down on top of their anti-social throats.

  16. Sandwichman

    Thanks for the outrage but the question remains, “what is to be done?” To rephrase what is the emancipatory strategy that doesn’t assume a priori that you or someone like you is emperor with absolute power. That means no “ideal” government policy prescriptions: no living wage, no universal single-payer healthcare, no universal basic income… Assume that assholes run the country and always will… because they do. What is to be done? What then is the most effective strategy of resistance?

    Hint: it’s something the financial elite have been most persistent (180 years) and most subtle in disparaging and discouraging. The headline of this post even contains a clue!

  17. steve from virginia

    At some point even McDonalds runs out of paying customers. The workers become unemployed or join the underground economy. They go on disability and use their Medicare access to purchase painkillers and make far more than minimum wage peddling them one-at-a-time. McDonalds shrinks, closes outlets, share prices fall, the CEO is ousted … McDonalds becomes Burger Chef.

    The ex-employees survive because they have had more practice being poor than a NYSE-listed corporation which is unable to adapt.

    As the bosses become more lawless, so too do those at the bottom of the economic food chain.

    In the middle is the ratcheting and pitiless contest between Americans and their toys for existence. Humans need food, automobiles need crude oil and credit in vast quantities; this is the reason for the overweening banks and monstrous governments … government deficits are the service for both the private- and public sector debts. The workings of the debt machine impoverish all within reach … this is so people can sit behind the wheels of their cars like wage-slaves in sweatshops around the world sitting behind sewing machines.

    The difference of course is that the drivers pay thousands of dollars per year for the privilege of sitting and working; thousands of dollars the driver must borrow, somehow … or have the ‘system’ borrow in his-or-her name.

    Without cars McDonalds could not exist in its current, abusive form … Same with Walmart, Target, Home Depot, Lowe’s … suburbia, Goldman-Sachs, the Department of Defense, Aetna, Bechtel, General Electric, Boeing, Toll Brothers, Exxon-Mobil … everything.

  18. Javagold

    if everyone just stopped working for a few days, it would change for the better….but nope, cant do that

        1. Lori

          The general strike won’t work in America today because labor is almost infinitely interchangeable. Better to go with the general boycott ( http://n8chz.blogspot.com/2009_02_08_archive.html ).

          The good people at Adbusters had the right idea with “Buy Nothing Day” but making it “Black Friday” was a stupid idea; the one day when their signal would be most severely cancelled out and then some by information going the other direction. My idea of general boycott is less “buy nothing day” and more “live like a monk for a month” which ironically is the subject matter of the present post, but “sympathy boycotts” by hopefully large numbers of people who don’t have to live like a monk might make enough signal boost, certainly not to get news coverage of course, but at least generate data that analytics reads as anomalous.

          1. Lambert Strether

            I had a picture in my mind of one jape:

            Set up a card table outside an ATM and offer to give people’s ATM fees back to them. If they accept just hand them the cash. Video it all. Might be funny and raise some consciousness.

  19. leapfrog

    Food? Gas for the car? Student loans? $20 for health insurance? Oh, that’s right, that’s probably some kind of public assistance. A McDonald’s employee, just like a Wal-Mart employee, probably qualify for foodstamps and healthcare. So, in essence, the taxpayer is ONCE AGAIN indirectly subsidizing the corporations who refuse to pay their workers a living wage. I rarely eat Frankenfood like Mickey Dee’s anyway, now I will not eat there AT ALL.

  20. aljamo

    McDonalds gets a lot of business for their grossly overpriced junk food. I notice 90 percent of all employees in stores in this area are black people. Those workers will be replaced by illegals soon enough. What happened to the Obama proposed hike in minimum wage? It’s pitiful and so sad.

  21. LAS

    This website is indeed a hoot. But it’s not really intended for the McDonalds workers. Its true audience and consumer is the decision makers at McDonalds who cut the deal with Visa. “Woo hoo, see here McDonalds management, we at Visa make it look all professional for your workers … we’re giving them a full financial services experience … blah, blah, blah”

    1. JCC

      It gets even better when exploring the disclaimers, etc:

      Visa’s Viewpoint

      Visa recognizes the importance of not only providing high-quality personal finance materials to those who need it, but of also being a leader in advancing the cause of financial literacy in our schools, with financial institutions, NGOs and with policy makers. Through research, policy forums and advocacy, Visa is on the forefront of the movement to make sound money management a universal skill.”

      In other words they want to keep the average high school kid as dumb as possible, and just in case he or she does end up as dumb as possible, it’s not Visa’s fault:

      Accuracy of Information
      While Visa may use reasonable efforts to include accurate and up-to-date information on the Site, Visa makes no warranties or representations as to the accuracy, timeliness, or completeness of any such information. Visa does not in any way make any warranties, representations or guarantees about results that may be achieved by using or following the information contained on the Site or that the information provided will fulfill any particular purpose or need. Visa may periodically add, change, or improve any of the information, products, services, programs, and technology described on the Site without notice. Visa assumes no liability or responsibility for any errors or omissions in the content on the Site.

      Disclaimer and Limitation of Liability
      Your use of the Site is at your own risk. The information and services provided or referenced on the Site are provided “as is” and “as available”, without any warranties or representations, whether express or implied, of any kind. To the maximum extent allowed by law, neither Visa nor any other party involved in creating, producing, or delivering the Site is liable for any direct, indirect, incidental, consequential, or punitive damages, however, caused, arising out of your access to, use of, or reliance on, the Site, even if visa has been advised of the possibility of such damages.”

  22. washunate

    Thanks for highlighting this. The low wage temp economy we have built over the past couple decades is horrific in the context of how fast prices have risen. I love rent only costing $600 a month and health insurance only costing $20 a month. And food and gas not even worth itemizing.

    rotfl

    [note, with requisite Big Picture point: this isn't really a slight against McDonald's; the problem is public policy that has been systematically stagnating wages and increasing prices. Many of the individual financial literacy ideas actually are important. Most educated Americans take for granted a level of basic numeracy and literacy and financial acumen and computer skills that many low-income workers lack. Basic adult education is the main academic challenge in our society (not higher ed degrees).]

  23. BondsOfSteel

    Payroll cards are still better than check cashing places.

    A _lot_ of people use check cashing places because:

    1) They are undocumented. (You need a tax id to open a bank account.)
    2) They are in debt and subject to garnishment/seizure.
    3) They have trouble maintaining min deposits.

  24. Charles LeSeau

    My god, 70 hours a week, split between 2 jobs. Let’s break that down too:

    Number of hours in a week total: 168

    Hours left when subtracting for 8 hours of sleep (yeah, right!) a day: 112

    Hours left when subtracting 70 worked hours: 42

    Hours of waking free time, independent of time it takes to travel to and from work, shop for necessities, shower and get ready to work, cook meals, etc: 6 per day, probably spread all over the place because of juggling time to schedule one’s two pathetic jobs.

    YES, McDonald’s, what a great deal. I owe you my goddamned life for $8.25/hour.

    Obligatory Libertarian: You don’t have to work there. I mean, I don’t work there and look at me!

    1. cwaltz

      It’s even worse when you consider the fact that you are actually scheduled for an hour more than an 8 hour shift or an 7 hour shift to account for the lunch break that the law requires they provide if you work a certain number of hours. I posted a mock schedule above. It’s likely that on at least 3 days of the week you’d get 4 hours of sleep when you consider the in between hours or the going to and from work in the equation.

      1. anon y'mouse

        it’s even worse when you aren’t scheduled for full-time hours, yet a shift that places you -on demand-, meaning you have to set aside all hours of the day and night just in case your employer should need you to come in at a moment’s notice.

        in other words, they get the benefit of your full (or more) time, and get to pay you for only 27 hours at minimum wage (if you’re lucky).

        this should be outlawed. not only does it take time away from working and place it in the “waiting for work” unpaid category (should be likened to stealing bread from the mouths of the poor) it also makes having that -necessary- second job impossible. how to explain to your 2nd, 3rd etc. employer that you have no way of knowing when you’ll be available to work because you’re “waiting for a call from Massah #1″, but you aren’t working full time and need the extra money.

        Massah #2 will look at you like you’re crazy. like you just asked for a charity hand-out, that’s what.

      2. The Black Swan

        I’ve done it before working in the restaurant industry. Worked two jobs. One was 40-50 hours per week and the other was roughly 15 hrs per week. My week looked something like this… Mon/Tue off. Weds 7am-3pm Job 1. Thurs 7am-3pm Job 1, 4pm-11:30pm Job 2. Fri 7am-3pm job 1, 4pm-12:30am job 2. Sat/Sun 12pm-10:30pm. In a typical week I usually worked on extra shift at either job to cover for people being sick. Commute to job 1 was 30mins, return commute from job 2 was 45mins. 5 days of the week I pretty much slept, worked, commuted and showered. The other two days I had to recover and try and grocery shop, do laundry, clean house, see friends and family. And my week wasn’t too heavy compared to some of my fellow cooks who worked 13 shifts a week for several years on end. And all of this for $10-$12 per hour.
        I lasted 6 weeks before I had to quit one of those jobs.

        1. cwaltz

          My daughter (19) will have worked 2 jobs that average 60 hours for 1 year come this September. On Mondays and Thursdays she works a 5 hour shift at a retail location unloading, stocking and occasionally ringing up customers. On the other 5 days she works from 8 in the morning until 6 in the evening detailing and cleaning cars. She picked up a third job this summer for a month until job 3 figured they’d ignore her availability and schedule her while she was still at her other job. Needless to say that went over like a lead balloon. She’s almost managed to save enough for a car or a year of community college thanks to being able to live at home. Her wisdom teeth set her back though.

  25. Walter Map

    Remarkably, the parody website is identical to the original:

    http://www.practicalmoneyskills.com/mcdonalds/budgetJournal/budgetJournal.php

    One can only conclude that the corporatists involved are purposefully deceptive, dishonest, and cruel, and pursue the corruption and destruction of society for profit as business as usual. In a rational society such people would be prohibited from having any significant involvement in corporate operations, but unfortunately the rapacities of corporate fraud are now consecrated and are no longer criminalized. Moreover, conditions have been carefully arranged to prevent the victims from having any recourse. Naturally the wolves prefer the sheep to be defenseless.

    All societies are vulnerable to corruption to some degree and must be able to survive the losses incurred by corruption and minimize them to a level that is sustainable. In modern corporatist society that threshhold has been far exceeded. It is inherently suicidal to base a social ‘order’ on outright corruption, but that is precisely what corporatists have done. Now that corruption has become pervasive, civilization will necessarily and inevitably collapse under the sheer weight of its own inequities. The corruption is inextricable, so collapse in inevitable.

    Save yourselves. You will almost certainly fail, but you should at least try.

  26. Malmo

    Please pass this on to the jobs guarantee folks. Put a note in with this and tell them a job guarantee is not nearly enough minus a living wage; somewhere in the neighborhood of what a tenured econmics professor rakes in at Harvard, Yale or Princeton.

    1. washunate

      That does seem to be the hang up. The details are what matter.

      The term job is like the term health insurance or terrorist. It has no standardized meaning.

    2. Yalt

      Forget the job part, just guarantee a liveable income. We’ll work out the how-to-be-useful part on our own, once we aren’t so desperate we’re willing to clean your toilets for $7.25/hour.

  27. casino implosion

    In elite opinion, low-value added employees like Tyree Johnson are basically societal dead weight. Their “jobs” are nominal, and the elite attitude is something like this: “eh, we could automate that, but then we’d have give you food stamps for sitting around on your ass.”

    1. Massinissa

      You forgot a part.

      “and worry about social rebellion from those people who have free time”.

      Thats the real reason for keeping the masses working 10 hours. Its hard to even organize politically and find out who to vote for when working a 70 hour week, much less visit any kind of protest or anything.

    2. cwaltz

      Automatons that advanced aren’t as cheap as a minimum wage earner. I daresay that you might be able to get one to take an order. Another to make the burger and a third to clean up. However, finding one that does all three would likely be cost prohibitive and they’d have to pay to keep a spare and pay for maintenance on them.

      There was an article that Japan, who does not have enough people willing to work menial positions, is subsidizing robot research because as of right now what they have simply is either too expensive for the average individual to afford. Most of the robots are the equivalent of a Roomba or an ATM though, extremely limited in scope(unlike humans who you can get to take orders, make food and clean for a bargain basement price of under $20,000 a year.

  28. heresy101

    Everyone seems to be missing the real aspect of this story.
    The workers can’t live without food stamps or medicaid but neither can the corporations. Food stamps should not just be looked at as beneficial, but a supporting act to the corrupt system the 1% have built.

    “the key point I want to hammer into people is that food stamps are corporate welfare. They actually are not welfare for the workers themselves, who undoubtably don’t have wonderful lives. What ends up happening is that because the government comes in and supplements egregiously low wages with benefits like food stamps, the companies don’t have to pay living wages. So in effect, your tax money is being used to support corporate margins. Even better, many of these folks who get the food stamp benefits then turn around and spend them at the very companies which refuse to pay them decent wages. Who benefits? CEOs and shareholders. Who loses? Society.”

    “Guess what would happen if these companies failed to pay high enough wages and food stamps didn’t exist? There would be massive employee organizing and ultimately the companies would have to change tact. This of course doesn’t happen when the taxpayer makes up the difference, and that is exactly what they want.”

    http://libertyblitzkrieg.com/2013/07/16/mcdonalds-math-you-cant-survive-working-for-us/

    1. darms

      Wow, great point on food stamps being corporate welfare, I knew low wage workers were getting food stamps but I never considered the consequences of taking them away. Starving people are desperate people with very little to lose that the elites ignore at the elite’s peril. Good for us the R’s in Congress who are planning to slash food stamps likely haven’t thought through the potential consequences of their actions…

      1. jfleni

        RE: food stamps and R’s who want to cut them:

        R’s are so dumb their heads hurt! Unfortunately, all they have to lose are their seats, before they go back to selling cars, destroying the post office, swindling old ladies, and bleating about the end times, etc.

        We can only hope that the “end times” are really “out of control” bad news for these useless drones.
        Just imagine: former congressperson has to sell cars forever! Or even better, can’t find work and has to struggle to “practice law” down there in impoverished “hillbilly heaven”.

    2. washunate

      Yep. Public policy is basically indentured servitude for the bottom third or so of the workforce. The median wage in the US is only $27K.

      SNAP, TANF, and other supports should be scrapped. The safety net we need is for the transition times between jobs – universal unemployment insurance. Simpler administration and better governing philosophy.

      If any citizen for any reason could file a claim for unemployment benefits, employers would ‘magically’ pay low-wage positions higher wages.

      1. Frank Moon

        Right, let people starve to death until they start pulling their weight. The new and improved neo-conservative is still yelling about the welfare queen, although recently they started yelling at Banks as the po’folk always have. I think one theme of this article was the outrageousness of a job that is the equivalent of slavery. Not a call to cross post the latest libertarian idiocy. How about this? We gut the living hell out of corporate welfare that has forever dwarfed any and all safety net programs in cost? Starting with oil companies..

        1. washunate

          I understand the sentiment. But I diagnose the problem differently.

          In my view, the core problem is that in our current system, employers have a monopoly on income (for all but the very richest people who have meaningful family inheritances).

          The point of unemployment insurance (and health insurance) is to break that monopoly. It provides choice, breathing room, a safety net. That allows the space for workers to bargain and citizens to act. You won’t live luxuriously, but you will be able to feed and clothe yourself and your family regardless of the whims of the authoritarians of the world.

          Food stamps, welfare, Medicaid, Section 8, and other means-tested programs trap people in intergenerational cycles of poverty, particularly in the larger context of the two tiered justice system that viciously targets low-income and minority communities.

          What’s even more egregious (and darkly comical) is that food stamps doesn’t even succeed at keeping people from going hungry in this country. Hunger is much more prevalent today than it used to be.

          http://feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/hunger-facts/child-hunger-facts.aspx

        2. darms

          “Starving people are desperate people with very little to lose that the elites ignore at the elite’s peril” aka “When you got nothin’ you got nothin’ to lose”…

      2. cwaltz

        That’s the even sadder part of this all. If you add in an extra couple of bucks you have the budget for HALF this country. Most of the country is living on $2100 a month for shelter, food, health care, transportation, utilities and “saving for their non existent retirement” and or emergencies after Uncle Sam takes out money for Social Security, Medicare and any other taxes.

        Essentially you could add $45 to the earning side of budget and the monthly amount earned is AnyFamily USA.

        And sadly enough all that $2100 budget needs is one more mouth to feed that has no earning potential to push it from bare bones budget to pray I don’t have to rob Peter to pay Paul territory. Is it any wonder 1 in 7 people are on food stamps? Even using their extremely modest rent$600/ $240 utilities/ $250 transport numbers when you consider a “thrifty food plan” plus a tank of gas a week at $30. You have $100 in other, $200 in discretionary and $100 in savings or $400 a month in wiggle room. If you have to put a new set of tires on the vehicle you’re essentially screwed for 2 months and heaven forbid you have a second emergency during that time.

        1. PrairieRose

          Well said, cwaltz. I laugh maniacally every time I hear some ding-a-ling on the teevee tell me that I need to save 10% of my salary per month for my retirement. Or that I need 20 times’ my annual salary in savings in order to retire, meaning eight figures. Seriously?? This system is either going to have to implode or else the USA is going to turn into a much larger Mumbai (see “Slumdog Millionaire” for some excellent footage).

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      No, McDonalds is the one to pillory.

      You seem to miss the fact that McDonalds employs armies of minimum wage workers who don’t even get tips and most don’t qualify for their inadequate health care plan. Johnson, featured in the Bloomberg article, has been working there 20 year and they won’t even give him a 40 hour week at one store. McDonalds is also fighting the proposed increase in the minimum wage and opposes unionization of workers.

      Visa pays its employees well. Too well, in fact, but you can’t accuse them of paying people less than a living wage and then giving pious lectures on how they really can have anything they want with that.

      1. cwaltz

        It isn’t any wonder why our economy exploded though and why we can’t fix it when the “money experts” who determine things like ability to pay can’t even figure out how to make a realistic budget for a typical household.

        It really makes me question whether the people at banking establishments making loan decisions even have an idea of what they are doing when you see $20 as a monthly line item on an expense that in the past has caused over 50% of bankruptcies or when another line item that for years was considered a household’s largest expense and therefore used to gauge poverty is reduced to discretionary spending status instead of being treated as a line item. We’re still muddling through sloppy banking behavior that pretty much tanked our economy and stuff like this does not make me optimistic that they learned much from it when you realize that a company that hands out unsecure credit seems to be fairly clueless when it comes to looking at what a routine household budget should somewhat look like.

        I’ve got more than enough scorn for Visa for attaching their name to this too.

  29. jal

    You got to wonder, 50M on food stamps, 11M illegals that are not making enough money to live on.

    There must be a lot of people working under the table for those that want to pay cash.

  30. PeonInChief

    A couple of notes on things that haven’t been mentioned. First, $600 for rent? Well, if you share a place with roommates or live in a small studio apartment, maybe. But even with roommates, many people pay quite a lot more than that. In addition, it’s become customary for landlords to charge for water and garbage separately, so it’s x for rent and then another $50-100 a month for the additional charges.

    More importantly, sharing with roommates is not what it was when I was a young person. If any one of the tenants gets into financial trouble, the other tenants must make up the rent payment. If they don’t, the landlord can evict everyone and–here’s where it’s different–all of the tenants names are reported to the tenant screening services. This will make it very hard to rent an apartment for a long time.

    1. anon y'mouse

      this is exactly right. having roomates, or heck, even a partner who has the same kind of crappy, unstable, less-than-fulltime work as you do makes the situation even MORE precarious, not less. you’re basically relying upon all of the other parties in the household to be able to do this Impossible Budget dance, and if they fail they take everyone down with them. there’s usually not enough savings cushion to deal with any kind of financial blow, from cutting hours at work to being laid off, to needing time off for illness.

      as someone above said–need new tires or the washing machine craps out (if you’re lucky enough to have one at all) and you are in trouble for months, much less have to undergo an emergency root canal or have your eyeglasses break.

  31. John

    This is about brainwashing the American worker that it’s their fault they can’t live on the crappy wages corporate America is paying them.

    See if you just didn’t do it wrong every month would you be able to cover your bills. “Managing your money can be simple. Really. You just have to know your numbers: How much you have coming in, and what you can afford to have going out.”

    1. Ms G

      Correct. This is how you manipulate the minds of the 99.9% (serf class) to accept austerity for the 99.9% as a fact of life, or a moral outcome. This is a shameful document. Thanks Yves for posting such a detailed analysis.

  32. john

    This is the most disturbing and enlightening(all of it) thing I have read in a long, long time.

    john

  33. Lori

    “We’ll assume our laborer making $28,950 in gross pay works 50 weeks a year. Divided by $8.25, that’s 70.2 hours a week, or more than 10 hours every day.”

    Our laborer is racking up all these hours moonlighting, so virtually none of these are overtime hours.

    Also, since McDonald’s expects its employees to moonlight, I’ll assume they at least offer a reasonably stable work schedule… Yeah, right.

  34. wunsacon

    Tip 85:

    And don’t spend on that pricey cable subscription! Go to Best Buy and ask the sales staff to tune to your favorite shows.

    Like the Big Bang Theory? You’re in luck, in that it plays during store hours.

  35. wunsacon

    Does the Quiverfull movement know about labor supply and demand, automation, and resource depletion?

  36. MG

    Financial literary isn’t a bad idea and I don’t mind employers at all trying to provide educational assistance to their employers.

    What I do find so ridiculous is how little thought was put in these cost estimates and how frustrating/enraging it must be to McDonald’s employees who know that half of the numbers have no/little grounding in reality this must have for most McDonald’s employees in MSAs in the U.S.

    $20/month for health insurance?! You can’t even get most doctors to accept you for an 15-minute appointment if you try to negiotate that rate in cash.

  37. MG

    I’m a health economist by trade and the same economists who argue that lowering the minimum wage would have a great impact on helping employment and thus benefiting workers overall are usually the same kind of folks who argue that if health insurance premiums were lower than firms would pass these savings on to their workers. Always makes me kind of laugh.

    Mark Pauly was making this point at an academic seminar I was at nearly 15 years ago and I foolishly asked him if he honestly believed that would occur in the real world. Given my junior status at the time, he didn’t respond to too kindly to my question. We went through a long rant but still didn’t provide a real-world example nor did he explain to me how workers in a non-union firm who were at-will employees would have any negiotating power to see these savings.

    As for as much outrage on this website as there is about this story, it will never get air time on corporate TV news stations or corporate news website. Even if it did, I don’t think most American would care one way or the other because of how they perceive workers at McDonald’s. Hard to shame a company when most Americans just don’t give a $hit. They wanted their Big Mac value meal and their Chicken McNuggets meal through the drive through in 5 minutes or less and to be on their way.

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