Open Thread: McDonald’s Insults

Token political content, even on the weekend. I’m sympathetic to the idea that more Americans need to learn the basics of “financial competence” as currently imagined in our consumerist socity — just as every individual in a wandering band of hunter/gatherers needs to learn basic identification of things you can eat versus things that can eat you. But I think Paul Campos, at Salon, makes a good point:

Over the past few days, McDonald’s has gotten itself quite a bit of bad publicity, after it teamed with Visa to create a proposed sample budget for the enormously profitable fast food corporation’s hundreds of thousands of low-paid workers.

Critics have pointed out that the budget omitted such luxury items as food and heat, that it made absurdly low estimates for medical insurance — and that, most strikingly of all, it appeared to suggest that its workers should maintain two full-time jobs. (And indeed working two nearly-full time jobs would be necessary to produce the income in the sample budget, given the wages McDonald’s pays most of its employees).

These are all valid points, but an even more basic criticism of McDonald’s helpful advice to its workforce needs to be made.

The unstated assumption behind the McDonald’s budget is that the working poor must be educated about financial planning. And that assumption is in turn a belief that is deeply embedded among America’s cultural elites – including among many people who consider themselves political progressives.

That belief is: The working poor are poor because they are at bottom spendthrifts, who don’t know the value of a dollar. The working poor may have jobs, they may even work hard for their money, but they don’t know how to save for a rainy day. Instead, they squander their wages on overpriced impulse purchases, including fancy cellphones, cable TV, proletarian beer and unhealthy food that makes them fat.

Of course people who call themselves liberals feel constrained to disguise this sort of dime store Calvinism in fancy sociological jargon about the structural effects of cultures of poverty and the like. Yet every time you read a piece in a liberal publication about how we shouldn’t criticize a big corporation for trying to give its minimum wage workers some financial pointers, you can be pretty confident that the Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism is lurking just beneath the surface of the progressive writer’s text…

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100 replies
  1. 1
    efgoldman says:

    Welcome back.

  2. 2
    efgoldman says:

    The working poor are poor because they are at bottom spendthrifts, who don’t know the value of a dollar.

    The working poor are spendthrifts because they have a hard time affording the necessities of life from paycheck to paycheck, because the asshole TeaHadis want to eliminate stuff like SNAP if they’re allowed to, and because the prices of said necessities are actually higher in the places where the working poor can shop than they are where te rest of us shop.
    In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if a Big Mac cost more in a poor neighborhood than in a middle-class one.

  3. 3
    Peej says:

    I’m sure that low wage workers budget a whole heck of a lot better than I do.

  4. 4
    the Conster says:

    One of the (many) failings of our educational system is that there is no concerted attempt to educate high school students about credit terms, the time value of money, interest accrual, etc. Simple charts showing how much a small change in interest rates/terms can cost is extremely effective, yet, not provided as part of the school curriculum when accepting credit terms might actually be the most important decision young people can make. I’m not a conspiracy theorist that it’s deliberate because it wasn’t discussed in my good public school education, but the small print now acts like land mines/cluster bombs for most borrowers. I don’t know how the younger generation will ever survive the banksters without parents bailing them out – literally or figuratively.

  5. 5
    jay Noble says:

    I did some quick calculations on that net pay, 1st job of $1,105. At minimum wage, you would have to work 5 40-hour weeks a month to make that. McDonald’s isn’t exactly known for 40-hour a week jobs and that 5th week . . . And before you go there, the article points out that only 16% of minimum wage workers are teens. They don’t mention it in this article I read, but some McDonald’s have been in the spotlight and court recently for paying their employees with debit cards that are so loaded up with fees, that it knocks even above min. wage effective pay rates below that minimum. Visa is the partner in this too

  6. 6
    aimai says:

    The number of actual liberals who defend McDonald’s can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Real liberals don’t. Why is Campos wasting his time on a straw man when he could be critiquing the real villains? Calvinism is not a constituent part of liberalism or of progressivism, though there is quite a bit of it free floating in american culture.

  7. 7
    No One of Consequence says:

    Nickel and Dimed is a good video watch if any have missed it. Not about McRon’s per se, but a good watch if you are the least bit uninformed about the working poor’s plight.

    Also, I had to post this here. Been a hectic day. Picked up a rescue lab/pointer mix, shy of 3 months, male…

    First dog back in the house since I had to give away my previous rescue dog to ameliorate my pregnant wife’s morning sickness.

    I am a happy boy, and he is a pretty chill puppy. Next few days will be telling, but I cannot put into words how happy I am to have a dog again. I have had to live vicariously through various goggy and pootie pix and stories on BJ. Been killing me to follow John and his travails/triumphs/Tunch-Touched existence these past few.

    RIP Tunch. And welcome Boss.

    Kanji sends his regards.

    Peace to all, and sweet puppy dreams,

    – NOoC
    p.s. Remember you breed purists:

    If you ain’t gonna Hunt it,
    Show it,
    or Breed it,
    Go save some poor animal’s life, please.

  8. 8
    g says:

    Peej – exactly. They know where every nickel is spent.

    And can we stop with the myth that a cell phone is a luxury? When was that actually a fact, 1992? A cell phone is not only economical, but also a necessity, and preferable to a land line for someone whose domestic life may be changeable for economic reasons.

    Unhealthy food? It’s often the only thing available in poor neighborhoods, especially near public transportation stops. There aren’t a whole lot of Whole Foods in poor neighborhoods, and it’s not easy to carry bulk ingredients home when you’re on foot.

    Read Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Nickel and Dimed.”

  9. 9
    The prophet Nostradumbass says:

    And, from Campos’ home blog, holy shit.

  10. 10
    NotMax says:

    Longstanding dilemma is that supermarkets in poor urban neighborhoods (if there are any at all) have historically had, and still have, a more meager selection of groceries, worse prices and poorer quality fresh items than do markets which require travel to visit.

    Convenience is too often inversely proportional to value.

  11. 11
    Redshirt says:

    Consider this: In the EU, your health care is basically provided to you for free (or, taxes). If you are qualified for college, you get higher education basically for free. You leave the University basically debt free, with health care, ready to take on the world.

    Consider this in relation to how we’ve prepared US kids: In debt up to their eyeballs, on their own if they dare work outside the corporate net. Either way, they’re working for The Bank.

  12. 12
    joel hanes says:

    @The prophet Nostradumbass:

    holy shit

    vile; truly miles below the bottom of the barrel

  13. 13
    efgoldman says:

    @The prophet Nostradumbass:

    And, from Campos’ home blog, holy shit.

    I purposely didn’t bring that over here. I dunno’ why, nobody’s sensibilities are any more delicate over here then over there. I just didn’t want to make Saturday night worse.

  14. 14
    SuperHrefna says:

    @The prophet Nostradumbass: that is the worst. Or at least I wish it was. How many out there don’t want to stop at cartoon lynchings?

    Obama being elected broke a lot of racist brains out there. Obama being reelected seems to have broken the rest of them. I think a lot of the right thought it was just a blip, that they would have no trouble taking the white house back after one Democratic term. Now they are realizing that a substantial chunk of the country fundamentally disagrees with them on just about everything and they have lost their minds rather than try to grapple with that fact. I’m trying to understand a mindset that would think it was ok to publish that cartoon in anything other than a Stormfront newsletter and I just can’t.

  15. 15
    Violet says:

    @The prophet Nostradumbass: Oh…wow. Cannot believe…

  16. 16
    Joshua James says:

    his thesis that the working poor are spendthrifts is complete and utter bullshit… this was covered in nickel and dimed, of course, but I just have to say it’s crap that rich people say to feel better about themselves… it’s bullshit…

  17. 17
    the Conster says:

    @The prophet Nostradumbass: What is going on in this country? Why can I no longer understand anything? I haven’t changed.

  18. 18
    PurpleGirl says:

    @efgoldman:

    In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if a Big Mac cost more in a poor neighborhood than in a middle-class one.

    Well, I know from personal experience that McDonald’s is more expensive in certain business districts than in others. Third Avenue and 58th Street is more expensive than a number of other sites. The reason that is often cited is that there is a difference in rents or the costs of maintaining a building.

  19. 19
    Violet says:

    I’m glad McDonald’s did this because it’s about the only thing I’ve seen that’s gotten anyone talking at all about how you can’t live on minimum wage. The Today Show covered this story and they did mention that McDonald’s assumed the person was working two jobs. And then they singled out the rent numbers and the health insurance numbers for special ridicule.

    I cannot think of any other time minimum wage and low-income living costs have been discussed on the national news. The fact that minimum-wage-paying employers basically expect their employees to hold down multiple jobs just to make ends meet (on a completely unrealistic budget) was probably eye-opening to a lot of people.

    So, thank you McDonald’s for making the points that people on the left have been making for ages.

  20. 20
    efgoldman says:

    @the Conster:

    What is going on in this country? Why can I no longer understand anything? I haven’t changed.

    I have.
    Oh, I’m still as liberal/progressive as I’ve always been. But I’m a lot angrier [and not just because I’m old.] I don’t know if i have that old Democratic reverence for process that I used to. My thinking is a lot more: fuckem We need to stomp their asses out of existence like Lincoln and Grant should have done after 1865.
    I don’t particularly enjoy thinking or feeling this way. i have great respect for folks, e.g. Kay, who attack the old fashioned ways, through organizing and persuasion. I am just so fucking sick of this shit.

  21. 21
    PurpleGirl says:

    @the Conster: They used to cover things like that, back in the old days… like in 1964. When I was in junior high we had this in math class in Seventh Grade.

  22. 22
    Ruckus says:

    It’s a hell of a lot easier to understand the value of a dollar when you don’t have one than when you have a supply that is adequate or especially more than enough.
    And in my case this is not textbook learning. Pompous, arrogant assholes.

  23. 23
    Original Lee says:

    @efgoldman: I had to buy some insect repellent today at a convenience store that borders a very low-income neighborhood. A medium-sized bottle of Deep Woods Off! cost – drum roll – $12.00! It’s ridiculous.

  24. 24
    Yatsuno says:

    @PurpleGirl: McDonald’s prices are higher in WA because of our minimum wage, or so they bitch. I think it has more to do with them being greedy bastages than anything else.

  25. 25
    PurpleGirl says:

    @The prophet Nostradumbass: As they say in cat rescue circles: Rescue is my favorite breed. Pass it on.

  26. 26
    Redshirt says:

    @efgoldman: Darn tootin’! I’m right there with you. Heck, I used to be a Conservative! Long ago – it was Reagan Youth brainwashing, I swear.

  27. 27
    efgoldman says:

    @Original Lee:

    Deep Woods Off! cost – drum roll – $12.00! It’s ridiculous.

    You must either live in Manhattan, where everything is stupid expensive just because, or in Hawaii, where ridiculous transportation costs have to be figured in.

  28. 28
    PurpleGirl says:

    @No One of Consequence: As they say in cat rescue circles: Rescue is my favorite breed. Pass it on.

  29. 29
    The prophet Nostradumbass says:

    @Yatsuno: your minimum wage certainly is better than California’s, which used to be much more above the average than it is now.

    ETA: Santa Clara County, where I live, has a $10.00/hr minimum wage.

  30. 30
    Ruckus says:

    @efgoldman:
    Actually doesn’t have to be in a traditional high cost area. Someone up thread pointed out supermarkets in poor areas have less choice and higher costs. Here in so cal Ralphs has the same food prices in my poor neighborhood as in very affluent ones but the selection is much worse. CVS is ridiculously worse though. And the few banks are only the big ones, Bunch of Assholes, Citibunk, etc.

  31. 31
    efgoldman says:

    @Redshirt:

    Heck, I used to be a Conservative! Long ago

    Confession is good for the soul.

  32. 32
    Yatsuno says:

    @The prophet Nostradumbass: Currently $9.19, slated to go up in 2014.

  33. 33
    Ruckus says:

    @efgoldman:

    So is waking up and smelling the whatever.

    Help!!
    In moderation for, I have no idea. Oh BTW FYWP. That is all.

  34. 34
    Redshirt says:

    @efgoldman: I voted for Pappy Bush over Dukakis. But it was in Maine so it made no difference. Also too, I once had a “Free Ollie North” T-Shirt. This is the extent of my political sins. Forgive me.

  35. 35
    Ruckus says:

    @Redshirt:
    Cleansing the soul is one thing, admitting completely sleeping through a decade or two is beyond that.

    I should know.

  36. 36
    Redshirt says:

    @Ruckus: Totally. I turned SUPER HIPPY after college, voted WJC proudly, and have fought Republicans ever since. Fuck you, Dad!

  37. 37
    PurpleGirl says:

    The idea that a person making minimum wage could SAVE $100 a Month made me laugh. Really McDonald’s and Visa? Really?

    The people who pulled those numbers from their asses need to read John Scalzi’s essay on growing up poor. (Sorry, unable to get a cite quickly.)

  38. 38
    Xantar says:

    On another note, I think even the participation of Joss Whedon couldn’t get me enthused about the title of the new Avengers movie. WTF is Ultron? Why should I have to know that in order to understand the title? And when is Marvel going to learn how to present a halfway decent villain in its movies?

  39. 39
    efgoldman says:

    @Redshirt:

    Also too, I once had a “Free Ollie North” T-Shirt. This is the extent of my political sins. Forgive me.

    Sorry, this is the wrong place for dispensations. You have to follow the Pope on tweeter for that.
    Ollie remains one of my real sore spots, all these years later. Like a paper cut that never heals. At the time, one of the regular GOBP tropes was “tough on crime” and “how liberal judges let all those dangerous criminals loose on technicalities (like the fourth and fifth amendments, those “technicalities.”) So when Ollie, a convicted felon, walked on a technicality (he had been immunized by congress for his testimony, in which he admitted to the selfsame felony), and then crowed he’d been “vindicated”, my blood got to the same boil its at whenever I hear his name, hear his voice, or see his picture. I wonder if its time for him to try running for office again. Certainly there must be some TeaHadi district where he’d be the front runner.
    Naah. The TeaHadi grift pays too well.

  40. 40
    Yatsuno says:

    OT: Am I just meschugnah, or is this pretty much just pure idiocy? I can’t even seem to find Bernstein’s point.

  41. 41
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    Like Peej said, most poor people are better at budgeting than the rest of us. They have to be. When I think of no-good spendthrifts, the first things that comes to mind are CEOs and bankers who can lose hundreds of millions of dollars in crashes and market failures and just get up and walk away.

  42. 42
    PurpleGirl says:

    @PurpleGirl: I pressed reply on the wrong post somehow. I asked for this to be deleted because my comment was a reply to No One of Consequence. Argh.

  43. 43
    Redshirt says:

    @efgoldman: I was wearing the shirt only to piss off my excellent history teacher. That’s how I rolled as a Reagan Youth. Sorry, Mr. Carter!

  44. 44
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    It’s as simple as this; the fuckers are now in the driver’s seat. There is no more difference in today’s fuckers wanting approval for their treatment of the fuckees than there is from feudal lords demanding that their vassals maintain their obligations while the lords maintained none of theirs.

    That’s the way it is, folks. None of this is new in a historical sense. It won’t be be remedied on a blog.

  45. 45
    JoyfulA says:

    When I was poor, I found budgeting useless anyway. The trick is to spend as little as possible, pick up a little money on the side where possible, and when the next check shows up, spend any leftovers of the last check on something you needed that didn’t fit into “spending as little as possible,” like filling the gas tank.

  46. 46
    Jewish Steel says:

    @Yatsuno:

    Indeed, it’s not impossible to imagine a scenario in which Cruz wins the nomination as the hero of conservatives, which then leaves him far more free to pivot to the center in the general election race than a less trusted candidate might have.

    He’s right! By using the power of imagination, it becomes not impossible.

  47. 47
    efgoldman says:

    @Yatsuno:

    I can’t even seem to find Bernstein’s point

    Indeed, it’s not impossible to imagine a scenario in which Cruz wins the nomination as the hero of conservatives, which then leaves him far more free to pivot to the center in the general election race than a less trusted candidate might have.

    This is the “new Nixon” theory redux, and I’m surprised someone as smart as Bernstein falls for it. If there’s one thing that politicians in general, and the GOBP in particular, should have learned from the last couple of cycles, its that you can’t run away from your record and your speeches in the age of the intartoobz. Mittster certainly found that out. It was one thing to quote Goldwater’s craziness (or Ronnie’s) in a couple of newspapers or network TV spots. its something different now, when every utterance is available to be spread worldwide by anyone with a computer or smartphone.

    ETA: And this is a really interesting discussion, but I gotta’ go to bed. Its quarter after one in the East.

  48. 48
    Jewish Steel says:

    @Yatsuno: Plus:

    The smart money play for liberals remains to root, in the Republican primary, for whichever candidate would make the best – or perhaps the least-worst – president.

    Mighty nice of him to let us in on the Smart Money Play.

  49. 49
  50. 50
    YellowJournalism says:

    What struck me as funny-sad was that this budget never took into consideration that the worker had kids. The costs associated with raising children would blow that budget to smithereens.

  51. 51
  52. 52
    Yatsuno says:

    @YellowJournalism: Well duh. If you’re poor you shouldn’t be having children in the first place. It’s basic economics, and stuff.

  53. 53

    @PurpleGirl: I figured you meant to reply to someone else :-).

  54. 54
    TooManyJens says:

    @YellowJournalism: Or that they might ever have any major unexpected expenses, like medical bills or car repairs.

  55. 55
    Joel says:

    @Peej: that is in fact, true. People who are poor are extremely cognizant of value.

  56. 56
    ricky says:

    I hope Professor Campos is better at teaching law to students paying the high tuition charged for the privelege of taking his courses at the University of Colorado than he is at social comentary.

    He starts by misstating facts: McD’s “teamed with Visa to create a proposed sample budget for the enormously profitable fast food corporation’s hundreds of thousands of low-paid workers.” No, they produced a financial planning journal which included both a blank and sample budget.

    He continues by stating, without evidence, that there is an assumption behind the McD-VISA planning tool (which he mislabels a budget) that the working poor must be educated about financial planning. He defines this an an elitist notion. Of course all the financial planning assistance and advice advertised endlessly on TV aimed at middle and upper income Americans must be based on the same assumption. Silly elitists, nobody needs your stupid finacial help, least of all the working poor.

    Finally, all liberals afflicted with this cultural elitist belief about poor people not knowing exactly how best to plan their financial activity are Calvinist capitalists. To prove this he links to one and only one post which unfortuantely has none of the “fancy sociological jargon about the structural effects of cultures of poverty and the like” he states are used to disguise their otherwise evil “Protestant” underlying misaasumptions about the financially savvy working poor.

    Horse manure. An intellectual quarter ponuder with cheese.

  57. 57

    I guess it’s inevitable we’d get an apologist for McDonald’s here eventually.

  58. 58
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    et every time you read a piece in a liberal publication about how we shouldn’t criticize a big corporation for trying to give its minimum wage workers some financial pointers

    How the hell does somebody like Kevin Drum wind up writing for Mother Jones and not Time or US News.

  59. 59
    Mayken says:

    @g: Whole Paycheck, ya mean. Same groceries that cost me $75 at local Ralphs’s cost $109 at WF. So there’s that…

  60. 60
    Yatsuno says:

    @ricky:

    Finally, all liberals afflicted with this cultural elitist belief about poor people not knowing exactly how best to plan their financial activity are Calvinist capitalists.

    lolwut?

  61. 61
    Culture of Truth says:

    Of course people who call themselves liberals feel constrained to disguise this sort of dime store Calvinism in fancy

    Well at least he attacked liberals, so he ticked off that box of superiority.

  62. 62
    cckids says:

    @the Conster:

    there is no concerted attempt to educate high school students about credit terms, the time value of money, interest accrual, etc. Simple charts showing how much a small change in interest rates/terms can cost is extremely effective, yet, not provided as part of the school curriculum when accepting credit terms might actually be the most important decision young people can make

    When I was in high school (admittedly, 30 years ago), as juniors we had to take a class called Family Living, or something similar. In it, we were assigned typical jobs/incomes & had to go search out mortgages, car loans, day care, credit cards, etc. Meaning we had to go to actual banks, etc, as if we had this income & wanted the mortgage, loan, etc.

    It was one of the most amazingly helpful, in terms of real-life knowledge, classes I ever had. My parents were ridiculously close-mouthed about money & never taught us step one about investing, credit, etc. This gave us a bit of a peek behind the curtain of real-world money.

  63. 63

    @Yatsuno: ricky seems to have some reading comprehension problems.

  64. 64
    moderateindy says:

    Poor people don’t budget, all their cash is spoken for as soon as the paycheck comes in. Budgeting assumes you have enough cash to decide what to spend it on. Most poor people’s idea of budgeting is how to figure out which bill is most overdue, and which they can let go for another month. I laugh when I gear crap like they don’t have to have a TV. Where the hell do you think most poor people get the lion’s share of their entertainment? I suppose in the con’s mind they should be working two jobs anyway, so they should only have enough time to work and sleep.

  65. 65
    satby says:

    @efgoldman: Absolutely right there with you. In every respect: as I’ve watched this country devolve I have developed such a rage about it that I need to disengage for days at times to regain balance. Not good.

  66. 66
    satby says:

    @moderateindy: And this is spot on.
    I was desperately poor the first few years after my divorce. I was a single mother of two small boys, worked a full time and 2 part time jobs because the ex was a deadbeat and we played “bill lottery” every month. My credit is still damaged from those years. It’s a brutal existence I wouldn’t wish on an enemy.

  67. 67
    ThresherK says:

    First, cellphones are becoming so cheap in absolute terms (and relative, hours of labor terms) that the modifier “fancy” has to be applied. Can we get a sociologist to determine when we started scolding our poors for having “fancy” cars rather than Model Ts?

    Second, it seems we’ve reached the point where “dimestore Calvinism” can be about John Calvin and Cal Coolidge.

  68. 68
    magurakurin says:

    @the Conster:

    credit terms, the time value of money, interest accrual, etc.

    I understand the point you want to make, but having actually lived on minimum wage and at the time having a full understanding of said concepts, I can say with great confidence that none of that matters a whit if you make $7.25 and hour.

    FUCKING. WAGES. ARE. TOO. LOW.

    plain and simple. All the education in the world won’t do jackshit to change that icy cold reality.

  69. 69
    magurakurin says:

    @aimai:

    The number of actual liberals who defend McDonald’s can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

    The only one I saw was Kevin Drum, and he can be pretty thick sometimes. Yglesia might give it a shot, but I stopped reading him after he tried to convince his readers that people who own 2 million dollar apartments in NYC aren’t really rich because they’d have to sell their living space to get the money. I’ll take that kind of poverty any day of the week.

  70. 70
    gelfling545 says:

    @aimai: Perhaps it’s not an “official” part of liberalism but it’s there alright. You can’t be raised in the US and escape it entirely. I attended a seminar presented by a local think tank- Partnership for the Public Good. Everybody in attendance was essentially of a more liberal persuasion as everybody worked with NPOs involved in some type of poverty alleviation program or other. People were shocked when the presenter demonstrated statistically how it just was not possible to work hard enough of long enough at current wages to pay all of your most basic living expenses. Some people, taking a leaf from the conservative book, just could not bring themselves to believe that this was possible even in the light of the numeric evidence as the “American Dream” has been drummed into their heads since birth and they could not accept that this was, by and large, a myth.

  71. 71
    gelfling545 says:

    @magurakurin: Just this. I have been poor. When you need to get your car repaired or lose your job or your house (which I was striving desperately to hold onto) has electrical or plumbing issues that would make it unlivable you accept the terms of the buy here – pay here car dealer or you use the 24% APR credit card & just hope to hang on. You do not get to shop for more favorable terms when your income is at poverty level. You are lucky to get any terms.

  72. 72
    IowaOldLady says:

    Is something wrong with Calvin and Hobbes?

  73. 73

    @efgoldman:

    My thinking is a lot more: fuckem We need to stomp their asses out of existence like Lincoln and Grant should have done after 1865.

    I regularly wish that, that damn Sherman would have finished the job.

  74. 74
    magurakurin says:

    @The Other Bob:

    This point is what I took away as the main point and concluding statement of the film “Django.”

  75. 75
    RSA says:

    Budgeting is also more of a burden (in terms of time and worry) on poor people than not-poor people. Here’s something I’m not proud of, but it’s just the way I am: I hate to have to worry about money. My wife and I kept a budget when we were in our 20s, and it was necessary but a total pain. I used to say, “I want to make enough money so that I don’t have to worry about every little thing.” That turned out to be a middle class income, enough that with my usual modest spending habits, my bank balance stays pretty much in the same place from month to month, without my having to monitor it constantly. I suspect a lot of people are like me, and if this really is a general inclination, then it’s unfair to imply to poor people that they have some moral failing because they’re not doing something that the not-poor aren’t forced to do either.

  76. 76
    evodevo says:

    @moderateindy: That is why Roseanne’s show was so spot-on. I still quote her line from one episode about paying bills – “Pay the ones marked final notice and throw the rest away.” That was one of the more accurate portrayals of working class life to ever grace the TeeVee.

  77. 77
    TerryC says:

    @Mayken: Ah, but at WholePaycheck you can load up on a breakfast of perfectly cooked bacon at the buffet for less than McDonald’s breakfast food. Until I discovered that a couple of years ago, I had never spent a penny there. Now I’m there twice a week :)

  78. 78
    Mr Stagger Lee says:

    I think it is time to show low paid restaurant workers a certain scene from Fight Club. I quit going to Mickey D;’s

  79. 79
    Kay says:

    @ricky:

    This is Drum:

    I get that people think McDonald’s is trying to put a happy face on the minimum wage jobs they offer. Maybe they are. But good advice is good advice no matter where it comes from, and the McDonald’s guide offers an extremely conventional collection of good financial advice, the same kind offered by nonprofits everywhere. There’s no reason to rake them over the coals for providing it.

    But it isn’t a good planning tool. It has 100 dollars as “other” and 750 dollars as “spending money.” That means the “other” category is HUGE.
    The 850 dollars would go to everything except the listed “fixed” expenses (rent, etc.)- 850 dollars for food and child care and on and on. Those things aren’t really discretionary, but the planning tool example makes it look as if two people making 25k a year (combined) have tons of money “left over” at the end of the month. Is it “spending money”? Yeah, technically, I guess.
    One is then supposed to log all expenses that go in the giant “other” category. The example used is “drink 2$”. That’s a bad planning tool.
    McDonalds and VISA are definitely trying to put a happy face on minimum wage jobs. I think it’s a response to the labor-led protests for a higher minimum wage and better working conditions that are going on all over the country.
    Wal Mart has an ad campaign up about how they are a great employer. Instead of paying to actually make working conditions better, Wal Mart is paying to run ads about how they’re a great employer. Maybe Wal Mart needs financial planning help. Their spending priorities seem to be all screwed up.
    Finally, I think the car payment is ridiculously low. The assumption is they’re buying a 7000 dollar vehicle on time. Okay. But they go to “buy here, pay here” because they never have a down payment or credit, so they get horribly ripped off on car loans. Many of them pay WEEKLY, not monthly. VISA should have picked right up on that, as a high interest rate lender. They’re in the same line of work. Poor people pay more for money, too. If there’s any company that knows that, it’s a credit card company.

  80. 80
    becca says:

    Individual medical savings accounts, educational savings accounts, retirement savings accounts…that was Bush league logic during the aughts. Totally divorced from the reality of most Americans. All just to maintain a special rentier class.

    When enough debt-burdened young people try and enter today’s workplace and try to make ends meet, chances are there will be blood. I read that our “spoiled millennials” will demand a decent quality of life, not one of constant deprivation. Hair shirts are for old fogies, not them.

    There’s a storm abrewin’ and awaiting its arrival is nerve-wracking.

  81. 81
    Kay says:

    @ricky:

    There’s something else to this that bothers me. It’s this continued intrusion by for-profits into areas they don’t belong. I’m wary of all this “philanthropy”, because the focus is never on improving the incredibly generous and public-spirited companies, it’s always on us, improving us.
    I have a deal for them. They work on not ripping their employees off, not buying politicians and paying their fair share of taxes (money management suggestions for them, from me) and their employees will go elsewhere for budgeting tips. The planning tool sucks anyway, so it isn’t even a good “gift”.
    Keep the gifts. They’re not charity cases. Instead, pay them what they’ve earned. Let’s keep things on a business footing, for both parties to this transaction.

  82. 82
    Violet says:

    @Kay:

    But they go to “buy here, pay here” because they never have a down payment or credit, so they get horribly ripped off on car loans. Many of them pay WEEKLY, not monthly. VISA should have picked right up on that, as a high interest rate lender. They’re in the same line of work. Poor people pay more for money, too. If there’s any company that knows that, it’s a credit card company.

    Of course Visa knows this. But Visa doesn’t want to advertise the fact that they rip off poor people even worse than they do everyone else. That does nothing but hurt their public image because most people would be horrified if the abuse by credit card companies of low income people were made so public.

    So Visa does the smart thing (for them) and portrays themselves as treating everyone the same. They don’t, of course. But middle-class people aren’t going to look at that and think, “that’s not accurate–Visa really screws lower income people.” Middle class people are going to look at it and say, yes, that’s how my car payment works.

  83. 83
    Kay says:

    @Violet:

    This drives me crazy, and it’s everywhere.
    I saw this big splashy announcement how an over-priced sports equipment company are “generously” going into schools to provide exercise tips to kids in Chicago.
    I have a crazy idea! Instead, they can pay taxes, pay their employees, and we’ll re-hire the publicly-funded gym teacher we had to fire! That way we aren’t using little kids for free advertising, or selling them over-priced sports equipment while pretending to be concerned about their health.
    Carnegie built libraries. He didn’t choose the books on the shelves.
    Enough already with their “generosity”. I prefer an arm’s length business relationship with VISA and McDonalds and Bill Gates and the Facebook guy. We’re not buddies.

  84. 84
    Violet says:

    @Kay: Agreed. Everything a business does is in their own interest. Take away their tax deductions for charity–you think they’ll be donating money and their employees’ time? No way. This sort of thing by business is a modern version of scrip and the company store.

  85. 85
    Nutella says:

    @Violet:

    The fact that minimum-wage-paying employers basically expect their employees to hold down multiple jobs just to make ends meet

    Except that minimum-wage-paying employers also prevent their employees from holding down multiple jobs by requiring them to show up for any shift, any time. Employees must accept whatever shifts are offered them, even if they’re at odd times when the bus doesn’t run, or not enough hours in a week to pay their bills. If an employee refuses even one they’re out the door.

  86. 86
    Kay says:

    @Violet:

    And that’s the opposite of critical thinking regarding money, what they’re “teaching” us. Should parents of public school kids question why Bill Gates and the other tech titans are pushing “blended learning” (instruction on a computer rather than from a human being) in K-12 public schools? Hell yes, they should question that.
    Maybe it’s a great idea, but blindly accepting a sales pitch from an interested party because it’s “free!” or offered at a “low introductory rate!” is not a good lesson in anything.

  87. 87
    Pogonip says:

    People who give the poor financial advice tend to forget to factor in how much time it takes to be poor in industrialized society. I can put in a load of wash and do something else while it’s running. Poor people have to spend most of their day “off” at the laundromat. I can get in my car and go directly to my destination. Poor people have to spend a lot of time on mass transit routes designed with suburban commuters in my mind. I can go to my doctor and only waste an hour or two waiting for five minutes of his time. Poor people wait at the emergency room for ten hours. When can they do all this budgeting and planning and 2nd-jobbing? (I do think some of the rich advisors mean well but they have no idea of the time-consuming reality of modern poverty.)

    This is also why the poor don’t revolt. They don’t have the time.

  88. 88
    Kay says:

    @Nutella:

    That’s the other part that isn’t addressed, the “planning”, their allegedly “poor planning skills”.
    They don’t know what they’re going to earn or pay for child care at the beginning of the month. They don’t even know what shift(s) they’re working. They have trouble finding child care at any price, let alone a better price. Wal Mart pioneered Just In Time concepts for human beings. That’s where they get called in and then sent home. Now we have two people who aren’t getting paid steady with no set schedule, the employee AND the babysitter. Both households are in chaos.
    Why are their lives so chaotic, these “poor planners”? Oh, I don’t know. Because they change dramatically every month?

  89. 89
    RSA says:

    @Kay:

    Should parents of public school kids question why Bill Gates and the other tech titans are pushing “blended learning” (instruction on a computer rather than from a human being) in K-12 public schools? Hell yes, they should question that.

    This blog article, at the Chronicle of Higher Ed, gives some useful insight into online learning. I’ll quote one relevant part:

    The study found that all students who take more online courses, no matter the demographic, are less likely to attain a degree. However, some groups—including black students, male students, younger students, and students with lower grade-point averages—are particularly susceptible to this pattern.

    We know a lot about how students learn in K-12 and in college (of course, there’s much more that we don’t know). One of the problems with all the enthusiasm about MOOCs and the like is that they don’t take advantage of past experience; for example, the Open University in the UK has been doing distance learning since 1971, and they have lots to say about what works and what doesn’t, which is generally ignored by MOOCs. There’s also only sketchy evidence about how well current approaches are working—that’s fine, the systems are new, but it’s ridiculous to go all in on them.

  90. 90
    Violet says:

    @Nutella: Yes, I’m aware of that. Wal-Mart is particularly bad about it. That sort of thing is hard to show with this budget, though. The fact that they expect them to have two full time jobs is evident in it, though, so that’s a good thing to point out.

  91. 91
    Kay says:

    @RSA:

    That’s been true in Ohio, and we’ve had “cybercharters” for 10 years. They are, collectively, the worse school district in Ohio, if they were measured the way public schools are measured.
    Juvenile judges here stopped allowing kids who were before them to “choose” online school. Juvenile judges have an enormous amount of discretion on “best interests”, they can order just about anything. They did that because the kids were telling us no one was home with them (parents are working) and they were doing an hour of “school” a day then free to explore other options, like violating the terms of the order they got the last time they were with us.
    They took the most vulnerable kids and set them up to fail, and they’re ALL for-profits. Judges here now simply say “you’re going back to school“.
    All of this will be ignored, of course, and we’ll careen into another goddamned disaster, leaving ACTUAL public employees to clean it up in the real world. If this idea fails, none of the private sector giants will admit it. They’ll blame public schools. As usual.

  92. 92
    Enhanced Voting Techniques says:

    @Joshua James: his thesis that the working poor are spendthrifts is complete and utter bullshit

    Poor people manage to have warm places to sleep in the winter eat more than 900 calories a day, do they not?

  93. 93
    Ruckus says:

    @Kay:
    Poor people pay more for money, too. If there’s any company that knows that, it’s a credit card company.
    You are correct that they know this. But they will never admit to it because it’s not just the poor who they rip off. It’s everyone they can in any way they can. They need us to think it’s only the very poor who are not worthy. Otherwise people would do like me and not have any credit cards or credit. It can be hard to live that way in the modern world but it makes your money go so much farther. The basics are you have to have patience when you want something. You have to save for it, not pay later. And if something goes wrong, which of course it always does, you have to figure out how to work around it. You have to go to a bank that doesn’t give you credit but charges you $35 every time they “allow” you to over draw on your debit card because you used it later the same day you made a cash deposit but before midnight.
    The real problem is it takes work and time to do, things a person working 2 jobs 70 hrs a week just doesn’t have.

  94. 94
    Kay says:

    @Ruckus:

    because it’s not just the poor who they rip off.

    Right, but poor people have to borrow sometimes, so they have to take what’s offered.
    It spirals. Something like a car repair or an emergency room visit or a minor traffic violation (court fines and fees) can send the whole unsteady balancing act into a crash. They can’t pay for anything “up front”.
    Why doesn’t VISA come up with a low-interest used car finance plan for low income people? Now THAT would be helpful. It’s what they do, right? Lending?
    Why are they acting as social workers? We have real social workers.

  95. 95
    Pogonip says:

    @Ruckus: Hear, hear. I got off the merry-go-round by saving, at first, pennies, literally, and buying literally nothing I didn’t have to buy. Giving up TV helped greatly (that didn’t have anything to do with saving money, I just happened to reach the end of my patience with stupid programming and excessive commercials at about the same time I started saving). The best suggestions I could make to a poor person are: give up TV, as they can’t sell you something if you don’t see the commercials; and, save what you can, even if it’s pennies at first.

  96. 96
    gravie says:

    I remember this “spendthrift” argument: “Why do they throw their money away on a fancy car when they don’t have a house?” people would ask, rhetorically (because the answer — duh — was “fiscally irresponsible”.) Wrong on so many levels, not the least of which is completely ignoring the fact that a nice-ish car (“fancy” being Calvinist-speak for anything that isn’t a ramshackle mess) is within the financial reach of many people; a house, not so much. I could quibble with anyone’s financial decisions, regardless of their economic status, but basically think it’s none of my business unless I can justify every single purchase I’ve ever made. Which I certainly can’t.

  97. 97
    Ruckus says:

    @Kay:
    Why doesn’t VISA come up with a low-interest used car finance plan for low income people? Now THAT would be helpful. It’s what they do, right? Lending?
    Why are they acting as social workers? We have real social workers.

    I think that’s part of the problem. Lending? No that’s not what they really do. They allow us to think that but what they really do is like the dealer who gives you the first taste for free. Money can be like a drug. and we can all see the evidence of that! They don’t want you to repay them, for that they give you a lower credit score. They want you to be on the hook for ever. The problem is they are greedy, very fucking greedy. So they will all give you credit way past the time you don’t deserve it, just so they can raise your rates. You pay them off every month they only make money from the merchant, which of course is passed on to the consumer. You carry a balance, even one you can afford, that’s their holly grail, they make huge profits off of you for all time. Well maybe not each person but add all of us up, a little here, a little there and pretty soon it adds up to a nice little bundle.
    They have no interest in lending to you on a one time basis or on any kind of rates that make them only OK on a long term basis, they want it all. And right now.
    You go overboard only once they don’t cut back your limit, they may even raise it. But they will always jack your rate. Always.
    They are not interested in being lenders, they are interested in taking all you have in any way they can. Most of the big corps are the same way. Wally world is not interested in low cost shopping, they are interested only and I repeat only in making as much money in what ever way they can.

  98. 98
    Ruckus says:

    @Kay:
    I didn’t really answer your question did I?
    Yes the poor have to borrow sometimes or at least figure out how to do without things most of us think of as important. A car, a TV, cable, medical care, whatever. Example, I have a 15 yr old van, gets crap mileage. But unless something wonderful happens this will probably be my last car, because even if I buy another I’ll just have to put money into it and it has almost no current value. I expect to be able to drive another maybe 15 yrs or so, so this thing will be 30 yrs old, if it or I make it. Do I figure out how to save for another car? What’s the point, I can’t afford to purchase one and how will the maintenance be any different? So I make a choice, not the one I’d make if I was younger or had a better job or one at all but it is reality for me. Every thing is a choice like that. Not necessarily the best overall choice, the one that hopefully hurts the least. And never making that “best” choice means you get it wrong probably as often as right.

  99. 99
    Stepsister shotgun of sweet sadness says:

    I have lots of rural friends and neighbors who are poor. They even qualify for SNA benefits and free cell phones. They know when they can get a free lunch at the Pentacostal Church and when the food pantry gets fresh stuff in.

    Terrie goes shopping every Saturday morning, and can’t usually work for me then. They visit garage sales in upper-class neighborhoods and buy stuff for pennies on the dollar. They give us shot glasses and wine glasses they pay $0.25 for!
    Once they bought a pressure-washer (Honda!) for about $90, so they could use it to make money washing people’s decks and siding.

    Poor folks know more about money management than anyone else – it’s that or starve or freeze.

    Frankly I’ve always believed that the richest country in the world can afford to take care of everyone. Pay everyone capable of working a living wage!

    People now sometimes have to rent TIRES! because they can’t afford to buy them. Did you know that? I can’t believe it, yet I know it’s true.

    A professor friend I ran into last summer was running for office – he was outraged that people were getting “free Obama” cellphones. I was so taken aback I couldn’t inform him of the truth. The phones are donated, and so is the time. And even if that wasn’t the case, how are you supposed to apply for a job without a phone number?

    How are you gonna dial 911 without a phone?

    Just fall on the floor and die already is their answer, and it makes me sick. I can’t really think about it as much as I normally would think about social problems, because it upsets me too much…

    I too am Yellow-Dog Democrat. I really would vote for a coon-hound before I would vote for a Republican, because most dogs aren’t actively evil, and nearly all Republican office holders are really and truly evil !

  100. 100
    Crissa says:

    I do recall, for instance, alot of the families in poor housing were in a catch-22: If they had a job, they could get a loan – even a good one! – to buy a car, but they couldn’t get any to fix their house.

    The first loan you can really get will be a car loan. Not a house loan, not even a small lien on a paid-for piece of crap to fix it up.

    And if you’re poor, you want to stand very, very far from any sort of credit, but it’s highly tempting to have you know, food and the clothes you’re being required to wear for your job. ‘Hey, you don’t mind wearing business formal for this job, right? We’re only going to pay you minimum wage…’ How are you going to pay for that, exactly?

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