‘Look, You Can Live on Minimum Wage!’ Say Modern Slavers

[Sample budget via McDonald’s and VISA]

Jesus fecking Christ on a pogo stick. I can’t believe McDonald’s and VISA were stupid enough to put together this oh-so-helpful budget estimate showing how fast food workers can get by and still have money left over.

After looking it over, here’s my assessment: A couple corporations need to do drug testing among white-collar staff. Somebody had to be be out of their gourd to think this was accurate, let alone an effective marketing tool to promote their businesses.

As many folks have pointed out, an immediate glaring error on this ‘budget cheat sheet’ is the lack of heating/cooling expenses. Sure, some apartment complexes included HVAC in the rent they charge, but this can’t be assumed as a norm.

Every line item included is grossly flawed. I’ll look at three points:

1) First job’s NET salary of $1105 based on an estimated 21% income tax equals ~$1400 gross salary. Based on current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, that’s ~193 hours worked in a month, or ~44.6 hours a week.

This is NOT a part-time job. Most fast food jobs are deliberately limited to under 32 hours a week to avoid paying unemployment taxes or other benefits.

2) Second job’s NET salary of $955 — HAHAHAHAHAHAH Right. That’s another ~167 hours of labor per month at current federal minimum wage and 21% income tax rate.

To make this sample budget work, either two people MUST live together, MUST work a combined ~83 hours a week at current federal minimum wage. Or one person must do all this and simply have no time to do anything beyond eat/sleep/bathe/maybe laundry.

If two people lived together to make this budget work, they MUST share a tiny/cheap/ratty car, or hope like hell there’s public transportation which costs less than $150 a month to get to/from ~83 hours of work, grocery store, school, so on.

The rest of the assumptions in this budget are just plain trash. Like health insurance for two people versus one. Or savings of $100 which is really half that, spread between two people, as is the discretionary daily spending.

Some trollish account said, “But nobody stays at minimum wage forever! They get pay increases!” Sure…now person working First Job only has to work 43 hours a week instead of ~44.6. The average wage at McDonald’s is $8.25 — but does that include assistant managers and shift managers? Does this include people who’ve worked at McD’s for years? Let’s be real: most fast food workers are closer to the federal minimum wage.

Perhaps with pay increase a person working BOTH jobs only has to work ~80 hours a week instead of ~83. Give me a fucking break.

3) Transportation and insurance combined = $250 — HAHAHAHAHAHAH Right, again. I checked Progressive’s website calculator for insurance on a vehicle only, assuming a 2007 4-door Honda Civic, personal use, unmarried single male driver age 18-24 living alone, who lived in the same rented home for 1-3 years, had driven for more than 3 years, had insurance for 1-3 years, assuming a 20-year old male student living in Lansing, Michigan. Car insurance alone was $219 per month AND +$400 was required upfront before coverage began.

Maybe bundling renter’s insurance would help but the cost McDonald’s and VISA used in their example budget for insurance and a used car loan is simply unmoored from reality.

And perhaps insurance is cheaper in other parts of the country, but I will bet good money some other line item in that budget increases. Like the cost of an annual automobile license (higher in FL than MI) or a mandatory vehicle emissions test (required in CA but not MI).

Roughly 50% of Americans can’t get their hands on $400 cash for an emergency. Imagine if your insurer dropped you and you’re a fast food worker living to this prospective budget. That’s where VISA comes in with an opportunity to finance your emergency, compounding the stranglehold minimum wage has on your life.

God help you if you’re trying to put yourself through college without scholarships or family assistance. Even the imaginary example student attending Lansing Community College will pay more than $65,500 for four years. How long will it take to get through a four-year degree if one works ~83 hours a week? How long will it take to pay off school loans if one manages to break out of fast food service work after graduation — let’s say they double or triple their wages to $14.50 or $21.75 hour? This prospective student faces somewhere between 12 and 15 years of payments ranging from $950 to $1050 per month, and payments may begin as early as NOW while attending school at $650 per month.

You will be in debt for much of your adult life. There will be no extra money for anything.

Maybe the rare avocado toast, if you can find one marked down in the Damaged bin or live someplace warm where fallen avocados can be found for free. And maybe if you can afford bread this week.

“But millennials buying pricey iPhones!” some out-of-touch jackass might say. Let’s say you’re a fast food worker who might have to change housing at any time because rent has increased dramatically in your city. Even my example dude in innocuous Lansing faces a +7% increase in rent each year though his wages have been stagnant. Your entire life — telephone, computer, internet access, records, more — resides in a single, portable device. Of course you’ll pay more for a phone which hails a tow truck when your ratty little car breaks down, or finds you a quick cash gig (or a plasma blood bank) to pay for repairs. That phone is your lifeline, the lifesaver you can count on unlike white-collar jerk-offs who have no clue what you’re going through to survive.

And God help you if you get sick or injured. You can’t count on your elected officials to make sure you’ll be healthy enough to show up to work those ~83 hours a week.

Indentured servitude, without a contract, that’s what this budget reflects. Product marketing by modern slavers.

And they can’t understand why millennials are killing so many things like fast food businesses. They simply can’t afford them.

Blogger since 2002, political activist since 2003, geek since birth. Opinions informed by mixed-race, multi-ethnic, cis-female condition, further shaped by kind friends of all persuasions. Sci-tech frenemy, wannabe artist, decent cook, determined author, successful troublemaker. Mother of invention and two excessively smart-assed young adult kids. Attended School of Hard Knocks; Rather Unfortunate Smallish Private Business School in Midwest; Affordable Mid-State Community College w/evening classes. Self-employed at Tiny Consulting Business; previously at Large-ish Chemical Company with HQ in Midwest in multiple marginalizing corporate drone roles, and at Rather Big IT Service Provider as a project manager, preceded by a motley assortment of gigs before the gig economy was a thing. Blogging experience includes a personal blog at the original blogs.salon.com, managing editor for a state-based news site, and a stint at Firedoglake before landing here at emptywheel as technology’s less-virginal-but-still-accursed Cassandra.

18 replies
    • Rayne says:

      302 errors are so convenient, suggesting somebody made a change. I see ThinkProgress noted the sample budget now includes money for heating — docked right from the money left for “spending.”

      “Spending.” Like food. And clothes. Toiletries. Ugh, as if money needed for life’s necessities was disposable income.

  1. Cold N. Holefield says:

    This is why I take the Jobs Report with a Huge Grain of Salt because many of the jobs they claim are created are of this variety and to me, these aren’t jobs. They’re enslavement, or worse, because The Master doesn’t even provide Food & Shelter.

    • lefty665 says:

      The Jobs report also uses a “birth/death” model of jobs that “creates” around 100k new jobs a month. They are not real, they’re statistical constructions. But they let the U-2 “Unemployment” rate get cooked to look good even while the labor participation rate hangs around record lows. Ain’t recovery wunnerful? Eat that job birth model if you can’t even get one of those made up low wage jobs.

      • Cold N. Holefield says:

        Exactly. Trump was right to criticize these statistics during and before his campaign even though he had no clue about the particulars and was only doing so for the purpose of Political Expediency. But now, he believes the statistics are just Peachy Keen and Above Board. Funny how that works. And he has the audacity to claim he’s not a Politician. In this regard, but certainly not others, he’s the Consummate Politician.

  2. P J Evans says:

    Where are they assuming this person lives, with $600 a month rent? That’s really low, for a lot of areas.

  3. lefty665 says:

    Don’t see anything in there for gas or car repairs. Ratty or not, a car doesn’t do much good if you don’t or can’t drive it. Guess that’s supposed to come out of that eye popping $800 a month to fritter away. Speaking of fritters, guess food must come out of that $800 too.  Hold the wall, this kind of crap is why we have illegals isn’t it? Live 6 to a room, eat badly, never go anywhere, and send what’s left of the money home.  Such a shame Americuns don’t want to work isn’t it?

    The wonder is not that millennials told the neoliberal elites to go fuck themselves at the ballot box last year.  The wonder is that it took them so long. Average wages adjusted for inflation are no higher now than they were in 1978, and for people working close to minimum wage it is worse. Minimum wage has not kept up with inflation, they are making significantly less than they did then. This shit has not gotten any better, and in fact keeps getting worse the nearer to the bottom of the heap someone is. It has been that way for a long time, coming up on three generations.  Grandparents, parents and now their kids living on a knife edge and damned few prospects for thriving. It ain’t getting any better. They may be going to the polls bearing torches and pitchforks next time (Chinese pitchforks are still cheap – they work for seven and a quarter a day).

     

  4. Cold N. Holefield says:

    According to these Russian-Americans, if you don’t succeed in America, it’s your own fault and not because of structural issues.

    Russian Jews in America value hard work and overcoming adversity, said Evgeny Finkel, a political science professor at George Washington University, who is of Ukrainian Jewish descent. “They worked hard and succeeded, back there in the USSR and especially here in the US. [In their minds], if others don’t succeed it is because they don’t want to, not because of structural problems.”

    • John Casper says:

      Cold,

      You’re pulling what looks like anti-semitism from a link that doesn’t have “Russian Jews” in quotes.

      Are you sure Evgeny said it? Is this limited to Judaism in Russia?

      Evgeny is from Ukraine. That’s not Russia.

      Is the name of the site “No Russians?”

      Is the author of the blog post who wrote that “Nobody?”

      Are you trying to spam this site with material that could later be used to reflect poorly on it?

      Thanks in advance.

      • Cold N. Holefield says:

        The linked comment was extracted from an article by The Atlantic. If you revisit the comment, you will find the link to The Atlantic article. The Atlantic article quoted Evgeny just as I did above, so I’m going to make an educated guess that Evgeny said it because otherwise he would have asked The Atlantic to retract it by now. The rest of your comment is incoherent and I won’t legitimate it with a response.

  5. SpaceLifeForm says:

    This may seem OT, but it is not.

    These days, a cellphone is a lifeline for many.
    It is a shame that many have to eat poorly
    so they have that lifeline, but it is an even
    bigger shame that they pay for the privilege
    of having big brother spy on them.

    And probably get fake news via social media
    that convinced them HRC had it locked up.

    Not implying it was the ruskies btw.

    https://thehftguy.com/2017/07/19/what-does-it-really-take-to-track-100-million-cell-phones/amp/

    What’s the difference between a Nokia 3310 and an iPhone 7?

    There isn’t any! As long as they are turned on, they can both locate you in real-time, 24/7, with a precision better than 1 square kilometer

  6. greengiant says:

    In the big picture those monopolies that can addict or extort the population will leave the population with less money to spend on other goods and services.   Take your pick,  Obama/medical care, cell phones, internet access,  housing,  take a larger share and leave less funds for fast food.  It is just business,  nothing personal,  people will die.   Extra special for Michigan car insurance is the state law that mandates medical costs from car accidents are the at whim of the provider and are 4 times higher than insurance negotiated rates.

    Without the discipline of paying in cash, or running a checking account balance people on average do not budget as well using  the debit/credit card payment.   This probably applies to the entire chain of people responsible for this “budget”.

  7. Jonf says:

    This is truly wage slavery. There are far too many who pass this off as a rite of passage, like this is just a first job. Forget college kid, gotta get yourself up by your bootstraps first. What happens if you get hurt or sick or something knocks you off that straight and narrow?

    Sanders wanted $15 and hour. But that would cause inflation and more unemployment. At least some say so.The price of a hamburger may go up a quarter or something. But will it really? Or will Mickey D and the smart ones decide they need to cut help and therefore reduce the number of stores and related overhead to concentrate selling? And what happens to the rising unemployment who just lost their jobs at Mickey D? Well everyone at minimum wage now has considerably more money to spend. And it is spending, after all, that result in hiring more people.

  8. Karl Kolchak says:

    It’s just too bad that America doesn’t have a major political party that represents workers.  Oh wait, we USED to have one.  Whatever happened to those guys (and gals)?

  9. lefty665 says:

    Meanwhile in New York:

    “the city’s Independent Budget Office reports that, “At the very top, it’s the top 0.1 percent who own 24 percent of the city’s income,” She told the website Gothamist, “We all know that the city is very unequal. What I did not anticipate seeing in the data is that the share of the bottom 50 percent has actually fallen.” In other words, in this city of millions, 3,700 people raked in about 23 percent of the city’s income — $63.7 billion.”  https://consortiumnews.com/2017/07/19/nyc-front-line-of-income-inequality/

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