Moreover, a number of people are claiming that this budget is not merely unkind, but downright Draconian -- “the amounts specified in this budget just aren’t enough to get by, at least not safely,” Irregular Times says.
This seems overdramatic; $24,000 in after-tax dollars is not princely. But it doesn't put you at significant risk of death or dismemberment. While $800 a month is not a lot to have for clothes, entertainment, groceries and sundries, even taking inflation into account, that was a lot more than the disposable income I had when I first started at The Economist. After student loans, rent and taxes, I had about $300 for everything else, including utilities and MetroCards.Young career-tracker with a starter job at The Economist, McDonald's employee = pretty much the same thing.
If you are a middle-class professional, and you attempt to imagine replicating your own lifestyle on McDonald's wages, you are bound to feel panic and outrage. But that’s not actually the task facing people who work at McDonald's, or people with a household after-tax income of about $24,000 a year.Yeah, they're never going to need just the right shoes for a gala reception, so their needs are different.
The McDonald's workforce skews young. The average age of a fast-food worker is almost 30 right now, but that’s because of the recession; in 2000, it was 22. The average McDonald's line worker is not planning to put two kids through college on their salary. Only a minority are trying to support just themselves exclusively on their minimum-wage paycheck; they are living with a spouse or partner who makes at least as much as they do, or with parents or other relatives who make more than minimum wage. Moreover, very few people stay in entry-level minimum-wage jobs for very long (though again, the Great Recession has made this happen more than it used to); those workers eventually get promoted or leave for a more promising job.Sorry, had to go to the "emphasis added" there; I didn't want you to miss the use of McArdle's trademarked "the facts support me except for the parts that don't, which I dismiss by naming them" process. Also, funny as I find the idea that shit wages are okay for these people because they can always get their uncle in North Dakota to send them money orders, it's nothing compared to this:
Those who don’t [advance] -- who actually try to support a family on minimum-wage paychecks -- will end up with substantial government support. They’ll get the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the Earned Income Tax Credit and, in many places, they will now be eligible for Medicaid.For one thing, these are programs McArdle's fellow conservatarians are working hard to get rid of. For another and more to the point, this sort of employer exploitation of public assistance is famously what's keeping the whole crap-job paradigm alive. It like defending a con game by saying, "but if you shut it down, how's the con man going to make any money?"
McArdle can't resist adding that you silly elitists can't understand: "There are millions of people in this country doing it," she says. "Keep in mind that most McDonald's workers don’t live close to New York City or Washington... Survival on such a lean budget is possible because people who do it are not trying to live the atomized life of an upper-middle-class college graduate." Woo, that's telling those of us who have our own bathrooms! We get something similar at the Washington Post from McArdle's fellow conservatarian Timothy B. Lee -- but first let me quote my favorite part:
The budget allocates $0 for heat. This could be realistic in some Southern states...Okay, thanks. Lee has a pot o' sneers for those decadent coastals who insult our fast food slaves by suggesting they could live any differently:
With a couple of exceptions, these are typical figures for the spending of millions of low-income Americans... Gawker’s Neil Casey calls $600 per month for rent a “laughably small” figure, but Casey should spend more time outside the Northeast Corridor... while working two jobs is tough, it’s not that uncommon. About 7 million Americans, or about 5 percent of the workforce, do it... And the reality is that these low-income Americans have to make the kind of hard choices that critics are deriding as ridiculous... Gawker calls the budget “just-shy-of-condescending,” but budgeting is an important skill that isn’t obvious to every young adult in America. Offering practical advice on how to live on a modest income is more constructive than ridiculing the choices required to do so.In other words, low-end jobs like these are increasingly long-term propositions, and you're just being insulting by suggesting it's anything but the way things ought to be -- why, it's like asking a harelip for a kiss, or teaching a slave to read!