Survival refers to the struggle to remain alive, and poverty refers to the deprivation of basic human needs which includes food, water, clothing, shelter, health care and education. A personal budget includes matching income to expenses to make ends meet, and in theory the idea is to confine spending on expenses to the amount of income commonly known as budgetary constraint. According to Census Bureau figures, roughly half of Americans are living in poverty, and more than half of those Americans are barely surviving due to lack of jobs and low wages. To assuage the stress Americans barely surviving in poverty face every day, fast food giant McDonalds teamed with Visa to provide them with a budget plan Republicans celebrated as justification for their drive to create a nation of peasants. Curiously, many Americans who will never know what it means to barely survive in poverty praised the McDonald-Visa budget as reasonable and claimed it is “an extremely conventional collection of good financial advice.”
The so-called “budget” is nothing more than an attempt to portray Republican policies that keep Americans living in poverty as a realistically decent existence and informs conservative’s ongoing effort to drive 98% of the population into poverty to benefit the Republicans’ corporate and wealthy benefactors. Republicans have sought a means of convincing the American people that not only can they survive on a pathetic minimum wage, but with budgetary constraint can live a quality life despite the privation inherent with living in poverty.
The issue many critics had with the special poverty budget is that it required an individual to hold down two full-time jobs, but most fast food chains and large discount retail chains do not offer full time work for their employees. In a canvas of 25 fast food restaurants, and 10 discount retail stores in California over the past week, not one establishment offered full-time work to employees who were not in management positions, and none paid more than the required minimum wage. The devastation is worse for “tipped” employees such as restaurant servers and waitresses who face a Congressionally mandated minimum wage of $2.13 an hour established in 1991, and those jobs, like most fast food and retail jobs are held by Americans with children living at home.
The budget did not account for child care, education, or realistic healthcare expenses; the McDonalds budget allotted $20 per month for health insurance that is non-existent in any state in the Union. It also suggested a rent allowance of $600 per month, and it belies empirical data that in the poorest state in the Union, a minimum wage full-time employee must toil 67 hours to afford the most meager apartment. In what was undoubtedly the most unrealistic assertion in the realistic budget was an allowance for saving $100 a month, and of 30 part-time minimum wage employees surveyed over the past week, not one was able to save even $10 a month as every penny they earned was spent, and exhausted, two days before the next payday.
During the campaign for the presidency last year, Willard Romney claimed 47% of Americans were moochers living off the government, and yet the so-called takers’ debts (living expenses) exceeded their income according to analysis by the Economic Policy Institute. Those “takers” expense to income ratio belies the realistic budget pundits claimed was reasonable, and it realistically portrays the situation the great majority of Americans barely surviving in poverty experience every day. There are Americans who have never set foot in a movie theatre, restaurant, shopping mall, or even McDonalds because they live hand to mouth and struggle to feed their children on a daily basis. Republicans in the House made their poverty existence more dire over the past few months by eliminating funding for food stamps, school lunches, the WIC programs and used the sequester to cut out Meals on Wheels, housing assistance, and Head Start that millions of poor families depend on the supplement their meager minimum wage jobs.
It is, by no stretch of the imagination, reasonable to assume that the McDonalds-Visa budget plan is preemptive of the plan Republicans intend for the majority of American workers. Republicans in the House voted to eliminate overtime pay, resisted President Obama’s call to raise the pitiful minimum wage, and have made no secret of their desire to eliminate it to increase profits for their corporate donors. Last month Charles Koch launched a campaign to eliminate the minimum wage, and his legislative arm, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has enacted “right to work for less” laws in states across the nation. During Republicans August recess, they plan to convince their constituents across the country that their primary goal after their vacation most Americans never enjoy is “Fighting Washington for all Americans” that likely includes cutting services, eliminating the minimum wage, repealing the Affordable Care Act, and sending more Americans into poverty. Americans should not be deluded that when Republicans say they are “fighting Washington,” they really mean they are fighting Americans.
McDonalds, like most large corporate businesses and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce oppose any attempt to lift Americans suffering poverty out of a survival existence, and their budget plan is a ploy to prepare Americans for what Republicans have in store for them. Less than minimum wages, working two jobs to survive, and struggling to feed their children is the budgetary reality awaiting most Americans. The idea of upward mobility has been reversed for several years, and as more Americans slip from the middle class to the peasant class, Republicans and their corporate donors are attempting to convince poverty level Americans they can survive the conservative’s onslaught if they just use budgetary constraint and follow McDonalds’ reasonable budget.
There is nothing reasonable, or realistic, in the McDonald-Visa budget. The great majority of corporate retailers and fast food outlets do not offer full time work, and it means their suggestion to work two full-time jobs is really working four part-time jobs. Even if a minimum wage employee works two full time minimum wage jobs, 85% of their income is relegated to housing and leaves precious little for food, and with Republicans cutting food stamps, even the working poor will be hard-pressed to eat, much less pay for heating, healthcare, electricity, and Hell-forbid public transportation to and from work.
At some point, Americans must come to grips with the simple fact that Republicans and their corporate funders’ only intent for the masses is a poverty existence, and no special budget is going to provide for anything other than survival which is much more than Republicans are planning for the American people. The biggest atrocity regarding McDonald’s budget was not that so-called intelligent pundits praised it as reasonable and realistic, but that they fell for false information and likely convinced poor Americans that privation is reasonable and for that they are culpable for enabling the Republican assault on the people.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.