McDonald's to working poor: Budgeting is easy (in a fantasy world)

An odd pamphlet oversimplifies the budgeting process for low-wage workers and makes McDonald's look out-of-touch.

We can all agree that having a budget is a wise practice to promote fiscal independence. That's no doubt what McDonald's and Visa were thinking when they partnered to develop a "Practical Money Skills Budget Journal." But when you're bringing in billions of dollars in profit each year, telling the low-wage workers who make the business run that budgeting can be simple if they only work two jobs and go without heat, comes across as patronizing.

And looking more in depth at this made-up budget, there are some startling assumptions. First off, McDonald's assumes their employees work more than 70 hours a week, if they're making the U.S. federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour (and that's before figuring in taxes) -- which is not far off if you consider the median income of a fast food worker is around $18,500. Then it assumes they can get by on $27 a day for food, clothes, gas money and bus fare to get to work. Plus, who pays $20 for health insurance? Oh, and kids? They're cheap, right? Ha!

Again, it's not that McDonald's is wrong to encourage its employees to make a budget. Budgeting is a vital tool for the working poor (and everyone else) to stay out of debt. But when it comes from a company profiting from low-wage workers and validating the reality of overworked, underpaid workers -- especially in light of another major retailer refusing to pay workers a living wage -- and oversimplifying their situation, this made-up budget is condescending and out-of-touch.

I'm not sure what's more disturbing: that McDonald's thinks heat is non-essential or that it's acknowledging the difficult conditions of the American service worker without acknowledging the role it plays in causing that reality.

[Via Slate]

Image: McDonald's

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