Politics & Policy

Big Mac Under Attack

Protests at a McDonald’s restaurant in Hollywood, Calif., on August 29.
The Left’s hatred of McDonald’s knows no bounds.

How do some on the left hate McDonald’s? Let us count the ways.

In 2004 a little-known filmmaker named Morgan Spurlock decided to stuff his face with McDonald’s food all day, every day, for 30 days, and capture it all on film. What happened? Surprise of surprises, Spurlock gained weight — 24 pounds, to be precise. His cholesterol level shot up to 230, and he experienced severe mood swings. He also confessed that he experienced sexual dysfunction.

Did he think eating Big Macs all day would spice up his sex life and lubricate his libido?

#ad#Why did Spurlock choose McDonald’s to make his tedious point that eating fast food for a month — while choosing not to exercise during that same period — would be bad for his health? Why didn’t he choose to eat Denny’s Grand Slam Breakfasts all day? Or Jimmy John’s subs? Or Sabrett’s hot dogs from New York City street vendors?

Because that would have made Spurlock weird, as opposed to just plain opportunistic.

And why did Spurlock choose to eat all the really fattening stuff on the McDonald’s menu, and not the good stuff? He could have eaten salads and only salads, with Diet Cokes and water if he’d cared to. And dropped weight, and his cholesterol too, if he walked a mile or two every day.

But Spurlock wasn’t interested in promoting good dieting or health. He was too busy promoting himself.

His movie was called Supersize Me. It was less a documentary than a filmed stunt, a piece of shameless propaganda disguised as muckraking, with one of America’s best-loved restaurant chains as the target.

Spurlock eventually lost back the weight he had gained, but his wallet was supersized permanently. So was his career. The left-wing media loved his stupid movie so much that they gave him a prized gig: CNN now has him doing similar hit pieces on other aspects of American life — like guns — every weekend. As always, CNN executives keep figuring out new ways to chase customers from their programming by hiring people who hate what Americans love. It’s why they hired Piers Morgan, a man who still doesn’t understand that we Americans love our guns, and hate condescending British anchors who think we’re stupid for loving them.

Spurlock’s movie wasn’t the first time McDonald’s has been under fire from critics. Back in 2010, the Center for Science in the Public Interest took aim at every American kid’s favorite meal — the Happy Meal. Or, more accurately, they took aim at the toys that go with the meal.

“Tempting kids with toys is unfair and deceptive, both to kids who don’t understand the concept of advertising, and their parents, who have to put up with their nagging children,” said Michael Jacobson, executive director for CSPI.

The CSPI probably hates the prizes in Cracker Jack, too. And the fortunes inside those evil fortune cookies served at Chinese restaurants across America.

“It’s a creepy and predatory practice that warrants a public injunction,” Stephen Gardner, CSPI’s litigation director, said in a prepared statement. But what was really creepy was CSPI’s condescending attitude towards the American public. Like Morgan Spurlock, the creeps at CSPI think we Americans are puppets reacting to every marketing trick that corporate monsters like McDonald’s can conjure.

It doesn’t dawn on them that we really like Happy Meals. That we like those great burgers with those finely cut-up onions and perfectly placed pickles. That we adore those amazing French fries, and those Cokes with the extra-wide straws.

It doesn’t dawn on these condescending characters that we actually choose to eat at McDonald’s because, now and then, it’s a real treat! It’s also fast, and extremely predictable.

Some of us don’t long for turkey burgers at the local organic diner, or a tofu hot dog at the nearby natural-food store.

And now McDonald’s — and some of its fast-food friends, like Burger King and KFC — are under attack from striking workers, with the media on the sidelines cheering the oppressed workers. It turns out that those striking workers want to supersize their paychecks, demanding a “living wage” of $15 an hour. They insist that doubling the salaries of fast-food workers will not raise prices enough to deter Americans from eating at McDonald’s.

It didn’t take long for liberals’ favorite go-to source for news — the Huffington Post — to weigh in on the subject with a story titled “Doubling McDonald’s Salaries Would Cause Your Big Mac to Cost Just 68¢ More.”


There was only one problem with the story: It was wrong. It drew on data presented by Arnobio Morelix, an undergraduate from the University of Kansas who identified himself as a researcher for the school, HuffPost admitted in a retraction. It turns out the real increase to the cost of a Big Mac would be $1.28.

What’s the big deal, you might be saying to yourself if you are a HuffPost reader. Who cares about another 68 cents, or even $1.28, you American cheapskates?

The new facts, and the retraction, didn’t change the minds of the editors of HuffPost. In the story that corrected the original story, HuffPost added this commentary.

A doubling of wages at McDonald’s would almost certainly involve some layoffs, asserts Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research and a HuffPost blogger. At the same time, more workers would stay in their jobs longer, Baker added.

There you have it. HuffPost admitted their facts were wrong, but that didn’t change their conclusion. Even if it leads to more layoffs, the HuffPost blogger believes the increased wages are still worth it.

#ad#Using their in-house economist to do their bidding, the HuffPost concluded their correction with this insight:

Experts generally assume that roughly one-third of the cost of increased wages gets passed on to consumers, with much of the rest of [it] cutting into profits, Baker said. Regardless, McDonald’s is so vast and lucrative that it could easily survive a major wage increase, Baker added.

This economist doesn’t seem very concerned about McDonald’s profits. If he had his way, he’d set the wages of all U.S. companies and tell them what they can and can’t afford to pay workers. If President Obama had another eight years, Baker might just be running his National Wage Board.

So what are the facts about this oppressed class of workers at McDonald’s, and other fast-food restaurants that the SEIU is trying so desperately to organize? It turns out that only 5 percent of the 10 million restaurant employees in America earn the minimum wage, according to Phil Hickey, chairman of the National Restaurant Association.

“According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 71% of minimum-wage employees in the restaurant industry are under the age of 25; 47% are teenagers,” Hickey noted in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed. He wasn’t finished.

Many Americans rely on the additional income and flexibility these jobs offer as they seek to balance their careers with family responsibilities. Most industry workers, some 57%, are students with irregular schedules, teenagers saving for school or people who need a job with flexible hours that fit their busy lives. Part-time, entry-level work fills a critical need in the nation’s workforce.

You won’t hear any of this from HuffPost. Or SEIU. Or MSNBC. Or any of the protesters. Or most American economics professors. Because they just don’t like these McJobs. They don’t see why flexible schedules matter to so many Americans, or why young people should be doing such demeaning work for such low wages when they could be in class learning how to hate free markets and set themselves up for some paid volunteer work for the government when they graduate (or a return to that same job they quit at the local restaurant before they went to college).

Knowing that nearly 25 percent of all Americans once worked at a place like McDonald’s is truly disturbing to many on the left, even though so many millions of young people learn valuable skills from such jobs. Skills like showing up on time, working with a team under pressure, dealing with customers, and most important, dealing with bosses. Learning how to be productive and accountable, and even learning that with hard work comes advancement. The kind of skills most universities simply don’t teach.

Why are all these attacks directed at a company that gave us one of the greatest mass-produced sandwiches of all time, the Big Mac? The sad truth is that some on the left love to hate McDonald’s for the same reasons they love to hate Walmart; because both are so successful. And so profitable.

Two other things, by the way, that many on the left love to hate.

Success. And profit.

— Lee Habeeb is the vice president of content at Salem Radio Network, which syndicates Bill Bennett, Mike Gallagher, Dennis Prager, Michael Medved, and Hugh Hewitt. He lives in& Oxford, Miss., with his wife, Valerie, and daughter, Reagan.

Lee Habeeb — Lee Habeeb is an American talk-radio executive and producer. He has written columns for USA Today and the Washington Examiner, and is a columnist for Townhall.com and National Review.

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