staged a strike yesterday. The main demand: a rate of pay of $15 an hour -- a little more than double the federal minimum of $7.25. "When they work hard every day for all day long and they don't get paid enough wages to put food on the table and to support their families, then we as a community suffer," explained Fran Quigley, a clinical professor at Indiana University McKinney School of Law, who joined workers on the picket line.
But why should Quigley care? After all, you have to assume he makes a bit more than the average fast food worker. If we rule out the fact that he's just a good person and assume he's motivated only by self-interest, he still has a compelling reason to support higher wages for these workers, as USA Today reports:
Taxpayers subsidize workers who earn too little, he said, by paying for food stamps and other entitlement programs in which many low-wage workers participate. Profitable corporations employing such workers often make enough money to increase those workers' wages, Quigley said.
This is the conservative case for raising the minimum wage. And it's a case that conservative blowhard Rush Limbaugh doesn't seem to understand.
In response to the story about fast food worker strikes, Limbaugh had this to say:
If you want a “living wage,” if you don’t like what fast food restaurants pay, then do something else. It’s just that simple. Go to a trade school. Go to another business. Start your own business. Maybe the work that you are capable of isn’t yet worth $15 an hour at a fast-food restaurant. Maybe the consumer doesn’t want to pay $10 for a Big Mac so that people working at McDonald’s make $15 an hour. It’s not just a one-way strata.
But if the taxpayer is subsidizing the industry's labor costs, we're paying extra for a Big Mac already. In fact, we're paying for Big Macs we never eat. If the workers were paid a living wage, we'd be able to decide whether we wanted to pay for that burger or not -- and we'd only be paying for burgers at places where we eat. That Burger Bucket joint you avoid because all the workers are rude and the bathrooms are a nightmare? Yeah, you're still paying for that and, by subsidizing that franchisee's workforce, you're helping to keep that place open -- whether you want to or not.
Somehow, I don't think this is highly representative of the "free market" that conservatives claim to love so much. Without the taxpayer subsidies, no one would work at fast food, because no one could afford to work at fast food. The industry would have to offer higher wages in order to function. After all, supply and demand works for labor as much as it does for goods.
And as long as we're talking about supply and demand, that $10 burger is BS. No one would pay ten bucks for a fast food burger. In order to remain competitive, businesses would have to find ways to keep prices down or lose out to other stores. The price of goods isn't set entirely by the cost of labor. To a much higher degree, it's truer to say it's set by what the market will bear. Supply and demand. If it means eating into profits, then a little haircut is better than no profits at all. For the record, "profit" means "making money." If you make less of a profit, you're still coming out ahead.
The status quo that Limbaugh is defending is socialism on a scale that he would normally decry. It's socialized wages to subsidize an industry that's not even remotely essential to the functioning of this nation. In fact, when you figure in the health costs stemming from people who eat too much McFood, you'd probably find the industry does more harm than good. And for the most part, people who eat too much McFood do so because they get paid McWage and it's all they can afford. Wheels within wheels.
In an actual free market, the wages paid to fast food workers would be -- by necessity -- much higher. And it's here that the conservative mask fails to disguise any longer -- they aren't about free markets, they're about higher profits for business. And if that means that businesses get to reach into your pocket to subsidize their worker's livings, then they'll cry like stuck pigs when anyone suggests that businesses sink or swim on their own.
Rush Limbaugh -- like the rest of the phonies on the right -- isn't a free market capitalist. He's the mouthpiece for McSocialism.
[photo via Wikimedia Commons]