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Friday, February 12, 2010

In proposal to raise Ronald McDonald's taxes, Katrina vanden Heuvel beclowns herself

At the ridiculously named "Post-Partisan" blog on the WaPo, we find the following passage attributed to Katrina vanden Heuvel, who's the editor, part-owner, and publisher of the left-wing magazine The Nation as well as being the most predictably and unintentionally hilarious talking head on ABC News' "This Week" (emphasis mine):

At the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, it takes just under thirty minutes of work for an average burger-flipper to earn enough to buy a Big Mac (average American price, $3.58) on his lunch break.

Startlingly, it would still take that burger-flipper 29 minutes to earn enough to buy a head of organic romaine lettuce ($3.49/head). Add tomato ($4.99/pound), sweet onion ($1.49/pound), and carrots ($2.49/bunch); skim milk ($2.99/half gallon), hardboiled egg ($3.69/dozen), and whole wheat bread ($3.49/loaf), and to purchase his shopping basket, he’d need to clock over three hours of work, not to mention the unpaid labor he’d have to devote to preparing those groceries into a food-pyramid-friendly meal....

As the prices above indicate, [the American obesity] epidemic is not to be blamed on eating habits themselves — or even on their families. It is simply far less expensive to feed a family from the Dollar Menu at McDonald’s than it is to prepare fresh, healthy choices.

Ms. vanden Heuvel goes on to explain that tax breaks are the reason that McDonald's can feed your family more cheaply than your family can feed itself with store-bought groceries: "In 2006, McDonald’s spent $1 million every day on advertising aimed at American children, legally a tax-deductible business expenditure and, in effect, a subsidy given to the golden arches by the American people."

Her solution: We need to raise taxes! For the good of the children!

(The WaPo webpage from which I've taken those quotes, by the way, rather conspicuously displayed "tax breaks" (i.e., advertisements, the costs of which are considered to be legitimate business expenses of the advertisers) for IBM and the U.S. representative of a trade group promoting French champagnes. I hit the refresh button a few times and saw, in rotation, similar tax breaks for Bank of America, Xerox, Boeing, Sprint, and New York University. Damn, I'll bet Dick Cheney personally designed those web pages! Obviously we need to tax all advertisers more heavily. But why stop there? Let's raise taxes on the WaPo, ABC (or its parent, Disney), and The Nation too, since they're the ones enabling these advertising write-offs!)

(And by the way: I'm very impressed with just how far McDonald's has been able to stretch that million-dollar-a-day tax write-off, especially given that its corporate revenues last year were $22.74 billion, or $62.3 million/day, with an annual profit of $4.55 billion, or $12.47 million/day. If the tax savings from that million-a-day advertising deduction have indeed permitted McDonald's to both sell their food at below grocery-store raw ingredient prices and still generate that magnitude of revenues and profits, then we need to let Ronald McDonald take over Obama's efforts at dealing with the federal budget. If we're going to have a clown in charge, let's pick one who's demonstrated some success!)

Katrina vanden Heuvel

Of course, it's only in vanden-Heuvel-World® that McDonald's is cheaper than buying groceries and cooking them yourself. Indeed, Ms. vanden Heuvel's post effectively proves to those of us in the, ahem, Reality Based Community that she's neither fed a family at McDonald's nor fed a family a homemade meal from groceries she's purchased.

Here's a pair of clues, Katrina — no charge:

First, homemade meals from fresh ingredients cost less on a per-person and per-serving basis if, after you've had your healthy lunch, you refrain from throwing away the unused ingredients. Your computations come out quite differently if you'd merely recognize that your specified shopping basket can make more than one meal. Perhaps en route to your summa cum laude degree from Princeton, Katrina, you should have taken a detour to study basic home economics. (Or you could have asked one of your servants. Or even the intern you sent out to an overpriced Upper West Side Manhattan grocery to gather that list of prices, but only if he/she is actually living off the minimum wage you're probably paying, which the more I think about it seems pretty unlikely.)

Second, when you take your whole family to McDonald's, it costs more than one dollar even if you all order from the "Dollar Menu," and almost no one (much less an entire family) only orders a single Big Mac. (The "Dollar Menu," in my own considerable experience and observation at Mickey D's, is mostly used for adding an additional side item by those who would've felt too guilty following their initial instinct to super-size their Value Meal.) Suffice it to say that I've never gotten my four kids and myself out of McDonald's without breaking a second twenty-dollar bill.

When you're completely out of touch with reality, then raising taxes makes marvelous sense as the solution to every problem, real or imagined, doesn't it? Personal responsibility? Individual liberty? How can we possibly afford those things, when groceries are so damned much more expensive than McDonald's food?

Posted by Beldar at 02:45 AM in Current Affairs, Mainstream Media | Permalink

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Comments

(1) BC made the following comment | Feb 12, 2010 11:26:54 AM | Permalink

While it's definitely worth pointing out vanden Heuvel's incandescent stupidity vis-a-vis the real costs of eating at Mickey-D's versus shopping and cooking a meal at home, she also employs some semantic legerdemain: on Planet Katrina a tax break, whereby the government seizes less private capital, is actually a subsidy. The underlying assumption appears to be that there's really no such thing as private capital at all -- just a big pile of GDP that government has the first right of refusal to, and anything that it permits the peons to retain is for all intents and purposes a handout.

Glad to see you back from your blog hiatus, Beldar.

(2) R. Alex made the following comment | Feb 12, 2010 11:45:39 AM | Permalink

Well put, though your perceptions of the dollar menu are just a bit off. The Big Mac isn't on it. It costs a couple dollars, typically. Most of the time, there are items on the dollar menu that would constitute the flagship of a meal. The double burger and McChicken in particular. A McChicken, fries, and a coke come out to about $3, which is hard to beat.

But you're absolutely right in spirit. The result of the dollar menu is that people end up ordering two or three items instead of a $3 burger. Plus, people that go to McD's in groups rarely have everyone ordering off of that menu. So McD's makes comparatively little on a guy that orders a double cheeseburger but then makes more on his girlfriend who orders the Premium Chicken Sandwich. And people who eat out regularly quickly get tired of ordering the limited selection of a dollar menu.

If people actually escaped McDonald's paying a buck a meal, they wouldn't be profitable. The dollar menu just gets people in the door. Groceries are cheaper if you have time to prepare the food, but even if you don't canned foods can easily provide a healthier and considerably cheaper alternative.

Historically, when I've dieted, I've ended up saving money.

(3) Paul_In_Houston made the following comment | Feb 12, 2010 12:56:50 PM | Permalink

"Groceries are cheaper if you have time to prepare the food, but even if you don't canned foods can easily provide a healthier and considerably cheaper alternative."

What people like Katrina most despise is that word "can" (implying choice). As dedicated control freaks, worshiping the nanny state, they want that word replaced with "must".
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(4) Beldar made the following comment | Feb 12, 2010 3:34:54 PM | Permalink

Writer-Editor's note: This post's original boring title was "Katrina vanden Heuvel engages in unconscious self-parody." Only rarely do I change a post title after it's been up this long. But re-reading this post this afternoon, I felt an irresistible urge to change it, in part because I am terribly fond of the (admittedly non-standard English) word "beclown" and the concept it conveys.

(5) nk made the following comment | Feb 12, 2010 5:28:39 PM | Permalink

I don't know how McDonald's stays in business. No one I know eats there. ~_-

(6) Dustin made the following comment | Feb 12, 2010 5:30:56 PM | Permalink

Why must these democrats keep demonizing our employers?

a nice cheap, clean place to eat, near most places you go, is a really nice thing. Vast numbers of jobs for folks to get on their feet is a really nice thing.

I get the more sophisticated points that a business expense not being taxed is not really a subsidy, or that the dollar menu is not really cheaper than a bowl of rice and ground beef, etc etc, but the real problem I have here is that Heuvel knows McDonalds is successful because a lot of people choose McDonalds. They want to buy that food and work there. It's better than nothing, which is all that's left when you tax business into oblivion.

We need MORE jobs. Yeah, I'd prefer more manufacturing jobs and more technical jobs, but we also need more jobs period.

(7) Sam made the following comment | Feb 12, 2010 5:47:48 PM | Permalink

Cost of living plays a role here. I just saw that in New York City a person needs almost $124,000 per year to live as well as a Houstonian does on $50,000. If New York would cut its taxes its citizens would live better.

(8) magnolia made the following comment | Feb 12, 2010 8:38:13 PM | Permalink

Where does she shop?? Those prices are unbelievable! I wouldn't pay those prices, especially for lettuce. It's a dollar fifty a head at WalMart and $1.99 at the grocery stores! All of those prices are insanely high. Nice comparison, for her purposes.I guess that's what she pays-not what the normal people with normal jobs and normal incomes who have to pinch pennies pay.

(9) Gregory Koster made the following comment | Feb 12, 2010 9:50:23 PM | Permalink

Dear Mr. Dyer: Goodness, what a lot of errors this post has, and has inspired:

1. The proper title of the blog is "The Washington POST's Partisian Blog, or, No Conservatives Need Apply."

2. Tax THE NATION? Not possible, as THE NATION has been a nonprofit, supported by the magazine world's equivalent of theatrical "angels" for years. Have a look at this site if you need a snicker, which will turn into belly laughs as you read all the swell reasons for becoming a Nation Associate. Then consider: despite being around for ninety odd years longer than McDonald's, McDonald's is self-supporting. Given a choice between food for the body (McD's) and food for the mind (THE NATION), the market has made a definite choice. For all the superior 'that-proves-we-have-the-better-product-that-only-the-elite-canappreciate-unlike-that-moron-cheerleader-Palin' tone, it's gotta bug vanden Heuvel. So she suppresses it by deciding that "proves" all businesses "cheat" to make profits. After all, if THE NATION can't do it, the whole game must be rigged, a proposition as solidly proved as global warming.

3. For BC: "Incandescent" stupidity? how gauche and passe. K vd H is up to date with fluorescent stupidity that uses much less energy, while providing a sicklhy off-color illumination that makes Al Gore smile. She's up to date; you should be too. Get with it, Mac!

Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster

(10) A Balrog of Morgoth made the following comment | Feb 12, 2010 10:39:04 PM | Permalink

Note also that she compares the AVERAGE U.S. price of a Big Mac to the MANHATTAN cost of an organic grocery basket.

But hey, who cares? When that poor Seven-bucks-an-hour guy gets laid off thanks to Katrina's new tax regimen, he won't be able to afford McDonald's or the overpriced produce at the local boutique grocery.

(11) h0mi made the following comment | Feb 12, 2010 11:11:27 PM | Permalink

That's easily enough food for 4 meals with a fair amount of eggs and bread left over.

(12) spongeworthy made the following comment | Feb 13, 2010 1:22:29 PM | Permalink

I rea;ize this is no saving grace, but K VDH was once super hawt. I used to look at her and just think, "Duct tape".

(13) Kevin made the following comment | Feb 13, 2010 4:40:23 PM | Permalink

Not that a rich lefty would know anything about the lives of the little people she clearly cares so much for, but I'm pretty sure McDonalds provides lunch if you work a shift long enough to include a paid break. Don't know what is these days, but 25 years ago it was something like a quarter pounder, fries and drink. So the workers don't have to spend anything on their lunch.

(14) John Hitchcock made the following comment | Feb 16, 2010 6:14:23 AM | Permalink

Startlingly, it would still take that burger-flipper 29 minutes to earn enough to buy a head of organic romaine lettuce ($3.49/head). Add tomato ($4.99/pound), sweet onion ($1.49/pound), and carrots ($2.49/bunch); skim milk ($2.99/half gallon), hardboiled egg ($3.69/dozen), and whole wheat bread ($3.49/loaf), and to purchase his shopping basket, he’d need to clock over three hours of work, not to mention the unpaid labor he’d have to devote to preparing those groceries into a food-pyramid-friendly meal....

I could see a certain world-record-holding American swimmer eating that much food for a meal since he burns through 10,000 to 12,000 calories a day. (But that list? Where are the carbs? Besides, he wouldn't want that sort of bubbles as he swims.) Anybody else eats that much food for a single meal would be taller lying down than standing up. And those prices are nutz. I can get salad-in-a-bag for four for under 4 bucks, milk for half that price, a loaf of white bread for half that price...

(15) John Hitchcock made the following comment | Feb 16, 2010 6:21:07 AM | Permalink

Oh, and where I come from, we use shopping CARTS, not shopping baskets.

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