The Burger Flip

Last week’s unemployment statistics showed us that unemployment has ticked back up to 9%, partially as a result of the long-term unemployed attempting to re-enter the workforce.  The media spun this as great news by touting the 244,000 new jobs added in April.  They were rather less eager to point out that 62,000 of these jobs came from a big hiring push by one corporation: McDonald’s.

McDonald’s has been doing fairly well these days.  The Associated Press reports that sales were up by 6% in April, including 4% growth in the U.S. and 6.5% growth overseas.  They’ve been forced to raise their prices a bit, due to overall inflation in the food market, and they’re warning that bigger price increases may be on the horizon, but they’re also investing a lot of money in new hiring and expansion.  McDonald’s clearly sees good business in the future, despite the impending price hikes. 

This could be a leading indicator of continued hard times ahead for the rest of the economy.  One of the intrinsic advantages McDonald’s enjoys is the large number of restaurants it has constructed.  Almost everyone lives fairly close to a McDonald’s, or knows there is one close to other important driving destinations.  That makes them an increasingly attractive dining option when gas prices go up, and people want to drive around less.  They’re inexpensive, reliable, and smart enough to re-design their restaurants as family fun centers, not grim dungeons frying up Soylent McGreen for the weary lost souls of a recessionary economy.  By adding healthier options and little luxuries like frappucinos to their menu, they remade themselves into an affordable alternative, instead of a last resort.

It’s remarkable to see the media and Democrats touting a flood of fast-food jobs as proof that President Obama’s economic policies are somehow working, or at least failing less spectacularly.  All through the Bush years, “burger-flipping job” was a curse word, shorthand for a helpless lower class forced into paper-hatted slavery while the rich got richer.  The derogatory term “McJob” got into the Merriam-Webster’s dictionary during those years, over the strong exceptions of McDonald’s, which resented the insult.

Liberal contempt for burger-flipping jobs was a natural outgrowth of their primitive understanding of economics, especially their belief that most people are more-or-less permanent members of various income classes.  In the 2000s, they envisioned a corporate America that daydreamed about turning every job into a McJob, with low pay, minimal benefits, and no job security.  The burger-flipping sector was portrayed as a malignant tumor, rather than a bountiful source of entry-level jobs.  No one was supposed to be proud of collecting a paycheck from McDonald’s. 

The high employment rates of the Bush years were dismissed by deleting McDonald’s from the equation.  Now their one-time hiring surge is used to prop up a temporary narrative of good news for the dreary Obama economy.  McDonald’s is even one of the largest recipients of those priceless ObamaCare waivers, released from a disastrous system that will be imposed on the rest of us.  It seems like only yesterday that the Left wanted to put their executives on trial over the lousy benefits they offered.

In truth, there is nothing wrong with McJobs, and there never was.  McDonald’s is a corporation seeking to make a profit by selling an inexpensive product with minimized labor costs.  The jobs they offer include compensation commensurate with their perceived value.  Those jobs do not become more “valuable” to the corporation when the government decrees that employees must be paid more.  They don’t become less valuable because liberal sophisticates sneer at them.  Better alternatives cannot be created out of thin air by political fiat. 

The proper attitude towards employment at McDonald’s is the same as for employment anywhere else: gratitude for the opportunity, and a burning desire to do something with it.  Like every other component of our complex economy, McJobs have a constant value to those who offer them, and those who freely accept employment.  Only the illusions surrounding them change.