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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 4/16/15

Demonizing the Poor - Matt Walsh & Anecdotal Economics

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The Fox News Argument Against Poverty
The Fox News Argument Against Poverty
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It seems every day there is another shill article written on behalf of the richest in this country, demonizing the poorest. Articles that pretend to be speaking common sense or even economics but who miss the forest for the trees and quite often are wrong about the trees they are so focused on. This week's offering comes from someone who fancies himself a professional "truth sayer" but who does not seem to understand that opinions are rarely "truth" per se. Here is the link to his lengthy attack on people who are protesting low minimum wages for working in fast food establishments.


Mr. Walsh may very well intend to be fair but he is not. His grasp on macro issues seems negligible at best as this piece seems largely designed to belittle people who "put lettuce on my Big Mac." Let us deconstruct all of the false talking points he must have gleaned from Fox News or the Wall Street Journal, both of whom are owned by Rupert "billionaire" Murdoch.

"Instead, I want to talk to those of you who actually consider yourselves entitled to close to a $29 thousand a year full time salary for doing a job that requires no skill, no expertise, and no education; those who think a fry cook ought to earn an entry level income similar to a dental assistant; those who insist the guy putting the lettuce on my Big Mac ought to make more than the Emergency Medical Technician who saves lives for a living; those who believe you should automatically be able to "live comfortably," as if "comfort" is a human right."

Now, I agree that someone who makes fries for a living should not make the same as an EMT or even the airline pilot that tweeted to Walsh that he makes less than $15 an hour. What is staggering however is the frightening disconnect shown by Walsh. In his reasoning, it is correct that an EMT or even an airline pilot should be making less than $15 an hour! Think about that for a second. Do you honestly want your airline pilot making that little? In Walsh's world, the answer is that the burger flipper is asking too much not that the skilled jobs ahead of them are making too little. To further compound the issue is his seeming flippant attitude about what he defines as "comfort." Now perhaps when he was growing up, 29K was a standard that produced some comfort but today it is barely over the poverty line for a family of four. Those protesting are not seeking some pie in the sky "comfort" level but rather survival. This is what I mean by missing the macro forest for the micro trees he seems content with splitting. Walsh continues:

"First, let me start with a story. It's anecdotal, obviously, but then this whole #FightFor15 "movement" is based entirely on anecdotes."

Yes Matt. Reduce the struggles of real people down to a mere anecdote. Just an amusing tale of someone's actual sufferings. Walsh would continue here to present the true gripe he has with the protesters. He wants them to have to suffer as he did. Their own tales of suffering are not enough. You see Matt had to struggle to get to where he was today and gosh darn it, everybody else better do the same without complaining or else the truth sayer will let them have it. In fact when you strip away the poor understanding of economics and the constant belittling of fast food workers all this piece really represents is someone feeling that everyone should have to go through the same struggles as he did. Not an honest examination of whether those struggles were fair to begin with. Another macro issue Walsh never sees is that the economy today cannot be compared to any other time in the history of this country. We no longer make anything but happy meals in this country. The workers in fast food establishments today may have been factory workers decades ago. But the rich and powerful made sure we off-shored all of those jobs to the indigent in third world countries who are thrilled to work for 25 cents an hour, 18 hours a day with no bathroom breaks. Walsh continues:

"Why? Because, despite what Elizabeth Warren might tell you, these fast food franchise owners have a finite amount of money to spend on operating expenses. They aren't making millions in profits, most of them, so when you come along and say, "hey, your labor costs just doubled -- congratulations!" that business owner will have to make decisions."

Yes, mocking one of the only senators willing to stand up for the little guy in this country should reveal who Walsh is shilling for here. If that doesn't just check the links he keeps sourcing like Forbes and The Socialist Worker. Regardless, his arguments here are silly. Of course if you increase wages you increase operating expenses. We are talking about billion dollar industries folks. In 2012 McDonalds raked in 27.5 billion dollars and over 5.5 billion in straight profit. The average McDonalds franchise owner makes over $200,000 annually. This number obviously skews much higher in more urban settings. To cry poverty from the upper middle class does not hold water when compared to people who actually live in abject poverty. Back to the blog:

"You might be aware that "studies" exist "proving" the minimum wage increases employment and reduces poverty. But studies can prove anything you want them to prove, and in this case, most credible research indicates the opposite."

I agree that you can craft studies to find any result you want. Which is why I put more credibility into the source than the study. When Bloomberg News and Nobel Prize winning economists all agree that there is zero link between wage hikes and job losses I will take my stand with that. This is usually the cry from the rich. If they are forced to pay their workers a livable wage they threaten to take their ball and go home. I say let them. Go ahead. I double dare you. Because the big secret is they would never do so. There will always be someone waiting to take their place in the food chain but might be willing to do so for just a little bit less. Just a smidge less greedy. Like the CEO in Seattle this week who cut his own million dollar salary to give all of his workers a significant pay hike. Nevertheless, Walsh plows forward:

"Do you think it can happen in a vacuum? Do you think we can magically take a 17-year-old Wendy's employee, give him a salary commensurate with law enforcement officers and emergency medical workers, and everything will just continue along as normal?"

Here we stumble upon another myth. That those who work in fast food stores are kids. The average age of a fast food worker today is 29 years old and 26% of them are raising families. Now, I will admit that is a profoundly sad statistic that speaks to just how morally bankrupt we are as a country but Walsh would seek to compound that immorality by demonizing the people who are forced into such work to survive. As for his question here I have an answer he probably never considered. We should not hope that providing a living wage for people would result in everything else continuing as normal. I would personally hope that it would result in police officers being paid what they are worth. As well as EMTs and the rest of the strawman arguments he has propped up in his article. Once again, missing the macro forest for his little tree he wants to keep chopping down. The problem is not that the fast food worker is demanding to not have to work full time and still live in poverty. The problem is also that the police officer only makes 29K. Or the airline pilot. The problem is in the continuing degrading of our once proud society into the oligarchy it is today. To the Matt Walsh's of the world, it is OK that the top 2% own 98% of the wealth. They are the risk takers! They are the entrepreneurs! They are the job creators! Just ask Sean Hannity or Neil Cavuto! Never mind that they made their fortunes on the backs of the people they refuse to provide a living wage for. Never mind that those people work full time and then still have to be subsidized by welfare from the government. Walsh now starts to unravel:

"That is, unless these other professions raise their incomes to compete, which they can't afford to do, so look for the inevitable mass firings to extend beyond the doors of your fast food establishment and out into virtually every other industry in the country. This is to say nothing of the hike in living expenses that will naturally follow when millions of people are given a huge collective raise overnight."

In the nightmare dreamscape of a post living wage hell that Walsh foresees, everyone will decide to flip burgers instead of becoming firefighters and policemen. What a foolishly ignorant argument. It ignores the benefits of each job. The pension and retirement advantages involved in working for a municipality versus Burger King. The upward mobility within non-burger jobs. This is how you know the article is either poorly thought out or willfully deceptive. Not to mention the obvious. The market will adjust. Walsh assumes incorrectly that other jobs cannot afford to raise their respective wages and that is not reality based either. The truth is there is just as much money today as there was in the boom of the 1990's. We are not a poorer nation. The problem is that the wealth has been systematically consolidated into the hands of the few and when the serfs come to them with their hand out begging for another bowl of gruel they dispatch the Matt Walsh's of the world to try and shame them for their poverty. Ironically here in this last quote Walsh predicts a living expense explosion if people are given a higher wage while ignoring the fact that they have had no raise for decades yet have had to survive massive increases in the cost of living. Here is the last excerpt:

"Want to live comfortably? That's a fine goal. But it's just that: a goal. The government can't give you your goals on a silver platter. One way or another, you have to achieve them."

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Anthony Wade, a contributing writer to opednews.com, is dedicated to educating the populace to the lies and abuses of the government. He is a 53-year-old independent writer from New York with political commentary articles seen on multiple (more...)

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