McDonald’s, I’m Lovin’ it! …NOT

Freedom or Fairness?

It seems there are two polarized schools of thought in the USA.

On one side, independent, “fend for yourself” free-marketers with Ayn Rand-based philosophy passionately protect our right to claim our independence, create our own destiny and reap the rewards of our work.

On the other hand, well-meaning people cry, “unfair!” and demand that big business actually care about people, do the right thing and share some of those fat profits with the people responsible for making it happen.

Who is right?

I am a big fan of Bob Bly, a writer and marketer who, like me, has a healthy and reasonable belief that both sides are correct. Now, before you call us wishy-washy, understand that sharing opposing viewpoints is not only common, but much more reasonable.

Certainly, unfettered capitalism, with no regard to health, safety and fairness would be problematic. Surely some regulations and protections are needed to protect innocent people. (no one is FORCING us to work anywhere, like Bob, I probably lean to the right on this issue)

Likewise, overly protecting people puts serious breaks on economic growth and builds barriers to free trade. The more regulations we have, the only people who win are the bureaucrats. Corporations, shareholders and their workers all suffer from spending too much time managing paperwork instead of creating value.

I’ll let Bob share his wisdom in  a recent newsletter…

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McDonald’s came under fire again a few months back for giving its minimum-wage employees financial advice on how to live more frugally.The company’s McResource Line advised Mickey D workers: “Consider returning some of your unopened purchases that may not seem as appealing as they did.”McDonald’s management suggests that their poorly paid wage slaves “sell some of your unwanted possessions on eBay or Craigslist to bring in some quick cash.”

MD’s underpaid workers are also advised by management to break food into pieces, because that often results in eating less and still feeling full. Now, this story gives me mixed feelings. And here’s why:

On the one hand, while I am sympathetic to the near impossibility of getting by when you earn minimum wage, I am not sure that – as a free market capitalist – I am really in favor of forcing employers to raise the minimum wage they pay.

My favorite essayist, Barbara Ehrenreich, wrote a moving book about working for minimum wage, “Nickel and Dimed.” The liberal media portrays the workers as the victims and the heroes, and the bosses and business owners as greedy thieves.

But here’s an opposing view: through our risk-taking and hard work, we entrepreneurs build businesses that provide our employees and vendors with jobs they need and would otherwise
not have.

If you are being paid too little, rather than picket for a raise, why not focus on building your skill set to the point where you add more value to your employer or customer?

If your services then begin to contribute more to the bottom line, they’ll happily pay you to make them more money. To quote Sylvester Stallone talking to his son in Rocky Balboa: “Go out and get what you’re worth.” If you’re not worth that much, acquire the knowledge and skills that will make you worth what you want to be paid.

On the other hand, I applaud McDonald’s for the practical advice they are providing employees to help them manage their household budgets more effectively.

I wholeheartedly agree that consumers at all income levels buy too much crap they don’t need. And when you spend more than you make, as do so many poor and rich people alike, you set yourself up for financial woes. To quote Robocop: “There will betrouble.”

I grew up in the very poor city of Paterson, NJ. When I was 8, my dad would drive me around town in his 1962 Chevrolet Belair, a collector’s model of which I display on a shelf in my office
to remind me of him. Even though he is gone now for 17 years, I still miss him terribly.

When we drove to the poorest sections, packed with unemployed people lounging on the stoops of decaying multi-family houses in which they rented dingy apartments, dad told me, “Look at what you see.”

And in front of every poor, run-down house was the same car: a big, brand-new Cadillac, polished to a fine gleam.

The best piece of financial advice I ever heard is from Florida freelance writer David Kohn, who on a panel at a writer’s conference, advised the attendees: “Live below your means.”

When you live below your means, you reduce the pressure to make a lot of money, and can live comfortably on what you bring home. You can still own a nice car – in dad’s case, a Chevy instead of a Caddy – and sleep a lot better at night.

I know several very wealthy men. Two that come to mind are Sy Sperling, founder of The Hair Club for Men, and former heavyweight contender Gerry Cooney.

Both men have plenty of money, and both could afford to drive a Rolls Royce, as Sy pointed out to me. (Cooney was paid $8 million for the Holmes fight alone.)

But Sy drives a Lexus, and Gerry drives an Infinity, albeit a larger model to accommodate his 6’7″ frame. And they both seem content and happy with their cars.

I find the trend today of Internet marketers toward ostentatious displays of wealth with the purchase of Rolls Royces and other mega-expensive luxury cars to be unfortunate and a bad lesson for their followers.

Look, these wealthy entrepreneurs are entitled to spend their wealth the way they want to. But you should not follow their lead.

I am not as rich as a lot of these guys, but I am a multi-millionaire … and I drive a 2008 Prius, which I love.

I like the simple advice in the book “The Wealthy Barber,” which says that when you get money, sock away 10% of it. Then you can use whatever is left to pay bills, pay for the kids’s tuition, vacation, own toys, whatever.

Sincerely,

Bob Bly

P.S. Until recently the only luxury item I ever owned – seriously, no joke — was a Mont Blanc pen, and it turned out to give me more grief than it was worth. The story is in my book of essays, “Count Your Blessings,” published by Thomas Nelson and available on Amazon at:

www.bly.com/Blessings

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.