Putting McDonald’s Out of Business

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The fact that Mickey D’s may be forced to raise prices because of higher commodity costs isn’t entirely bad news; but it’s not entirely good either.

In a fair world, anything that discourages people from eating at McDonald’s could be seen as wonderful. Reflecting the true cost of a cheeseburger – one that includes the health care costs that appear down the road, or the environmental costs that few people seem concerned about – would be a good thing. By discouraging the consumption of cheeseburgers, higher prices would encourage better health and less environmental damage.

But there is the argument that for people who don’t have time, place, or ability to shop or cook, fast food is all-too-often the only alternative. (One could argue that Taco Bell’s bean burrito (370 calories) is a splendid alternative, and if it’s cheaper than a double  cheeseburger (440 calories) so much the better; but you can’t deny that McD’s is ubiquitous like nothing else.)

I will tell you what would be fair, even though we’re nowhere near making it happen: Subsidies for consumers – especially less-well-off consumers – instead of corporations. Tax breaks for retailers who open new stores in so-called food deserts. Tax breaks for consumers who buy and cook real food. Training of the unemployed to help shop and cook for people who can’t do so themselves; training of those same unemployed to teach cooking to people who simply need skills. Put all that together, and Mickey D’s can price itself right out of business.

(Photo Credit: Mike Licht via Flickr)

Posted in Food Politics

19 Comments

  1. MomBug said...

    Micky D’s isn’t the problem. The problem is folks who cannot afford healthy food and/or lack the knowledge. Despite your feelings on the subject I don’t worry about a meal there now and then. Its not a regular meal plan.

  2. Seestur said...

    Sure, MomBug, the concern is not for people who eat it now and then, but as a regular part of their diet. You’re fooling yourself if you think there aren’t many, especially given the extent to which the sodium and other junk in McDonald’s food makes it border line addictive. I love that Mark presented some common sense options for solving the problems you mention with people making real food, all the while helping people get back to work.It’s fine to say you "can’t afford real food," but if you can’t afford collards (39 cents a pound) or beans (pennies a serving) you can’t really afford a double cheeseburger, either. Let alone the deleterious health effects. What that means is that the rest of the country ends up picking up the tab when the chronic mcdonald’s eater needs a triple bypass down the road. WE can’t afford that, either.

  3. Alex M. Pruteanu said...

    Mombug, YOU may not, but for others it’s de rigueur. Read what Mark said: SUBSIDIES FOR CONSUMERS–ESPECIALLY LESS WELL OFF CONSUMERS, INSTEAD OF CORPORATIONS. Did you catch that the first time around? While I wholeheartedly agree with Mark, I don’t see this possibility here in this country, where pretty much everything that might be of benefit to the consumer is being labeled as Socialism. Americans are dumb, have gotten dumber in my 30 years of living in this country, and are only getting worse. McD’s will never go out of business, unfortunately.

  4. Michael Hawkins said...

    I hadn’t been to a McDonald’s in years but recently took a walk by their drive-through menu board to have a look at what current prices are. I was shocked – all of the "value meals" were around $7 and up, plus tax (13% HST here in eastern Canada). A filet-o-fish "value meal", a sandwich that, if I recall correctly, is almost not there, is $6.19. A 10-piece nugget "value meal" is $8.99, upsize to large fry and drink and you’re up to $9.99. Add tax and you’re thumped for $11.29. I can quite literally walk across the street from the Golden Arches in my little town and buy a live lobster ($7 per pound right now) or a T-Bone steak ($5.49 per pound on special yesterday – good deal!) for less money.

  5. killingMother said...

    Mark’s ideas are wondeful, but as Alex M. notes above, anything that remotely helps real people is classified as welfare, socialism, etc. It’s too bad people don’t know how to vote for their own interests. The vast majority are swayed by corporate propaganda as they vote themselves into poverty. http://www.killingmother.blogspot.com.

  6. Richard Beck said...

    I think it’s a real question of education. We need a huge community outreach effort to convince poorer and less well educated people that they can cook and eat well for less than the cost of a MacDonalds.It’s understandable that there is concern that raising food prices will have a detrimental effect on the poor, hence the need for education.In an ideal world, we would reduce subsidies to Big Ag and ensure that they pay for the healthcare an environmental costs linked to their food products.

  7. Alex M. Pruteanu said...

    Richard, yes. EDUCATION. But…but…we’re talking about the United States and its obvious aversion to education in general. The day people started calling educated citizens elites, is the day the whole ship went down the toilet. Where I come from–virtually a 3rd world country (Romania)–education is THE number 1 goal/focus of every citizen. Romanians would look upon grammar and spelling errors made by its citizens not as "typos" but as failures in the education system. I’m not praising my country–Romania is quite close to being an aberration, but surely if THEY stress education we need to, as well. I’m tried of being called elitist because of my degree. Also, if we could somehow educate citizens that what McD’s and its fast food counterparts are selling is not food but chemical-laden products we might have a start.

  8. vadoug said...

    Oh, hush up and mind your own business. McDonalds food, consumed in moderation, doesn’t hurt anybody. If it doesn’t appeal to refined Noo Yawk Times columnist sensibilities, then they should dine elsewhere.

  9. Alex M. Pruteanu said...

    If you start tracing the line and seeing how Big Agro (hi Monsanto!) lobbies for supremacy into our lives, you realize how detrimental lobbying in general has been to our generations–from the early 50s on. Yes, on paper Capitalism works because it offers the consumer choice, and competition is good for the consumer…only Corporations don’t want competition–hence mergers, hostile takeovers, etc. (where’s that Mom and Pop hardware store now that Lowe’s is on the block? Or Wal-Mart?). American citizens who vote need to be drilled into their heads that Big Anything (Agro, Pharma, etc.) is detrimental. And their lobbying Congress is the final death blow to our livelihood as citizens.

  10. Alex M. Pruteanu said...

    Hey Vadoug, you are quite free to eat cow shite and ecoli in your burger consumed "in moderation." But be a responsible parent (if you are a parent) and don’t feed shit to your kids. Do them that favour.

  11. Richard Beck said...

    @vadoug Actually, I am minding my own business. The consumption and creation of fast food is driving costs in healthcare and causing environmental damage. This is effecting me because it’s making my healthcare more expensive, less available and damaging my environment.I would love for those costs to be present in the purchase price of McDonald rather than being assumed by society as a whole.In that way, you can be totally responsible for your choice without me having to assume responsibility for your choices.

  12. Susan Covey said...

    You may not know that non-profits and public health organizations are reaching out in effective ways. I’m a training supervisor for new Food Stamp workers in my county. Several farmers markets are participating in a program where Food Stamp recipients (more folks now than in the history of the program) swipe their benefit cards and receive tokens for buying fresh produce. Plus, for every $10 worth of tokens they buy at the farmers market, they get an additional $5 worth of tokens to expand their buying power at the market. Some programs across the country as much as double the recipient’s buying power when fresh produce is purchased at farmers markets. In my area, this program was initially established in a severely underserved inner city neighborhood. It’s a big challenge to motivate merchants to engage in serving the families that need food assistance, but people are out there organizing to help make it happen.

  13. Jennifer Grant said...

    "But there is the argument that for people who don’t have time, place, or ability to shop or cook, fast food is all-too-often the only alternative." First, If an individual can navigate the fast food buying process they are already shopping, and if they are eating fast food they are not learning to cook. Second, many people actually save time by carrying food with them rather than going out in search of it. Even without a kitchen there are plenty of options in the grocery store, farmer’s market, etc. that are less expensive and healthier than McDonalds. I think it is a fallacy to say fast food is ever the only alternative when many people go without it every day and in many different ways.

  14. Michelle Hooper-Graceffa said...

    The sad example that comes to my mind, is the memory of a mother and her two boys, who arrived at summer swim camp everyday with a sack of McDonalds, or other fast food. She drove an expensive SUV, and it was obvious saving money was not her objective, but convenience was. Her family wasn’t the only ones who felt "they deserved a break that day", the pool’s parking lot was littered daily with the bags, and fast food containers from other families to busy to care.So go ahead and enjoy your McJunk in moderation, but please don’t leave your trash behind for society to pick up… we’re burdened enough by the health, and environmental complications caused by the cost of convenience!

  15. Trish Boyce said...

    I think the problem (at least in part) goes back to the lack of food culture in this country – combined with the large businesses taking advantage of this. The food in chain restaurants tastes terrible to me, but my husband, who is not particular, thinks it’s fine. I can’t imagine any French or Italian person would willingly eat at one of our ubiquitous chain restaurants. Somehow in this country it is more acceptable be consumed by your career than to think about how to prepare and consume healthy food. One day I was pushed for time and I got a grilled chicken sandwich at McD’s – I was really hungry, but I couldn’t eat it. Bleck. I didn’t grow up with great food – I painstakingly taught myself to cook. I don’t know, what would be wrong with including cooking classes as curriculum in schools – oh, yea, no money.

  16. fvfarm said...

    Yes, Trish- I totally think you are right- we have no food culture. we are such a mishmash of cultures most of it is lost. I am so glad I was raised in the deep south where we ate real food growing up. I remember as a teenager, our family getting all spruced up for a night out, we were going to the new McDonald’s that opened in our area. we sat there , eating looking at each other, and said, hum…. they will never make it…………..

  17. Jerry Alan Carroll said...

    Now that i don’t live in the US I realize how pathetic the majority appears. Americans love to blame someone else for their problems. Remember, it is all supply and demand. don’t punish McDs for giving people what they want.

  18. Alex M. Pruteanu said...

    Jerry, that is true, and I agree with you. But also what McD’s has been doing for decades is actually "growing" its customers; getting them while they’re young. In marketing it’s a well-known strategy called "the nag factor." That is to say, they advertise to the kids, in order that the kids nag the hell out of their parents (example: Pleeeease mommy, pleeeeease? I want to go to McDonaaaaalds). Unfortunately, the parents give in. And also unfortunately, the parents had been brainwashed/trained by their own parents to eat there.My issue w/McD’s is just that: targeting kids w/their advertising.

  19. alfed84 said...

    @ Jerry Alan Carrol – what you’re not considering is the enormous subsidies available for big agriculture in this country. Sure, if it were purely supply and demand McD’s couldn’t charge artificially lower prices; however industrial farming is one of the most heavily subsidized industries in the U.S. and until there’s some recognition of the true ‘market’ price this problem will be here for a while. In your argument, supply and demand in the food industry isn’t allowed to function like other commodities – the supply cost is artificially low for certain farms and growers. This as you know increases demand and lowers the consumer’s price.And no one is ‘punishing’ McD’s – if anything Uncle Sam rewards them quite handsomely.

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