Dissing low-wage jobs

Yes, it’s bad when GM and Nationwide Insurance do it in their ads. But is it any better when our progressive friends do it in their speeches and columns?

I’m with Brad DeLong: dissing people who do tough, low-wage jobs is rude. He’s right to say that if GM and Nationwide think that doing so is a good way to appeal to Super Bowl watchers, we’re way too far down the road to the Second Gilded Age. With any luck, we’ll get to look back on the elections of 2006 and 2008 as the moment when the country decided to switch course.

But to be fair, it’s not only big corporations that add insult to injury by making fun of the people in MimimumWageLand and the essential jobs they do. How many speeches have we all heard, and how many columns have we all read, deploring the economic trends that replace good jobs with “dead-end, burger-flipping” “McJobs” paying “chump change”?

If you had to flip burgers for a living, how would those speeches make you feel? And if you were a recent high-school dropout deciding between McDonald’s and one or another street hustle, how would the image of McDonald’s workers as losers &#8212 as carried in your own mind and in the minds of those around you &#8212 influence that choice?

So let’s watch what we say, all right?

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com