Monthly Archives: July 2013

Folbre: McDonald’s a monument to low-wages for workers

This post by UMass Amherst Department of Economics Professor Emeritus Nancy Folbre was originally published on July 22, 2013 by The New York Times.

The 300 Billionth Burger
by Nancy Folbre

Nancy Folbre

Nancy Folbre

The monument is a towering one. Only ballpark estimates are available, because McDonald’s stopped posting estimates of its cumulative burger sales when they reached 99 billion in 1994. But the company is on track to hit the 300 billion mark in the near future, if it hasn’t already.

With total revenue that exceeds the gross domestic product of Ecuador, McDonald’s is virtually a culinary country of its own. Not surprisingly, it has become a recurrent focus of political contention.

This year’s protests against the low pay of its employees reflect larger concerns about the decline of good jobs in the United States, and the company’s recently published personal budgeting advice reflects remarkably widespread disregard for people trying to get by on poverty-level wages.

A company that can sell 300 billion burgers clearly knows how to respond to consumer concerns. As Eric Schlosser explains in “Fast Food Nation,” McDonald’s moved relatively quickly to improve standards of humane treatment for the (nonhuman) animals in its supply chain. In the wake of bad publicity from Morgan Spurlock’s film “Supersize Me,” the company made significant efforts to improve the nutritional value of its menu. Last year, the company took the lead in a commitment to post calorie counts for every item.

Of course, the company’s nutritional impact is influenced by policies over which it has little direct control. In the United States, Big Macs cost less than a salad largely because our agricultural policies subsidize the price of meat far more generously than the prices of fresh vegetables and fruits.

Badgett: Marriage equality brings in the money

M.V. Lee Badgett

M.V. Lee Badgett

In Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration plans to defend the state’s same-sex marriage ban in court, without the state’s Attorney General Kathleen Kane, who opposes the ban on ethical grounds. Supporters of marriage equality find another compelling reason besides fairness to institute the policy: money. In New York City, the first year of same-sex marriages brought in $16 million for the City itself and another $259 million for hotels, wedding planners, vendors and other associated businesses. Texas, meanwhile, loses about $60 million per year in same-sex wedding related revenue. An article in the Philadelphia Inquirer quoted economics professor and director of the Center for Public Policy and Administration, M.V. Lee Badgett on the issue. “‘It’s big,'” said Lee Badgett. ‘Many couples who want to get married, it’s a special day, so they spend lots of money. They invite friends and family, and they spend lots of money.'” (Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/16/13)


Professors Randall Bausor and Nancy Folbre retire

The UMass Amherst Department of Economics announces the retirements of Professors Randall Bausor and Nancy Folbre.


Randall Basuor

Randall Bausor earned his PhD from Duke and joined the department 1979. He served as Undergraduate Program Director from 2000-2009. He most recently coordinated a newly implemented Undergraduate Research Assistantship program, partnering undergraduate students with faculty members to research topics such as Allison Glass’ work with Diane Flaherty on the garment industry in developing countries. Professor Bausor regularly taught History of Economic Thought and his research interests include mathematical economics.

Nancy Folbre

Nancy Folbre

Nancy Folbre earned her PhD from UMass Amherst. After receiving her doctorate, she taught at Bowdoin College and the New School for Social Research before joining the department as associate professor in 1984. Professor Folbre describes her research interests as the “interface between feminist theory and political economy, with a particular interest in caring labor and other forms of non-market work.” She is a weekly contributor to the New York Times Economix blog and is the author of over a dozen books including Greed, Lust and Gender: A History of Economic Ideas (2009), Saving State U: Why We Must Fix Public Higher Education (2009), and Valuing Children: Rethinking the Economics of the Family (2008).

Department members attend ‘Budget For All’ hearing

‘Budget For All’ is a proposal to reduce federal spending on defense programs and shift some funding to social programs as a more balanced way to reduce the federal budget deficit and total debt. A non-binding referendum passed 3 to 1 in November 2012, and the Massachusetts state legislature is the sole legislature in the nation that has proposed a bill supporting the budget in session.

Locals participate in ‘Budget For All’ hearing in Boston – Daily Hampshire Gazette

Two local academics traveled with Theberge to testify at the three-hour hearing. Thomas Herndon, a graduate student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, cited his recent work in debunking a Harvard University study that concluded austerity measures rather than spending are needed in a recession.

Heidi Garrett-Peltier, an assistant research professor in economics at UMass, described studies she has done that show twice as many jobs are generated by investing in education as in the military.

Resolution proposes anti-austerity DC message – WWLP-22 TV

“Clean energy and healthcare create about 50 percent more jobs [than defense],” said UMass Amherst Assistant Economics Professor Heidi Garrett-Peltier.  “If we have to make cuts we are worse off cutting education, we’d lose twice as many jobs as making cuts to the military budget.”