A new article in the New York Times highlights the fact that Denmark's fast food workers make $20/hour, and the country's economy has shockingly failed to collapse into a post-apocalyptic morass of universal poverty and entitlement. Imagine that.
Fast food workers in Denmark don't get rich — the cost of living is higher there, as American plutocrat apologists love to point out. But at the same time, as the NYT article points out, they certainly make enough to get by:
On a recent afternoon, Hampus Elofsson ended his 40-hour workweek at a Burger King and prepared for a movie and beer with friends. He had paid his rent and all his bills, stashed away some savings, yet still had money for nights out.
The really interesting kicker is that Denmark actually has no legally-enforced minimum wage — but they do have extremely powerful unions to negotiate directly with fast food corporations. Steve Caldeira, an empty, soulless suit schilling for the International Franchise Association (whose job it is to screw over franchises in order to help out their parent companies), is actually right when he says that in Denmark, "Unions dominate, and the employment system revolves around that fact." He's just objectively wrong that it'd be a bad thing if America operated the same way.
Some of the arguments against higher wages for fast food workers are rooted in obvious classism ("why should they be able to survive while working a job I deem to be beneath me"), and occasionally one might have merit (higher wages are often made possible by a far more functional system of social programs than we have in America — while $15/hour would most likely work without major structural changes to the way we view social welfare, $20 might not), but others are laughably ridiculous. Caldeira, for instance, claims that "Denmark is a smaller country." It would be funny that people actually thought that mattered if members of Congress weren't forwarding that lunatic notion with a straight face. Then there's the argument that, while true, is also one they bizarrely think anyone other than them should care about: corporations would make less profit (but still not go out of business). My response to that argument basically boils down to, "GOOD. FUCK 'EM."*
The argument that cannot be made with a straight face, though, is the notion that higher wages for low-end workers would be bad for the country itself. Half of all fast food workers in the US are on some form of government assistance, and we all know by now that major corporations encourage this situation. A lot of low-to-mid-wage earners accept the notion of fiscal oppression because they secretly hope they might somehow one day join the oppressor class (even though that won't happen), or because they're too stupid to know they're being taken advantage of, or because they're Ayn Rand-worshipping sociopaths. Lower wages are good for corporations and corporations only, and not in any way for America as a country or for any Americans who aren't major corporate shareholders.
Denmark's system works, and the only reason we won't adopt it here is because at least half the country has been successfully duped into thinking "socialism" is a bad word. God, we suck.
*Fast food places in Denmark aren't nearly as successful from an overall corporate standpoint as they are in America — but they're not collapsing or barely struggling to get by, either. They do just fine, it's just that top executives can only afford one yacht per year instead of seven.
Image via Gertjan Hooijer/Shutterstock. If you don't think I'm going to be saying that name to myself and giggling for the rest of the night, you don't know me very well.