THE BLOG
12/31/2013 03:14 pm ET Updated Mar 02, 2014

Are American Taxpayers Subsidizing McDonald's?

When ordering an Egg McMuffin, I've often wondered how fast food workers get by on their barely minimum wage pay; and suspected that many are forced to rely on public assistance to feed and shelter their families.

In the wake of the McDonald's McResource blunder, where according to CNBC, the employee resource site provided the following seemingly callous and careless advice to their workers:

"Detailed tipping advice for workers, many of whom make around minimum wage. It listed pricey suggestions for tipping au pairs, personal fitness trainers and pool cleaners from etiquette maven Emily Post--advice it removed after a CNBC inquiry.

McDonald's also published a budget guide that included no money for heat and $20 a month for health care."

The absurdly out of touch advice prompted me to do a bit of digging to see just what kind of tipping, heat, and health care the average McDonald's worker can afford.

I came across a study out of the University of California, Berkeley, Fast Food, Poverty Wages: The Public Cost of Low-wage Jobs in the Fast-Food Industry, which claims:

• More than half (52 percent) of the families of front-line fast-food workers are enrolled in one or more public programs, compared to 25 percent of the workforce as a whole.

• The cost of public assistance to families of workers in the fast-food industry is nearly $7 billion per year.

That's even higher than I'd imagined.

Something is very wrong if major fast food outlets are paying such a low wage; taxpayer money is being expended on public assistance programs so their workers can eat.

How can the economy grow if some fast food workers can't afford to purchase the food they serve, and rely on government assistance to survive? The inequality is emblematic and devastating.

American taxpayers may just be "picking up the tab" for fast food companies, who have been largely successful at avoiding paying a living wage to front line workers.

Increasingly, it seems we live in a world where those who can afford a well-connected army of lobbyists, give the most campaign donations, have a crack PR team and damage control experts, wins.

Will Capitol Hill, keep leading us down a grease soaked perilous path, helping a very few, make millions (or billions), while the regular serfs suffer?

Remember, next time you're ordering at the drive through, according to Fast Food, Poverty Wages: The Public Cost of Low-wage Jobs in the Fast-Food Industry, the person serving you has a better than 50/50 chance of needing some kind of public assistance funded by your tax dollars to survive, while the fast food company they work for pays low wages and turns a profit. And, we haven't even touched on the cost of the obesity epidemic.

To me, that fast food burger doesn't seem like such a great deal anymore.