By Jim Hightower on October 29, 2013

Let us all now bow before the god of free enterprise, whose awesomeness was revealed in a recent news release announcing that the divine managers of fast-food demi-god McDonald's achieved a profit of $1.5 billion in just three months this summer.

Holy Big Mac! How did it do that? Peek behind the curtain and you'll see that McDonald's secret power is thee and me -- America's taxpayers. The corporation rips off its huge workforce by paying poverty wages and no benefits, then directs the workers to the food stamp office and other government-funded safety-net programs.

Neat, huh? A major chunk of the chain's cost-of-doing-business disappears from the corporate books and -- shazam! -- reappears on the government's books. In fact, the National Employment Law Project reports that McDonald's phenomenal $1.5 billion profit is bloated by an estimated $1.2 billion that we taxpayers will shell out this year to support its predatory wage-and-benefit policy. Aren't you "lovin' it," as the chain's ads say?

But the golden arches are not alone in this fast-food flimflam. The conglomerate owner of KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken), Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell duns us for $648 million to underwrite its poverty pay. Subway burrows into us for $436 million. Burger King, (a British outfit) taps us for $356 million, little sweet Wendy's grabs more than a quarter-billion bucks from us, and Dunkin' Donuts dips into our pockets for $274 million.

And look here -- it's Domino's pizza, whose extremist right-wing owner says he hates government spending. But he's picking taxpayers' pockets to the tune of $126 million to subsidize his "free" enterprise.

These corporate powers piously preach about the "magic" of the marketplace, but as these facts reveal, magicians don't do magic -- they perform illusions.

Listen to this commentary:

Photo: French McDonald's workers on strike, via Flickr user Tilemahos Efthimiadis, creative commons licensed.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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