John Mulaney's new stand-up album has a terrific bit about the New York Post, which is by consensus the worst newspaper in the U.S. if not the world. While Fox News and other right-wing tabloid media outlets have their defenders, they rarely waste any time trying to stick up for the Post. Written at a third-grade level and mostly full of things that aren't true, the Post is written by and for complete idiots with no real pretense of journalistic integrity.

As bad as its "news" is, nothing holds a candle to the Post opinion page. I've college dailies with fewer ass-headed screeds than what is supposedly a major newspaper from America's cultural metropolis. If some braying fratboy can type it, the Post will print it. And that's how we ended up being alternately entertained and horrified last week when they saw fit to publish some "Do you know who my dad is?" tool's love letter to the "greatest food in human history", the McDonald's double.

This is old news by now and most of what can be said about this idiocy has already been said. Two things stuck out to me but haven't attracted much attention.

First, this is loaded to the gunwales with every cheap, tired, cliche "liberal" joke in the right wing arsenal – the only things missing are Jane Fonda, hairy armpits, and "limousine liberals". Since this got past an editor, we can assume that hackneyed, predictable tripe is not a bug in this case but a major feature of the paper. This kind of cheap write-to-the-stereotypes nonsense is precisely what passes for opinion and commentary among college freshmen, and their views only get published when the editor and publisher want to stir up some "controversy" and bask in the attention that follows. The Post prints the same kind of crap just because that's what the Post prints.

Second, the kind of economics on which he bases this claim are inappropriate. We know the price of the sandwich, but do we know if it's a loss leader? McDonald's might very well be selling it below cost just to get people through the door (the real profit maker for most fast food restaurants is the soft drink dispenser, where one cent worth of syrup mixes with one cent worth of water to make a $1.49 regular drink). Does the production of the components of the sandwich benefit from government subsidies? If so, it seems that we would have to account for 1) subsidies and 2) a retailer willing to sell the product below cost before we could make a meaningful comparison between a fast food burger and those frou frou vegetables.

There might be a silver lining to his stupidity, though. This piece has attracted such wide attention that more people might start paying attention to the fundamental problem with our food system: the inverse relationship between cost and calories. Rather than celebrating, we should be alarmed that $5 at a grocery store can buy 3000 calories of complete shit of no nutritional value whatsoever. What the poor can afford barely counts as food in many cases, and the McDouble is a perfect example. Make a hamburger on your grill. Take a bite. Then take a bite of a McDouble. Notice how they taste nothing alike. That's because one is made of ground beef and the other is made of inert gray matter sprayed with beef flavoring, dyed caramel brown, and fried before being enveloped in several variants of processed corn. It may be calories – as are Faygo, potato chips, gummy bears, and the other detritus available for 1000 calories per dollar at your grocery store – but it isn't food. There's a difference, and it would be foolish to expect the crack staff of the New York Post to appreciate it.

33 thoughts on “HIDDEN COSTS”

  • Kyle Smith actually writes some halfway decent movie reviews. I see his name on Rottentomatoes all the time. The byline of this piece even says Blog:Movies. I'm not really sure what this has to do with movies.

  • You're right about the editorial page, but mistaken about the rest of the paper. I had a friend who worked there, and the local news and business coverage and individual reporters are at least as competent as at any other respectable paper. You can see how the tabloid part works by reading any article not on the opinion page. The first 2-3 paragraphs are written to stoke outrage by exaggerration, innuendo, and outright lies (same for headlines) after which, often, that tone simply vanishes and straight reporting occurs. I have seen the same style in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, a similarly afflicted organization (though without the nonetheless deserved tabloid rep — see Sheppard, Sam). The Post is a terrible paper, and Andrea Peyser is, all by herself, an argument for the cancellation of the First Amendment, but many of the line writers are actually competent and intelligent people. My friend went from the Post to the New York Times based on his legitimate reporting at the Post. Editorial orthodoxy is strong there, which is the basis of its awfulness.

  • Stupid people, businesses and institutions all like attention brought to their enterprises, even when it's critical. I wouldn't be surprised if the McWorld got a bump from all this publicity.

  • c u n d gulag says:

    Outside of the Sports section, which is actually not that bad, the NY Post is so atrociously stupid and poorly written, that I wouldn't wrap a dead fish in it, because it would be an insult to the intelligence of the poor dead fish.

    And I wouldn't use it to line a birdcage, because it would scare so much sh*t out of the poor bird that it would poop out all of it's insides, and die – and then I wouldn't bury the dead bird in the paper, because it would be an insult to the intelligence of the poor dead bird.

  • Sure, askin' for 12 bucks an hour working at Micky D's might seem like a good idea at first, but then think of all those extra nickels you'd have to spend on the burgers! It just wouldn't be worth it. Yeah, Kyle Smith's a real friend of the workin' man.

  • For 5 or 6 bucks we got a rotisserie chicken at Costco the other day, ate off of it for two meals and put the rest in the freezer. The thing had thighs on it like an NFL line-backer. Tasted really good, too

    My point is, for the price of a McMultipleCalorieFatSlab and fries, you can make a decent meal with a little thought and shopping.

    I realize not everyone has a Costco in their back yard. In my pat of the world you can get a rotisserie chicken at most groceries and markets for under 7 bucks. You can get 15 lbs of potatoes for pretty cheap. Add some veggies and you can feed the family a much tastier and more nutritious meal for about what a trip McD's will cost.

    If you're either really daring or a committed leftist pinko radical, you can try adding some fresh fruit. Mot of it is in season right now.


  • Wow; this idiot's argument for eating grease and corn-derived extracts is that it doesn't spoil as fast? Yikes.

  • You really want to throw up in your own mouth when you discover on YouTube a children's choir singing the Fast Food Song: MacDonalds, MacDonalds! Kentucky Fried Chicken and Pizza Hut!

    Or go to Toys R Us and see the Quarter Pounders and Fries ( made in China out of plastic, of course) that you can give your kids to inspire brand loyalty.

  • I love how he subtly equates eating vegetables and giving at least a rat's ass about how food is grown with being an elitist limousine liberal with one's foot on the throat of real 'Mericans.

    I also love how he selectively cites the nutritional value in a McDouble: ". . . 20% of daily calcium and so on." I looked up the complete "nutrition" facts on the McDouble. Let's say you ate 5 of these a day and nothing else. That would be about 2000 calories a day. The "and so on" would include well over twice your daily allowance of sodium and only 10% of your vitamin C. I'm frankly surprised the latter was that high. If you like high blood pressure and scurvy, this is the diet for you!

  • I don't get it. He even quotes "empty calories". Is he aware the biological point of eating is both energy AND nutrition? Also, his "organic is the Abercrombie and Fitch of food" is a pop-culture fail and I feel sorry for him. A&F are not even on the expensive-denim continuum; their jeans hover around the 80-100 buck range (I had to go online and check; the smell alone keeps me at least 200 feet away from their stores). Prices at my neighborhood terminal-hipster expensive-denim store start in the high 300's. Abercrombie and Fitch is actually the Safeway of clothing.

  • Neal Deesit says:

    During my college years in the mid-late 60s, I worked at a McDonald's, frying beef patties on the grill a dozen at a time. The meat wasn't bad, just ordinary ground beef like we used at home. It was supplied by a local company, Dick & Co. Meats. So, of course, jokes were made.

  • The "pink slime" the McDonalds burger is made from is treated with ammonia.

    Do you know why it's treated with ammonia? Because it likely has shit in it. The industrial meat packing process often causes stuff from outside the cow to get mixed in with the stuff inside the cow.

    So the author of this piece was literally clamoring to eat shit.


  • He fails to mention the trend to increasing obesity within the fast food target audience. Oh well, at least Mexico is now the worlds most overweight nation! Win!

    I thought his piece would make a fine article in the Onion…

  • http://cdn.naturalsociety.com/wp-content/uploads/mcribingredients.jpg

    A nice graphic of the 70 odd (and I mean odd) ingredients involved in making the delicious McRib sandwich.

    Aside from woeful nutrition, you really have to wonder at the long term effects of eating this much chemistry on a regular basis. After it passes through your body (well the bits that don't lodge in your metabolism to haunt you later in life) it ends up in the environment.

    On the positive side, juicing food with chemically sanitized waste product does boost the bottom line and is therefore good for "shareholder value".

  • well how else are we to keep the poor and ignorant compliant? we have sports to keep men from focusing on how their society is controlled by others, fat non nutritious food to keep the poor "sated" with good tasting shit to keep them from rebelling. the poor in Egypt don't have the Mc Shit we have, so they started to mess with our "pact with Israel and Egypt". a real no-no there.

    keeping the masses distracted and fed is all that matters and the media is but one part of the "con" being played out on Americans. the masters know how to play us. that is what Marketing is all about.

    just wonder how bad things have to get before "we" get enough of the shit, whether it's newspapers, food, or any of the other "means" used to dumb down and satisfy the "base" with "base" means.

  • who knows? who toes? says:

    It interesting to me that I found eating McDonald's far more appealing when I was a child. Those odd characters maybe? These days I'm much more likely to cook on my own or eat a wife's meal than rely on Fast food. Sadly, on road trips very often I won't be able to find another dish…

  • freeportguy says:

    In term of lousy newspaper with horrible reporters, the Sun of London is second to none…

    Is it a coincidence that both the Sun and the NY Post are both owned by Murdoch???

  • @who knows?:

    McDonalds is like Lucky Charms. I can't eat it now without getting sick. It's the sort of thing I have to either never touch or eat consistently until my heart explodes.

    It's nice to know that jacking up everyone's health insurance premiums is okay as long as real MURICANS are doing it.

    I'm not clear on who reads the NY Post. Are there New Yorkers who fetishize the rubes, with their simple lives, rank bigotry, and unreliable gossip? Why not just move to the Heartland?

  • @freeportguy:

    I think the Post was Murdoch's attempt to bring the wonders of UK tabloids to America, where we have much, much weaker constraints on libel.

  • Sorry for sidetracking, but could we please stop this nonsense with "no nutritional value whatsoever"? I see where it's coming from, and in the rather particular case of a strict McDiet it's halfways justified… but too many people seem to assume that any kind of "processed food" has no nutritional value. None whatsoever. Zero, zilch, nada, none. That attitude juast makes me angry.

    I recently had I mild row with my neighbour who insisted that canned food is "boiled dead" and void of any value — she was honestly convinced that one could as well eat straw. In fact, canned stuff has about similar values compared to fresh produce (if only because the "fresh" stuff typically takes several days until it gets from the field to the grocer to your plate). Fresh from your own garden is better, of course… what makes me angry is the attitude that food is either "fresh" or "worthless" and nothing inbetween. And that people actually believe this and act according to the notion that only the freshestest fresh stuff has any value at all.

    Back to topic: you could stay on a fast food diet for a loooong time until you develop any deficiencies. You certainly wouldn't get Beriberi (too much wheat) or Scurvy (ascorbic acid being a popular antioxydant). maybe others, but if we can tune it down to "mostly fastfood and on rare occasions something else" you can get through your whole life without deficiencies (and frankly, if someone could stay on a fast food diet for weeks without ever craving for anything else, I'd be mostly concerned about that person's mental health).

    Such a diet gives you way too much fat, salt and sugar, of course, which poses it's own problems; but to a medieval peasant those would have been good problems to have. Of course we can do better; that's not the point. But please keep a sense for perspective: compared to other things that have been and may well be, the fast-food nation ist by no means a hell-hole.

    @Major Kong, re: Pink Slime, Shit & Ammonia:
    People have always been eating shit, dirt, bugs and what-have-you. It's always been thus. There has been huge progress on that front in the past dozen decades, just compare a modern-day production plant to your grandma's kitchen. But industry (or kitchen) best practices are based on the assumption that all food is contaminated and needs to be made safe to eat, be it by heat treatment (a.k.a. cooking), or adding lots of vinegar / alcohol / salt, or whatever. Be it Pink Slime or Soylent Green: food safety is not a valid concern, although there may well be others.

  • As always, the articles that argue for unfettered capitalism neglect to address the issue of subsidized capitalism in these instances. McDonald's burgers are cheap, in part, because othe United States has found it essential to subsidize agricultural industries that produce cheap wheat, corn, and meat.

    Also, fuck this guy for describing the DC wage bill as a "super-wage". They passed a "living-wage" bill. One that would require a company that has $450 billion in profits annually to pay a small portion of its employees a salary equal to $26,000 a year in one of the most expensive cities in America. A company that, according to a House Ed & Workforce Committee report, forces it workers to partake between $904,542 to $1,744,590 in public benefits per year at each SuperWalMart because of low wages. Not to mention the tax and development subsidies state and local governments have ponied up to "lure" Walmarts to their locations.

    Articles like this bathe in hypocrisy and disingenuous arguments to made the point that government=bad, business=good. Once again, it ultimately boils down to: Fuck you, I got mine, and let the peasants eat the scraps left behind.

  • Note to everybody (like myself) who remembers Mickey-D's burgers not being that bad: some of the truly horrible shit in them now wasn't LEGAL to serve to people as recently as 2000.

  • The stupid is strong in this one…

    "Junk food costs as little as $1.76 per 1,000 calories, whereas fresh veggies and the like cost more than 10 times as much"

    Protip: if you're looking to maximise calories/dollar, buy potatoes, rice, or indeed… lentils. If you don't want your teeth to fall out from scurvy, I suggest you supplement it with some of those fresh fruits and vegetables that aren't as calorie dense.

    "A 2,000-calorie day of meals would, if you stuck strictly to the good-for-you stuff, cost $36.32, said the study’s lead author, Adam Drewnowski. "

    This is bizarre. If you stick to buying non-processed food you would have to try quite hard to spend $36 dollars on 2000 calories of produce. Is it all celery and lettuce and organic blueberries? I don't even understand.

    I don't know how this clown thinks somehow that McDonalds is able to buy the ingredients, process, cook and serve them for less price than it would take for you to just go to the shops and buy some potatoes, meat and garnishes.

  • The "just buy produce/in bulk and cook it" thing doesn't pan out if you're working several jobs, or even just one draining job and keeping up with household/childrearing tasks. You need food to go in your mouth at the end of a long day, not more work making ingredients into a meal. Sometimes it isn't JUST about low price, it's also the time and effort involved in preparation.

  • The fact is that as $1.00 is nowhere near the true cost of that hamburger.

    – Actual subsidies to big agriculture for the crappy meat and corn that make the patty and bun.
    – Agricultural pollution in our rivers (big ag is widely considered one of the biggest sources of river pollution and continues to get away with it).
    – Contributions to global warming (agricultural waste is a significant contributor to global warming).
    – The health care costs of how many millions of people who will suffer increased risk of heart attacks, diabetes, and cancer from feasting on these things.
    – The moral cost of raising cows in cruel CAFO's (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) where essentially there every living minute from birth to death is misery.

    But is only costs $1.00!

  • The fact is that $1.00 is nowhere near the true cost of that hamburger.


    – Actual subsidies to big agriculture for the crappy meat and corn that make the patty and bun.
    – Agricultural pollution in our rivers (big ag is widely considered one of the biggest sources of river pollution and continues to get away with it).
    – Contributions to global warming (agricultural waste is a significant contributor to global warming).
    – The health care costs of how many millions of people who will suffer increased risk of heart attacks, diabetes, and cancer from feasting on these things.
    – The moral cost of raising cows in cruel CAFO's (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) where essentially there every living minute from birth to death is misery.

    But is only costs $1.00!

  • @laie

    You couldn't be more wrong when you say "people have always been eating shit, dirt, bugs, what have you." It's very different with modern forms of agricultural production.

    You'll note that until 2011, McDonalds was including the notorious "pink slime" in its hamburgers and only stopped because of public pressure. Pink slime is derived from "trimmings," which are pieces of fat, sinew and blood – basically the leftovers from the cow – that historically have only been used in pet food. Your grandmother wasn't eating that. Problem is, trimmings in modern factory farms are rampant with e.coli (more on that later), so they douse it in ammonia hydroxide (delicious!). Just like your grandmother did in her time!

    But this doesn't speak to the bigger issue of the quality of the beef that is not pink slime. You have to understand first that from birth, cows in factory farms are jammed with corn and growth hormones to accelerate their weight. Cows in factory farms balloon to tremendous, ungodly weights faster than ever before in the history of agriculture (again, not your grandmother's cow). This wreaks havoc on the cow's internal organs, muscles, and eventually their bones begin to buckle under the weight of their tortured, overfed bodies. This leads, of course, to frequently sick, diseased cows, which means they have to be pumped full of antiobiotics. And that's what you're eating when you eat at McDonalds. Meat from a sad, sick cow that is pumped full of hormones and antiobiotics. Pretty much the meat your grandmother was eating, right?

  • See, that's what's so great about capitalism; you're free to choose. You can bite into a McBurger while reading the Post in order to satisfy all your essential food groups, nutritional and intellectual – or not.

    And, even better, capitalism enables you to find an agreeable blogger on whose platform you can whine to your heart's content.

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