I may be a little late to this, but it is never too late to point out how stupid it is to argue that the McDonald's McDouble cheeseburger is the "greatest food in human history."
Dangerously stupid, in fact, because it encourages people who are already struggling to survive to make disastrous decisions about what they eat, and it lets us keep ignoring what junk food costs our society, the economy and the environment.
In case you missed it, I'm talking about a debate that has been roiling the Internet for a couple of weeks now, sparked by a commenter on the Freakonomics blog who declared the McDouble "the cheapest, most nutritious, and bountiful food that has ever existed in history."
The sandwich, found at one of the 14,000 McDonald's restaurants that ornament the American landscape, offers 390 calories, 23 grams of protein, along with some minerals and, I don't know, grease, all for just a dollar or two. Hooray! And we can all agree that a McDouble is waaay more delicious than the boring lentils and rice that Mother Jones tree-hugger Tom Philpott suggested as a healthier alternative.
New York Post columnist Kyle Smith took this argument several steps further and declared the McDouble "the greatest food in human history" because it makes a whole gutload of calories available cheaply to those masses who can't afford to buy "luxury goods" like fruits and vegetables, like those "environmentally aware blond moms who spend $300 on their highlights every month" can.
Even better, the availability of McDoubles means workers don't have to waste their precious time preparing their meals like some kind of Neanderthal -- giving them more time to prepare your meals.
"Any time you’re spending peeling vegetables is time you aren’t spending on the job," Smith writes. Yeah, hurry up with my damn croissants, Poors!
Smith acknowledges, in the least-generous way possible, that the McDouble is cheap partly because McDonald's workers don't get paid a living wage, exacerbating the ever-widening income gap that is hurting the broader economy. Even McDonald's has inadvertently argued as much, suggesting its employees will need a second job if they are to afford the most basic living expenses. That's why fast-food workers are protesting across the country this week for higher wages.
But Smith argues that it would be unfair to pay these workers a living wage because that would raise the cost of a McDouble, and then McDonald's workers wouldn't be able to afford to buy it. It just makes too much sense!
Actually, it doesn't make any sense at all, obviously: Better paid workers would not only be able to afford more-expensive McDoubles, but also those frou-frou fruits and vegetables.
The other problem with the let-them-eat-McDoubles philosophy is that the up-front price of the sandwich is not the only cost to consider. For one thing, there is the physical damage that comes with regularly eating a sandwich that delivers 29 percent of your daily allowance of fat and 35 percent of your daily allowance of sodium, according to stats provided by McDonald's.
People who eat this sort of stuff are more likely to have heart disease, diabetes, depression and other health problems, feel more tired and be less productive at work and visit the doctor more often, assuming they can even afford to visit the doctor.
If these people can't afford health insurance and other basic living expenses, then the government will have to help, meaning we all pay a small price for that McDouble. That comes after the price we have already paid to subsidize the farmers that grow the corn and soy that helps make junk food so cheap.
And these McDoubles don't just grow fully formed on trees. They are made of cows, which guzzle our dwindling water supply, take up land that could be put to better use and fart out more greenhouse gases than all the cars in the world.
These McDoubles just get more expensive, and less great, all the time.