The Gov. Pat Quinn Minimum Wage Challenge

Illinois governor Pat Quinn is taking the minimum wage challenge this week.  The governor calculates Illinois minimum wage workers only net $79 to be able to spend on food, entertainment, and drink.  I won’t debate the number and will accept it at face value.  I will also assume that the $79 feeds one person.  I accept Quinn’s challenge and created a menu that works within the confines of his parameters.

Feel free to accept the challenge yourself and create your own menu.  It would be interesting to see how creative we could get.  Put your recipes in the comments.

The Governor and I disagree on the minimum wage.  Raising minimum wages will only create more unemployment among the people that need it most.  Many union contracts are tied to minimum wage.  Increasing the minimum wage increases the pay of union members.  Not surprising that the unions are in favor of hiking it.  Yesterday, Mayor Emanuel raised the city of Chicago minimum wage to $13/hr.  Apparently the alderman didn’t want to go on record with the small businesses in their districts-so he used an executive order.

Much is being made of Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner’s wealth.  That’s the main reason for Quinn’s minimum wage challenge.  Today in the Sun Times, Quinn noted,

“Had a banana for breakfast, that’s three days in a row. You know, you have to watch your pennies,” Quinn said on Tuesday. “I’m living this week, all seven days, on a minimum wage budget, it’s hard … Yesterday, I went to a place and maybe I would’ve gotten an iced tea, but I got a water. You don’t go in and get a double cheeseburger, I got a junior cheeseburger.”

“I had graham crackers — for dinner I guess,” Quinn added. “I’m planning to have macaroni & cheese tonight. I already bought it.”

That’s bullshit.  It’s possible to eat really healthy on the minimum wage if you take some time and plan ahead.   Quinn isn’t being very creative, and he’s just playing politics.  I admit, it takes some work and certainly involves home cooking.  Here is my menu.  I tried to use Jewel’s website but it sucked.  So, I used Instacart.  Instacart isn’t the cheapest way to shop for groceries either.  Bet I could do better if I actually went to the store.  Where I could, I used LoseIt to calculate the nutritional value.

By the way, millennials graduating from college deep in debt have to fight with this all the time since most are unable to get a job in Illinois.

I would “entertain” myself by watching some television. Hey, at least the Cubs are hot and it’s Bears season!  Some good programs are re-engaging for the fall season.  If you have a Chromecast, you can watch a lot of cool stuff.

I’d also go to the public library and check out some books for free and read them.  Almost every night this summer, there was something free in Millennium Park.  Thursday night, I’d have leftovers so I could go to the Art Institute and soak up the free culture there.  Chicago has a tremendous and beautiful park system combined with the lakefront.  Taking a walk in them is relaxing.  It’s also free.  I am sure other people know of free cultural things people can do in their cities-leave the suggestions in the comments.

My beverages are assumed to be water, or milk unless otherwise noted.

Breakfast every day (7/7)

By the way, eating breakfast is one of the most over rated food myths out there.  But I’ll include it because we want three meals per day.

Buy one gallon of whole milk.  $2.19  (Use half to make homemade yogurt)

1 dozen eggs $1.69  We are going to eat these fried, but you can poach them for less calories.

10 oz Full Circle I Love Organic Berry Medley $2.50  (8 1/4 cup servings) to go with Yogurt.

Pork belly ($2.99/lb at Mariano’s)  Make your own bacon at home

Starbucks Medium Ground Coffee ($6.00/12oz bag)

Breakfast each day would be black coffee in a coffee press(no sugar or cream), some yogurt with 1/2 cup of berries, two slices of tasty homemade bacon, and two eggs.  That’s 428 calories. 25% protein, 59% fat, 16% carbohydrates.

Lunch every day (7/7)

We won’t be buying our lunch at a restaurant.  We are the lunch bucket crowd and we will carry our lunch.

Paleo Meatballs with red sauce (2lbs of  ground beef $6.58; 1 sweet potato .69 cents 8oz of Brown mushrooms $1.69, 1 bunch of cilantro .79 cents, 1 can of tomato paste .39 cents, Crushed tomatoes $1.59, Olive oil $4.29)  estimated to be 300 calories

Zucchini spaghetti (.17 each, 1 zucchini per lunch) 55 calories

Apple (.42 each; 1 per day keeps the doctor away so we bought 7) and a Banana (.39 each, and we bought 7)  Apple is 95 calories and Banana is 105 calories

Each lunch is 555 calories  Every day, breakfast and lunch will have 983 calories.

It would be boring to eat the same thing every day.  The governor is eating graham crackers and bananas.  I got creative with dinner.  What would you do?

Sunday Dinner

Whole Chicken ($4.41) 3080 calories; 6 oz of chicken is 330 calories

Ratatouille (1-Eggplant $1.42, 1-can of Tomatoes $1.59, 2-Zucchini .34 cents , Olive Oil, Garlic) 1 cup is 151 calories

Baked Potato (.47 cents) 163 calories

Butter ($2.50 1lb) 1 teaspoon is 34 calories

Walk/Bike/Drive to McDonald’s and buy an ice cream cone for dessert (.49 cents)  150 calories

Dinner is 828 calories

Total caloric intake on the day 1711 calories.  

Monday Dinner

Leftover Roast Chicken(Free)

Leftover Ratatouille (Free)

Baked Potato (.47 cents)

Total caloric intake on the day 1561 calories

Tuesday Dinner

Chicken Rice Soup! 200 calories a bowl, you have 2

and Salad  3 cups, 27 calories

Take the leftover chicken carcass, boil it to make broth.  In the broth, you will need a carrot (.65 cents per pound), onion (.25 cents), celery ($1.25 each bunch)  Make sure you dredge the fat off the broth.

Rice ($1.25 box)

Salad (.67 cents red leaf lettuce)

Chop up some carrot and celery and put it in salad. Make your own dressing with olive oil and vinegar ($1.86 bottle). 1 tablespoon 72 calories, you use 2.

Dinner is 571 calories

Total caloric intake on the day 1054

Wednesday Dinner

Crock pot roasted Pork Shoulder ($5.97 for 3 lbs).  Don’t have a crock pot? Low roast in an oven pan at 225 degrees.  Salt and pepper the pork shoulder.  Put it in before you go to work, take it out when you get home.  1 cup is equal to 394 calories, you eat a cup and a half~600 calories

Coleslaw (cabbage .55 cents, chop a carrot from your bunch, onion . 25 cents) Dressing is Kraft Real Mayo with a little milk ($2.89) 140 calories

BBQ Sauce (Roundy’s original $1.59 a bottle)  2 tbls is 70 calories

Baked potato (.47 cents) 163 calories

973 total calories

For entertainment, walk/bike/public transportation to the Navy Pier fireworks

Total caloric intake for the day 1956 calories

Thursday Dinner

Leftover Pork shoulder and coleslaw 740 calories

Roasted Beets ($2.49 a bunch, dressed with Red wine Vinegar and Olive oil)  1 beet is 50 calories.

For entertainment, walk/bike/public transportation to the Art Institute’s free night

Total caloric intake for the day 1844 calories

Friday Dinner

Finish the pork shoulder and slaw 740 calories

Finish the beets 50 calories

If you have leftover pork shoulder, put it in a Ziploc bag, freeze it and you will have at least one lunch ready for next week! Or, save it for a stew.

Total caloric intake for the day 1844

Saturday Dinner

2 lb Beef Pot Roast ($8.00)  2 carrots, 2 onions (.50 cents) and 2 ribs celery  342 calories per serving

Baked Potato (.49 cents) 163 calories

2 Bottles of wine, one to drink and one to cook with $4.99/ bottle (Rex Goliath Cab)  350 calories per glass of red wine, 5 per bottle.  You drink 2.  Save the rest for the Bears game Sunday.

Walk to McDonald’s and get an ice cream cone for .49 cents.  Keep walking and take in Navy Pier fireworks.  150 caloires

Total caloric intake 1355

The next week, I could work in pot roast for a lunch, or in place of the soup.  Each week, I’d make at least one chicken, one pork shoulder, and one pot roast depending on prices. It’s not just that dinner that matters, but the cascade of lunches and dinners I would get after.

My Instacart total was $76.60.  I walked to McDonald’s($MCD) twice to get a small ice cream cone.  That adds $1 for a grand total of $77.60.  That walk gave me a little exercise, and was entertaining.  Plus, some sweet snack for my efforts.  The menu gives me three squares a day.  All good food.  Vegetables, fruit, dairy.  Low carbohydrates and heart healthy.  I will be the first to admit, if I was forced to eat this exact meal plan every week I’d get bored with it.  But, if I was forced to do it, I could.  Most people in the world don’t eat that well.

It’s a heart healthy menu based on recent research.  It’s also relatively low calorie.  I’d probably lose some weight without losing muscle mass.

My menu takes some prep time for sure.  If people have lost the skills they need to cook, they need to learn it.  Public schools used to have home economics classes.  It would be better to give people that need help a voucher for Dabble so they could take classes.

We shouldn’t be quibbling over minimum wage.  It’s a microeconomic fact that raising the minimum wage creates higher levels of unemployment and adds to economic dead weight loss.  As Cliff Asness tweeted to me,

 “Yep, demand curves don’t just not slope downward they slope upward! Oh and the perpetual motion Keynesian purchasing power!”

There is a silly study going around.  President Obama conveniently quotes it when he speaks.  Statistics are as good as the numbers and logic that go into them.  Anyone can correlate anything.  It’s the causation that matters.  Looking at the top ten states in the study, 70% of them have the lowest “all in” tax burdens in the United States.  Liberal wealth manager Barry Ritholz wrote an article pointing out common mistakes in statistical interpretation.  Correlations often lie.

Let’s call this grandstanding what it is-a campaign tactic designed to divide people.  It’s a get out the vote tactic in a year where there isn’t much excitement.  Minimum wage jobs are starter jobs.  It’s designed to allow teens and part time workers a chance to pick up some extra income.   Minimum wage jobs are generally low skilled jobs available to anyone.  They aren’t a career.

If Governor Quinn was serious about helping working class people, he’d look at all the regulations on food and food preparation and repeal most of them quickly.  Governments all over the country pass rules and regulations against people that could earn a decent living if they were allowed to go into a small food production business-canning their own jellies for example, or making their own artisan cheese.  Illinois has some very stringent rules that cause potential entrepreneurs not to startup a business.  The city of Chicago has been very tough on shared community commercial kitchens for example.  Illinois is the worst state in the Midwest by when it comes to job creation.

Every person wants a chance, but often times it’s some government law, regulation, crony, or bureaucrat that is in the way.

thanks for the link Instapundit.