After abject failure in their radical movement and protest against Wall Street, the Occupy crowd has reset their ambitions a bit lower. They have now focused on the embattled fast food industry, as a means to flex their political might. In protests around the country, they are demanding the minimum wage for fast food workers be increased to $15 an hour, more than double the current minimum wage.

Sweeping the nation, this movement seeks to garner a strong fast food union, but at what cost? Have the Occupiers bitten off more than they can chew?

First, let’s go over what the fast food industry has endured over the past several years. They have been besieged by federal regulations, really since the 1970s, over the quality of their product, the processing of their meat, the content of filler, how produce is handled, preparation and sanitation conditions on site, and throughout their various distribution points. Much of this has been practical and makes good common sense, and no one is knocking the efforts to ensure consumer health in the food service industry. We do expect a certain standard to be maintained, and we’ve given the authority to government to ensure their products meet those expectations. Of course, all of it comes with a price, and consumers have watched the price of fast food rise dramatically over the years.

Concerns over hormones in beef, genetically modified additives, and the infamous ‘pink slime’ issue, have risen since the mid 90s. For those who are unaware of ‘pink slime’, it is the now abandoned practice of using a filler made from ammonia-washed residue beef gunk, from the processing of the actual beef, to increase yield in the final product. No fast food company does this anymore, but obviously, it wasn’t killing people when they did. It just sounds really gross to the typical layman, but the fact that all the meat is cooked, alleviates any risk or contamination from the washing process. Still, this practice was abandoned amid the protests of consumers who rallied to demand a change.

Then we have the current First Lady, and her vitriol for all things fast food. Unlike most First Ladies who have taken up causes against child hunger, illiteracy, or certain diseases and disabilities, this First Lady used her soapbox to wage war on McDonalds Happy Meals. This is quite a formidable force to have going against you, if you happen to be the owner of a fast food franchise. Imagine all the assorted health codes and regulations you have to meet on a daily basis, health inspections you have to pass routinely, maintaining meticulous standards day in and day out, just so you can have the privilege of keeping the doors open. Nevermind the competition, which is extremely fierce in this industry, or the fact that you, as a franchise owner, are often tied to corporate decisions you had no input in making. Now you have the president’s wife going after you, literally telling your customers to boycott your business. The icing on the cake has to be dozens of Occupy protesters showing up at your door with signs, demanding you pay your burger flippers twice what they currently make.

The thing that absolutely blows my mind about liberal progressives, is their complete lack of understanding when it comes to capitalism and free markets. They see a corporation making “huge profits” and they assume they are doing this by screwing over people, taking advantage of others, gaming the system or whatever. No capitalist I know of, is forcing people to work for them. None of them are forcing consumers to purchase what they make. More importantly, I don’t know of any capitalist who has ever started a corporation with the intentions of not making a profit, just out of the goodness of heart and concern for consumer needs, and nothing more. There is no purpose or reason for them to invest their time, effort and money, into a ‘break-even’ business venture.

McDonald’s is successful because they pioneered a way to give consumers a consistently decent product at a reasonable price, and do so quickly. Consumers responded by the billions, because they liked the product and enjoyed the service. This resulted in profit for McDonald’s, who reinvested in the business and opened more restaurants, which in turn, produced even greater profits. Other capitalists came along with ideas to improve upon what McDonald’s was doing, and competition was born. Competition is important, because it is what essentially eliminates “greed” in any capitalist venture. The stronger the competition, the less “greed” a capitalist can afford to maintain, because someone who is less “greedy” will put you out of business in a hurry.

Now, the argument the Occupiers advance is, that increasing the minimum wage to a so-called “living wage” is vital to the objective of helping the minimum wage worker pay his bills and make ends meet. They believe if we can take some of these huge profits from the top, and redistribute them to the bottom, that all the problems will be solved, and we can all live in peace and harmony, in a world full of rainbow unicorns and daisies. But the problem is, the capitalist no longer has a viable product to sell and make a profit, so they move on. Suddenly that minimum wage worker is an unemployed worker.

Another problem with increasing minimum wage, is the effect it has on wages up the ladder. The current minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. Let’s say we increase that to $9, what does the current worker who is making $9 have to say about that? Hey, I’m only making minimum wage now! I need a raise! So his pay goes up to $12, and the person who is making $12 says, Hey, I need a raise! And so on and so forth. Eventually this tapers off into salaried mid-level management positions, and isn’t a factor anymore, but for virtually all lower paying jobs, an increase in the minimum wage will mean an increase in their pay as well. This is an increase in labor costs across the board for capitalists, who have formulas already in place for labor, production, advertising, compliance, etc. So when the pay rate increases, the formulas are still calculated the same, and the result is often an increase in consumer price. Sometimes, if demand or competition doesn’t really allow for increase in price, there is a decrease in quantity or quality, or people are laid off and remaining employees are expected to absorb the production loss. In any event, the money is never going to come from the pocket of the capitalist, he is in business to make a profit, and if he can’t do that, he will simply fold up shop and move on.

More likely than not, in a heavily competitive business like fast food, the solution to a $15 minimum wage, would be the elimination of half the burger flippers, and the other half being expected to take up their slack. So now you’ll have two flippers instead of four, flipping twice as many burgers per hour, while two former burger flippers look for a new job, along with thousands of other former burger flippers in the same predicament. Does that help anyone’s problem really?

Of course, to the Occupier, this is all being done in the name of good. But it’s important to realize, most “good” is not done in the name of good. For instance, cattle farmers in Texas are working very hard to raise their cattle, getting up early in the morning, being kicked by the cattle, getting sweaty in the heat, muddy in the rain, enduring a great deal of personal sacrifice so that New Yorkers have steaks on their tables. Do you think they do this in the name of good? What do you suppose would happen if New Yorkers had to depend on these people to provide the beef in the name of good? I would be worried about New Yorkers.