Whadaya expect me to do–work at McDonald’s?

That was once the common rejoinder when some lazy bum was asked why he or she didn’t go to work.

During the presidential campaign MoveOn.org ran an ad about a “burger flipper.” National Journal described the ad as showing “a dejected middle-age worker flipping burgers as an announcer says, ’After a year, you finally land another job. And you wonder, is this what you worked your whole life for?'”

There’s a lot of snobbery about burger flippers, especially among members of the liberal elite. I always wanted to do a story on working at McDonald’s when I was editor of The Women’s Quarterly–what kind of people worked in these supposedly dead end jobs?

For some reason, I never got around to assigning the piece, but never mind, Jim Glassman answered my question in a recent column.

What kind of people work at McDonald’s? Glassman reports:

“Among the well-known Americans (hardly dead-enders) who once worked at McDonald’s: Andy Card, White House chief of staff; Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com; astronaut Leroy Chiao; Jay Leno, ’Tonight Show’ host, who called the restaurant ‘a great place to work’; Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio; Carl Lewis, Olympic gold medalist; actress Andie McDowell; architect Maya Lin; former Illinois Gov. Joe Kernan, who started when he was 16; Drew Nieporent, owner of Tribeca Grill and other trendy restaurants in New York, who began at McDonald’s, he says, as a ’Quarter Pounder grill man,’ and Robert Cornog, retired CEO of Snap-On Tools, who worked at the original McDonald’s in Des Plaines, Ill.

“Cornog told Dow Jones News Service that the best lesson he learned at McDonald’s was ’discipline, if you’re going to produce a result, you need a process.’”

Glassman notes:

“The truth is that few middle-aged Americans hold such jobs. Instead, they go to people who enter the workforce with a modest background in the fundamentals — showing up on time, cooperating with colleagues, operating simple machines, making change, greeting customers with courtesy. These basics, unfortunately, aren’t taught in all our schools. Workers learn on the job, typically as teenagers.

“Most learn quickly and well on the job, and they move up the ladder to better-paying work. That’s the norm in America, and it makes us different from practically every other nation. A study in 2000, for instance, found that two-thirds of minimum-wage workers moved above that pay within a year, with a median raise, for full-time employees, of 14 percent.

“’Entry-level jobs,’ writes Mark Wilson of the Heritage Foundation, ’are not lifelong dead-end jobs. These jobs allow Americans to establish a track record of work that creates opportunities for better-paying jobs.’”

Next time somebody says, Whadaya expect me to do–work at McDonald’s, I know what to say.

What’s the best job training? A job.