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30 Days of Supersized Guilt


30 Days of Supersized Guilt
Morgan Spurlock shows how difficult it is to pretend to be poor.

By Dan Gainor
June 16, 2005

The new Morgan Spurlock documentary 30 Days highlighted the fantasy of reality TV as Spurlock and his fianc pretended to live life on minimum wage surrounded by cameras. Instead of teaching important lessons about saving, personal responsibility and the value of education, Spurlock relied on emotion to try to convince viewers the minimum was too low.

The June 15, 2005, program tried to duplicate the success of Spurlocks Oscar-nominated attack on McDonalds Super Size Me, where he stopped exercising and ate 5,000 calories of fast food every day. In this show, he tried to explain how you can change your life in just 30 days, in this case by acting poor.

Its an act that has gotten him on all three major morning shows to promote 30 Days. On the May 23, 2005, Today Spurlock claimed that personal responsibility about what we eat is huge. I mean, personal responsibility is the part of the equation that you can never negate, he explained. But personal responsibility never cropped up as a theme in his latest work. At one point he met a fellow worker named Alfred a 22-year-old with four children and never questioned the mans own decisions.

Spurlock, whose first film grossed more than $30 million, decided to change his life by pretending to be poor. While he has claimed Super Size Me didnt make him a millionaire, he didnt plead poverty. I havent even made a million dollars, he told Reuters. At the beginning of the episode, he explained that he and his fianc Alexandra Jamieson had been living the good life since his movie. Jamieson underlined this by pointing out the earrings she was wearing cost more than my college education.

Soon after that, they delved into the fantasy world of minimum wage in Columbus, Ohio. They left behind their wealth and credit cards, but not their politics. So whats left in my wallet is my drivers license and my ACLU membership card, he said.

Spurlock didnt waste any time before he started the liberal spin. The state of affairs in Ohio mirrors conditions all over the United States. Ohio has lost almost 250,000 jobs in the last four years, alone. Actually, the United States has had 25 straight months of positive job creation, amounting to more than 3 million new jobs.

The program showed the pair apartment hunting under the glare of video lights. Naturally, the apartment they decided on was in a bad neighborhood, but the owner was unrealistically open about it, pointing out that two days ago there was a street person living in here and downstairs there was a crack house. The couple apparently never considered renting a room in a shared house in a nicer area. That would have made less interesting television.

That meant it was time for the duo to find jobs. Rather than rely on their education or skills, the two sought out unskilled labor they could complain about. Spurlock went to a temp agency and Jamieson took a job as a waitress/dishwasher.

Spurlock actually showed it was easy to find a job above minimum wage and took a variety of temp jobs earning $7 an hour. Then when his check for an 11-hour day showed $45.26 instead of $77, he never bothered to point out how ruinous taxes can be. Instead, he complained without making the connection. So, I actually made less than the minimum wage. Thats terrible.

It didnt take long before Jamieson showed that she understood the reality of life on a budget more than Spurlock. She took to walking to work to save $1.35 because we cant spare that. Jamieson explained I haven't purchased anything and I have been freakin walking to work every day. The star never accepted that reality, and proclaimed I am so bad with money. Apparently his former partners agree. Theyve sued him for $40 million they say they are owed from the movie profits.

Spurlock wasnt ashamed to take charity out of the hands of those genuinely in need. The couple turned to a church-run store where everything is totally free to fill their apartment with furniture and clothes. Spurlock said the group helped tons of other families and individuals who are struggling to get by. The irony of a wealthy Hollywood star taking charity away from others never dawned on the couple.

Spurlock showed more about his financial ignorance by promoting a Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) bill that would raise the minimum wage and even quoted the liberal senator saying, increasing the minimum wage increases prosperity.

The only attempt at balance in the whole program was a quick response from a conservative economist labeled simply, Tim Kane, the Heritage Foundation. Kane explained that raising the minimum wage harms the economy. Lower regulations, lower taxes, thats what creates job opportunities, he said.

Spurlock left out that Kane is a Ph.D. economist and a businessman who holds the Bradley Fellow in Labor Policy. According to his bio on the Heritage Web site, he also founded multiple software companies and one was recognized as software startup of the year for San Diego in 1999.

Had Spurlock given him more time, he might have cited a study by the Public Policy Institute of California that found raising the minimum wage helps some earners and causes unemployment for others. Or he could have added a study by The Survey Center at the University of New Hampshire of 336 labor economists who said that raising the minimum wage would cost jobs. Seventy-one percent of the economists studied said an increase of 150-200 percent in the minimum wage would cost jobs. Ninety-three percent of the economists said a higher raise would cause job losses.

Spurlock ended his program with a rant about the minimum wage, pointing out that its been eight years since the wage was increased. He complained about the way things were for poor people, claiming he had learned what life was like and that Im better for being here. Then he left and went back to Hollywood.