Julio worked at McDonald’s for four and a half years. Fortunately, he was lucky enough to have recently attended one of President Obama’s town hall meetings. Julio asked Obama what he intended to do to help people like himself, who had tried to find other work, but were unable to do so. After his appearance, Julio has been offered at least two internships, and has become a minor celebrity.

Good for you, Julio! Now, President Obama, what about the rest of the people who work at McDonald’s?

It was disappointing that Obama’s response to Julio consisted of little more than platitudes. The minor celebrity that Julio has earned has helped to obscure the President’s non-answer to his question. The media story will focus on Julio’s “success” – he essentially won a lottery – and ignore the import of his question: what is to be done to help those who work at places like McDonald’s, or Walmart, or any other low-wage, no-benefit, dead-end job, and have no alternative?

I have personal experience of that, because, all told, I worked at McDonald’s for around ten years. Let that sink in a moment: TEN FUCKING YEARS!!! It was not because I was a bad worker, or that I did not have skills. After I got my degree, it most certainly was not that I was not qualified for a better job. It was because there was nothing else. The only places that were hiring were places like McDonald’s, or Burger King, or Walmart. For a time, I thought I had escaped when I got a job at a call center doing tech support; that turned out to be worse than McDonald’s (!) and I eventually returned to my former “career”.

And I was not, by then, some teenager working after school to earn some pocket money. It is a fantasy, largely concocted by Republicans and “Libertarians”, that the only people who work McJobs are teenagers on their way to something better. Sure, a large percentage of my restaurant’s staff was comprised of teenagers, but at least half were well beyond their teenage years. These older workers comprised the backbone of the restaurant. They – “we”, I should say – worked 40 hours or more each week, and kept the story from falling apart; running a McDonald’s is not as easy as those without such experience would like to think.

And for our services, we received almost nothing. We were still “part-time” employees; the only full-time employees at McDonald’s were management. We received no benefits like health insurance or retirement plans, and we had no job security; we could be fired at any time and for any reason. We were paid minimum wage plus whatever nickel and dime raises we had received over the years; when I did finally escape, I earned just over $7.00 an hour.

And I was one of the lucky ones, not just because I did eventually escape, but because I did not have a family to support. Many of my coworkers did, and, even if both parents worked, their combined incomes still fell short of the poverty line. Republicans like to preach about the rights of the “unborn”, but what about the effects of such a life on children who have been born? The Republicans – and their Democratic and Libertarian abettors - are silent on that.

So, back to you, President Obama. What do you intend to do to help people like Julio who don’t have the good fortune to appear on TV? Is that “nothing” I hear you muttering under your breath? Because, despite your promises of “change”, you are still a centrist Democrat who will stop at nothing to ensure that the needs of the corporate gangsters who run this country outweigh the needs of its citizens? Your non-answer to Julio was the sort of evasion I would have expected from your predecessor, and was not encouraging, to say the least.

President Obama, you have been in office for less than a month. In that time, you have done some remarkably good things. You have also disappointed me more than once. This was another example of the latter. If you really want to bring change to America, then you will defend the rights – indeed, the human dignity – of people like Julio who don’t win the celebrity lottery, and who continue to toil day after day, year and year, with nothing to show for it in the end.

You have to decide who is more important: Wall Street billionaires whining about $500,000 salary caps, or the vast bulk of the American citizenry who wouldn’t see that much money in 20 years of full-time work (even if corporate semantics deny that status). Because only one choice means that America will continue as a nation.

(Oh, and as I said above, I did eventually escape McDonald’s. I just had to join the Army in my thirties to do it.)