You’ve probably noticed the economic controversy raging in America these past few years. On the one side you have people complaining “Though American productivity keeps rising American wages keep falling, especially at the lower ends of the spectrum, and something ought to be done about that.” On the other side is the counterargument “If people make low wages it’s because their job skills aren’t very valuable, so they should do something to qualify for a better gig.”

And if we were wont to believe in conspiracy theories, we’d swear that corporations like Walmart and McDonald’s have recently been taken over by secret agents working for the “wages are too low” side, and their mission is “Learn all we can about Ebenezer Scrooge and Scrooge McDuck, then figure out ways to make our companies look worse.”

Earlier this week we told you about the Walmart in Ohio that asked its employees to contribute to a canned-food drive for the benefit of other Walmart employees who can’t afford to feed themselves. Members of a Walmart workers’ organization said the canned food drive underscores the need for Walmart to pay higher wages; a Walmart spokesman countered than the food drive demonstrates how much Walmart employees care for each other.

Budgeting tips

In all fairness, the Walmart food drive was an individual store manager’s prerogative, not a corporate-wide policy. The same cannot be said for the facepalm-inducing McDonald’s employee webpage uncovered this week by McDonald’s offered its employees such useful household-budgeting tips as “You may also want to consider returning some of your unopened [holiday gift] purchases that may not seem as appealing as they did. Selling some of your unwanted possessions on eBay or Craigslist could bring in some quick cash” and “At least two vacations a year can cut heart attack risk by 50 percent."

Perhaps the McDonald’s employees can pay for their stress-reducing twice-yearly vacations with the money they make selling unopened holiday gifts? And remember another helpful stress-reduction tip their website offered: “Quit Complaining: Stress hormone levels rise by 15 percent after ten minutes of complaining.” If you think making a living on low pay is stressful, that’s nothing compared to the stress of complaining about it.

This isn’t the first time McDonald’s made headlines this year for giving callously clueless budgeting tips to its employees. Last July, bloggers for Slate and ThinkProgress uncovered a sample budget that McDonald’s had made available to its employees from 2010 until bloggers told everybody about it. The budget shows how easy McDonald’s thinks it is for its employees to manage household expenses: first, assume the average McDonald’s employee works two jobs for a net monthly income of $2,060, then spends $20 a month on health insurance, nothing on heat and nothing on food — (though food might fall into the “Other” category, for which the sample budget allows $100 per month).

If you want to spend nothing on heat and $20 a month on health insurance, your best bet is to live in southern California—circa 1947 or so. But neither last summer’s McDonald’s budget nor its current employee financial tips include instructions on how to build a working time machine. It does, however, offer this tip for hungry employees seeking to stretch their food budgets further: “Breaking food into pieces often results in eating less and still feeling full.”

As consumer journalists dedicated to helping our readers get the most out of their money, we hope you find these suggestions helpful. We rather doubt it, though.

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