Why Donald Trump's pick for secretary of labor should probably stick to making burgers.

In a characteristically Trumpy move, Donald Trump has nominated Andrew Puzder, CEO of fast-food chains Carl's Jr. and Hardee's, to be secretary of labor.

Andrew Puzder! Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

Of the United States of America, that is.  


As someone who has written extensively about the intersection of burgers and public policy, this naturally seemed like an exciting move to me — at first. The genius responsible for bringing us the Southwest Patty Melt helming the government department tasked with regulating interactions between unions and management in the workplace? How could that possibly not work out in everyone's best interest?

Then I started digging into his record, and, like much of the rest of the world, reached an inescapable conclusion: Puzder is really, really good at his primary job — making delicious, ludicrous stacks of grilled meat.

It's a job he should probably stick to instead of trying to run the government agency tasked with sticking up for America's fry cooks, teachers, steelworkers, and cashiers, which he is ridiculously unqualified to do.

Puzder does have more experience than 99.9% of Americans at selling otherworldly beef sandwiches.

Here's a taste of just how good he is at that particular job:

Carl's Jr. is the "Batman Begins" to In-N-Out's "Dark Knight" — not quite as mind-blowing, but also the one your West Coast friends are slightly less annoying about — if only because Hardee's, which is the same, exists back East. But — to give Puzder the credit he's due — that doesn't mean it doesn't serve a damn good burger. Far from it.

The main draw? Carl's Jr.'s burgers are gigantic. Indeed, the chain's signature offering is the Thickburger — for those who prefer their meat sandwiches turgid and rock-hard.

Innuendo aside, the burger really is thick and has lots of cheese and unidentifiable fatty sauce on it, and you should go eat it right now. It's that good.

Oh YES. Photo by Paul Harrison/Flickr.

Carl's Jr.'s less intimidating offerings are almost as worth it, too. The California Classic Double Cheeseburger is a pretty decent imitation of In-N-Out's Double Double, and the Super Star with Cheese is also two burgers on one bun, and hey, two burgers!

Also Carl's Jr. has some salads. Just thought you should know.

Delicious though those burgers may be, here's why Puzder's experience — shockingly — doesn't really translate into his new government position.

This staid gentleman is a women-in-bikinis-eating-burgers stan. Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

Would that the secretary of labor's sole job was to run the White House grill.

As it turns out, however, the primary function of the position is mediating conflicts between businesses and workers. With the Commerce and Treasury departments already on hand to look out for business, the Labor Department is generally understood to be an advocate for ... well, labor.

From his record, it certainly looks like Puzder doesn't really like workers all that much — at least, not human ones.

The evidence? His desire to replace as many as possible with machines.

Future job applicants. Photo by Kai Schreiber/Flickr.

"[Machines] are always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there's never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex, or race discrimination case," Puzder said in a March interview with Business Insider, referring to the totally irritating problem of employees suffering debilitating injuries, taking time off to see their families, or having to deal with abusive coworkers through official channels. (Being a CEO is rough!)

For the humans Puzder does employ, he's on record as adamantly opposed to raising their wages — a position he hasn't exactly tried to hide, what with the numerous public statements and op-eds he's written to that effect, not to mention his decision to serve on the board of an organization dedicated to never ever doing so.

To Puzder's credit, he frames this (kinda-sorta) as coming from a place of concern for his employees' well-being, albeit bluntly, asking: "Does it really help if Sally makes $3 more an hour if Suzie has no job?"

There's certainly a case to be made against a $15 minimum wage. There's evidence it helps workers in some places like Seattle and evidence it doesn't in others like upstate New York. But for Puzder to claim that he's solely at the mercy of oppressive market forces and, as CEO, has no agency in deciding how many people he employs at what rate is a little ridiculous. Sorry, Sally! Guess we fired you and replaced you with a kiosk. How did that happen? Please see the Invisible Hand — he'll be guiding your exit interview.

Puzder's companies are also notorious for ads that feature women and burgers in which both are granted a roughly equal level of humanity.

Highlights include this Super Bowl ad from 2015, which features model Charlotte McKinney striding through a farmers market boobs-first while the male vegetable hawkers stare slobberingly after her, presumably hoping to get her attention so they can remind her to buy the artichokes that were on her list..

Carl's Jr.'s Super Bowl 2015 ad features this totally common, everyday scene. Photo via Charlotte McKinney/YouTube.

"I like beautiful women eating burgers in bikinis. I think it's very American," Puzder told Entrepreneur in 2015.

And yes, eating a burger in a bikini is a good idea! Burgers are sloppy, and in a bikini, there's less fabric to stain with chipotle mayo. But Puzder seems to be getting at, well, something else here — referring to Carl's Jr. as a brand for "young hungry guys," something normal people totally say that doesn't at all make you wonder what they think about when they masturbate.

As for how Puzder thinks of advertising for women? Well, they can "date" those "hungry guys," who, presumably, fantasize about finally locking down a hot girlfriend to melt cheese on.

This weirdness would all be pretty funny if Puzder hadn't been accused of abusing his ex-wife in filings from his 1989 divorce. But taken together, it all stacks up in a rather alarming way.

Like most people on Earth, Puzder isn't all bad news.

A more appropriate workplace. Photo by Griffin5/Wikimedia Commons.

He does support immigration reform and genuinely seems to care about the well-being of his company and his shareholders. But in general, his distrust of modest regulation and higher wages and his dismissal of workers' right to work make him a pretty absurd fit for a job designed to safeguard those very important things.

He is, however, the perfect guy to continue focusing his full-time energy on delivering massive, carb-laden sodium bricks into our national gut.

So do America a solid. Call your senator and urge them to compel Puzder to stick to his day job.

The country — and your stomach — will be better for it.

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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