Values By the Pound

By Marc Dion

October 21, 2019 4 min read

In the grocery store, they got the cheap hamburger, the good hamburger and the ground sirloin.

I come from a ground sirloin family. If we were eating the good hamburger, or (shame of all shame) the cheap hamburger, it meant my father was out of work. By the time I was 11, my father had traded the nightlife thrills and uncertain income of the side street bartender for a suit-and-tie corporate job, and ground sirloin was all we ate.

Still, even on the nickel-and-dime tips of a bartender in a place where whiskey went for a half-buck a shot, my father believed in ground sirloin. Even if you had to buy less of it than you really needed, you bought the best, was my mother and father's theory.

So, while other families on our street of rented wood-frame houses dined on the cheap hamburger, we formed our ground sirloin into patties and ate one each, even though we could have bought the cheap stuff and eaten two burgers each.

The domestic notions of the mid-1960s stuck with me. I didn't want to elect Donald Trump because the man is the cheap hamburger, greasy and sold in a tight plastic tube. Hillary Clinton was at least the good hamburger, and, if she wasn't ground sirloin, she was at least the kind of hamburger that wouldn't, as my Depression-baby mother would say, "give you worms."

I never had worms, so Ma must have been right. But the whole country has 'em now, worms of hatred and fascism, worms of Russian-fueled conspiracy crawling alive on Facebook, and worms coming from the belly of dead Kurdish children left too long in the street.

And I'm shopping, making my way down the meat case of candidates lined up at the debate, walking resolutely past the cheap hamburger, looking closely at the good hamburger, peering around for the ground sirloin.

Sometimes, I take the money out of my pocket to see what I can afford. Can I have free health insurance? Can I afford to cancel student loan debt?

Only a man without pride counts his money inside a store, bar or restaurant.

"You don't count your money at the table in a restaurant," Pop used to say. "People think you don't know if you can pay. Count it out in the street, before you go in the place."

That's a piece of advice from a man who was wearing a pinkie ring when they carried him out of the house for his last ambulance ride.

I didn't want Trump because I didn't want worms, but I let the Electoral College do the shopping and, as Ma said, that cheap hamburger leads to a nest of worms down in your gut, and over in the Ukraine region.

But the Democratic shopping isn't going well. I look at the packages, and I check the prices, but at best, all I see is the good hamburger. There is no ground sirloin.

And I know how appealing the cheap hamburger can be when you want something, anything to feed your belly and feed your bitterness. "Maybe it'll be OK if I eat the cheap hamburger," you think. "Just as long as the illegals get nothing at all. I'll still be white, and I'll still have some kind of meat."

Nah. You'll get worms.

And I'm counting my money and figuring I'll buy the good hamburger again this time because, as near as I can tell, the ground sirloin isn't coming back to this store.

To find out more about Marc Dion, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit Dion's latest book, "The Land of Trumpin'," is a collection of his columns that won't give you worms, but they will make you think. The book is available in paperback from, and for Nook, Kindle, iBooks and GooglePlay.

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