Minimum Wage, Minimum Life

men were at work

Busting myths about who will benefit from raising the minimum wage.

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Most of us have had a shitty job or two.

Maybe it was a job that barely paid, where the managers acted like tyrants, and the hours were inconvenient and unforgiving. Maybe in high school, we had to work at the local Gap to save up for gas money or after college, we waited tables to pay off student debt.

But how many of us have actually had to support ourselves fully – let alone support a family – on a job like this?

There are a lot of people out there who have to do just that.

They earn the minimum wage at a thankless job that is their only form of income.

And that income is extremely low.

The federal minimum wage is $7.25/hour. That means $15,080 per year for a full-time worker.

Minimum wage varies depending on the state you live in, but most states have chosen to remain at the bottom of the wage scale.

Simply put, the minimum wage is too low and has been that way for far too long.

Why Is the Minimum Wage So Low?

In 2007, the federal minimum wage was raised for the first time after a full decade of stagnancy.

This increase was modest at best, and was completely incapable of measuring up to the intense increases in energy and food prices over that same ten years.

And since then?

The wage has remained fixed at this low rate.

Many workers employed at restaurants, nail salons, car washes, and other service jobs are even worse off.

Employers are allowed to legally pay these workers only the tipped minimum wage– a ridiculous sum of $2.13/hour. This wage has not been raised in twenty-two years.

Granted, the Fair Standards Labor Act (FSLA) mandates that if a worker’s total wages (tips plus the hourly $2.13) do not add up to the federal minimum, the employer must make up the difference.

But this is small consolation when all of the worker’s tip money has been used to close that gap.

Who Is a Typical Minimum Wage Worker?

The typical minimum wage worker is not who you’d think.

They are not, in fact, the stoner high school student looking to make extra cash or the aspiring post-grad working on their acting career.

They are the average low-income working adult, struggling to get by and provide for a family on a wage that is simply not high enough to pay for the expenses of modern day life.

In fact, 88% of minimum wage workers are over the age of 20, and astoundingly, more than one third are older than 40.

Sadder yet, these workers’ minimum wage salaries account for half of their total family income, on average. These are not side jobs used to earn vacation money. They are jobs that adult workers are trying to build their lives around.

Check out this infographic from the Economic Policy Institute for a visual portrayal of myths versus reality about minimum wage workers:

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How Challenging Is it to “Make It” on the Minimum Wage?

Let’s take that average full-time minimum wage worker income of $15k/year and $7.25/hour and dissect it a little bit.

Living in the most expensive US state, Hawaii, you would have to work 175 hours per week to be able to afford a two-bedroom apartment on the minimum wage.

However, this a legitimate impossibility, as one week contains a total of only 168 hours.

Even in the much cheaper housing markets like Illinois – where the minimum wage is higher, at $8.25/hour, and the rents are lower – you’d have to work for a whopping 82 hours per week to be able to rent a two-bedroom.

So if you can’t house yourself, can you at least afford food?

According to the USDA, the cost of a healthy diet for a family of four ranges from $146-$289 per week. But even that lowest sum means buying the cheapest fruits and vegetables and doing considerable weekly planning as well as at-home preparation.

Many low-income working families do not have the luxury of free time to do these things.

And if both parents are working, who will take care of children? Daycare probably isn’t an option if you are living on a minimum wage salary.

Forget trying to raise a family, sending your kids to get an education with clothes that fit and supplies to do their homework. Forget living in a safe neighborhood with good schools. Forget fresh, healthy food.

Not to mention, minimum wage jobs almost never provide the necessary living wage benefits such as paid sick days, health care benefits, and retirement packages.

Make Minimum Wage? You Probably Need Welfare

For a minimum wage worker, it’s almost impossible to make it without relying on the assistance of federal programs.

When people use the age-old adage about how “lazy welfare recipients need to get a job,” they seem to forget the fact that many people who receive some form of government assistance are employed – but that the wages that they make are simply not sufficient to get by.

They are not “living wages.”

Huge corporations like Walmart and McDonald’s pay such low wages that their full-time workers live in poverty and are eligible to receive food assistance through SNAP, the program formerly known as food stamps.

What criticizers of welfare don’t (or pretend not to) realize is that the most effective way to reduce government spending on food stamps would be – you guessed it! – to raise the minimum wage.

If we want low-income people to work and be able to provide for themselves and their families without government assistance, we absolutely have to pay them a living wage.

Has the Minimum Wage Increased Appropriately Along with Inflation?

This is a simple answer: No.

In the year 1968, the minimum wage of $1.60/hour was substantial enough to lift a family of three out of poverty – even a family with only one income.

If the minimum wage had risen according to inflation over the years, it would be over $10 today.

And yet it remains stuck at a pitiful $7.25.

While the price of basic necessities like food and fuel has skyrocketed in recent years, minimum wage workers are trapped earning a wage that would have only been suitable decades ago.

Legislation on the Federal Minimum Wage

The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013 would raise the nationwide mandated wage to $10.10/hour by the year 2015, by way of three separate 95 cent increases. It would also increase the tipped minimum wage to 70% of the full rate.

Starting in 2016, the wage would also be “indexed” for inflation – meaning that it would rise according to how much the cost of living increases in the years to come.

The act would give 30 million workers a much-needed raise. Fifty-six percent of these are low-income women and almost half are workers of color. It would also mean a substantial income increase for the parents of over 17 million children.

Additionally, increasing the tipped federal minimum wage would mean a substantial step forward in women’s pay equity, as 71% of tipped wage workers are female. This makes raising the minimum wage a feminist issue as well as a labor and poverty issue.

In short, passing the Fair Minimum Wage Act would create a substantially better chance for working families to actually support themselves on a minimum wage salary.

How to Help Raise the Minimum Wage

If you think this is a good idea, you aren’t alone.

Recent polls show that two thirds of Americans support raising the minimum wage to $10 and indexing it so that it increases with the cost of living.

Call your elected officials in Congress and ask them to support the Fair Minimum Wage Act.

Join the email listservs and campaigns of pro-worker groups like the National Employment Law Project , NELP’s Raise the Minimum Wage campaign, the Economic Policy Institute or the National Women’s Law Center, who focus attention on raising the federal minimum wage and addressing pay inequity.

And get active on Twitter using the hashtag #RaisetheWage to spread awareness.

How Much Political Support for Exists for the Minimum Wage?

Slowly but surely, things are beginning to change – whether it be extending the minimum wage to those who do not currently have it or enacting higher state wages across the country – but there are still many who oppose a minimum wage raise with hellfire, claiming that there are “better ways to help the poor” because of the assertion that a raise will hurt small businesses, lead to further unemployment and cause economic downturn.

Economic studies show that these assumptions are wrong.

By a 4-to-1 marginlead economists agree that raising the minimum wage does not reduce employment and that the economic benefit of doing so outweighs the cost.

Furthermore, more than two-thirds of small business owners support an increase of the minimum wage as well as indexing it for inflation.

In recent months, some strides forward have been made.

On September 17 of this year, the US Department of Labor announced the extension of overtime protections and minimum wage laws to home care workers.

After almost four decades of injustice, this monumental step will extend this crucial law to the two million American workers who care for the elderly and disabled in their homes. This measure is timely and much-needed, as home care assistance is one of the fastest-growing industries in our nation.

In another recent leap forward, the state of California is on track to pass the highest state minimum wage yet – $10/hour by the year 2016 (at present, the highest state wage can be found in Washington state at $9.19/hour). If enacted, this important increase is likely to lead the way for many other states to raise their minimum wages as well.

Raising the minimum wage will help boost the economy.

It will help families in need making a living wage and protect their children.

It will help people earn enough to not need government assistance to get by.

And it will help women and people of color.

To me, it’s a no-brainer.

Let’s #RaisetheWage – and let’s do it now. It’s been a long time coming.

 

Originally appeared at Everyday Feminism

 

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Danica Johnson is a Contributing Writer at Everyday Feminism and the Communications Manager at the Coalition on Human Needs, an alliance of national organizations working together to promote public policies addressing the needs of low-income and other vulnerable populations. Living in Washington, DC, this West Coast native uses her free time to write for her blog Duckyfem, practice yoga and spend as much time with animals and in nature as possible. Follow her on Twitter @duckyfem and read her articles here.

 

Photo: flickr/Anders Sandberg

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Comments

  1. Tom Brechlin says:

    According to an article by the Boston Globe “The average minimum-wage earner lives in a household with a median income of about $47,000, just a hair below the national average — suggesting that many are secondary earners in middle-class homes. Many others who earn the minimum wage are college and graduate students working full-time to help fund their education.”

    • Hi Tom

      What exactly are you trying to say here ?

      • Tom Brechlin says:

        Hello Iben, hope all is well with you.

        Simply throwing this into the equation to bring some balance. It’s not to say that there aren’t people who are struggling with providing for their families while on minimum wage.

        There was mention of $2.13hr for waitressing. My tenant is a waitress. Her husband works in the labor field and brings home a good income. She makes the $2.13 an hour but on average she brings home $500 a week in tips (unreported) so it’s all cash. With the $2.13 an hour, she pulls in almost $30K a year.

        A wife of a friend of mine works at a large department store in a local shopping mall. She makes minimum wage in the shoe department but is on commission. The minimum wage is based upon hours off the floor as well as a cushion in the event her sales are too low. Working a 35 hour week (part time) she pulls in over $800 a week which means she makes $22. An hour.

        Again, as I said, it doesn’t mean there aren’t people who are struggling with providing for their families while on minimum wage.

        We need to also take into account that people who are making less then the poverty level are provided with other subsidies such as housing assistance, food stamps and health care.

        • Tom Brechlin says:

          I would also add that they can get subsidies for child care.

        • Following your arguments, those making minimum wage actually make more than minimum wage; therefore, the minimum wage is sufficient. This doesn’t address the argument that those making only minimum wage (not more) do not have enough income to pay rent, food and childcare.

          • Tom Brechlin says:

            Poverty level wage earners do have other subsidies which as I mentioned, includes housing, food, day care and health. I did a quick check of numbers on line. If someone receives $500 a month in housing subsidies, they are receiving an equivalent to a little over $3. an hour for a 160 hour work month. Day care subsidies on average, on the low side, another $600 a month which equals $3.75 an hour. Just adding those two amounts on to minimum wage, people have the equivalent income of $14.00 an hour. And to be honest, I’m being very conservative about these dollar amounts of subsidies. You have to also take into consideration that the dollar equivalent of these subsidies are not taxed. If the minimum wage earner is taxed at 30%, take home is around $5. An hour which still leaves the earner at about $12.00 an hour.

            Our Direct Service Techs for example, at my place of employment make a little over $11. an hour. 30% tax rate takes that $11.00 hour down to $7. Add to that the employee cost for insurance (ACA mandates him/her to have) which is about $150.00 (single) a month, brings the take home pay to about $6.00 an hour.

            About 90% of our clients are subsidized by government funding. Average length of stay at our facility runs at about $45,000. In cases where these clients receive subsidies, the stay is covered at 100% after a $5. a day co-payment which we waive. My own insurance plan, if I placed my son in our facility for treatment, it would only cover 80% after a $1200.00 Deductible. My personal out of pocket would be would be over $9000.00.

            Getting back to my original post, I would like to reiterate that average household income of a minimum wage earner is pretty substantial.

            • Day care subsidies? Rent subsidies? I have heard of rent controlled apts in NYC. I have heard of subsidies housing (multiple-year’s wait time if your not a veteran in my town). But a quick check will reveal not every state has these programs. To me its very simple math. Increase the minimum wage, either through policy enaction or mass boycot to force corporate change, while lowering entitlement programs benefits (state and federal) in concert with higher wage increases.

              “The minimum wage is based upon hours off the floor as well as a cushion in the event her sales are too low.” WOW, your friend has an EXTRIEMLY cushy position Im sure many people aspire to. This is the exception and not the norm I feel.

            • Tom Brechlin says:

              Ryan – “Off time” is time where she is not selling which includes things like doing stock, setting up display etc.. You obviously never worked in a retail setting, especially where it relates to commission or you would understand what I was saying and wouldn’t have been so glib.

              US Department of Housing and Urban Development – Public housing in the United States is housing administered by federal, state and local agencies to provide subsidized assistance for low-income households. What states did you find that don’t provide subsidies?

              From what I was able to find is that ALL states have subsidies for child care. The restrictions appear to fall in line with their being licensed.

            • What about seniors on Social Security? The avg SS# is $1200 per month. Many who have subsidized housing get no or very little help.

            • So Tom, as Navac tried to point out, what you’re really saying is your company doesn’t sufficiently compensate its employees. Trying to say its OK because they get subsidized by the federal govt (aka our tax dollars) avoids that moral conundrum, not to mention the bigger issue that your company is effectively receiving an indirect profit subsidy by underpaying its workers. Sorry, but your “common-sense” economics and anecdotal evidence provide no “balance” to millions of data points analyzed by professional economists vetted in the broader community. Come back when you can make a better arguement and try not to sound like such an elitist.

            • Tom Brechlin says:

              Crassmag, what I was simply pointing out was that wage earners who are not below poverty level, when you look at their wages, many aren’t in any better position and fact some are in worse positions.

              “anecdotal?” You may want to do some research and quit relying on liberal main stream media

            • So Tom, how does your reply refute my assertion you are simply a corporate apologist? Your three second-hand case studies, even if plausible, are the very definition of anecdote. The research has been, and continues to be done by people far more qualified than you it seems (read article above before commenting please, otherwise you’re just a troll). Please, please show us the mountain of evidence needed to refute the conclusions of the article above because, frankly, your opinion and anecdotes aren’t up to the task.

            • Tom Brechlin says:

              “The research has been, and continues to be done by people far more qualified than you it seems (read article above before commenting please, otherwise you’re just a troll). Please, please show us the mountain of evidence needed to refute the conclusions of the article above because, frankly, your opinion and anecdotes aren’t up to the task.”

              I would like to point out that one of the studies that was referenced gave a breakdown of who th minimum wage earners are:
               The average age of affected workers is 35 years old;
               88 percent of all affected workers are at least 20 years old;
               35.5 percent are at least 40 years old;
               56 percent are women;
               28 percent have children;
               55 percent work full-time (35 hours per week or more);
               44 percent have at least some college experience.
              But conveniently left out the fact that the average household income of these workers is $47,000.00. Leaving that stat out leads me to believe it’s somewhat biased and misleading.

              “A study by Joseph Sabia and Richard Burkhauser for the Employment Policy Institute concluded that an increase in the federal minimum wage to $9.50 would result in the loss of 1.3 million jobs, primarily low-skilled jobs. Moreover, Sabia and Burjhauser concluded that there would be very little gain in exchange for this pain. According to their research, state and federal minimum wage increases between 2003 and 2007 had no effect on state poverty rates.”

              “Michael Hicks of Ball State University looked at the impact of the July 2008 minimum wage increase on unemployment rates in the United States and concluded that a 10 percent increase in the minimum wage results in a roughly 0.19 percent increase in unemployment, meaning the loss of about 160,000 jobs.”

              Yup, I’m a troll.

            • Tom,

              It’s not worth engaging someone who uses language like “corporate apologist.” Language like that suggests that an agenda is being advanced and facts are not going to get in the way.

              For what it’s worth, I appreciate your contributions here, and much of what you have said is interesting food for thought.

        • Luther Krin says:

          Firstly “A wife of a friend of mine works at a large department store in a local shopping mall. She makes minimum wage in the shoe department but is on commission. The minimum wage is based upon hours off the floor as well as a cushion in the event her sales are too low. Working a 35 hour week (part time) she pulls in over $800 a week which means she makes $22. An hour.”

          This is a physical impossibility. Even if she were working FULL time. (Even though you say she only works part time) It doesn’t matter whether we are talking about commissioned minimum wage or even non-commissioned minimum wage in the best State in the U.S. (A little above $9 per hour) The highest end situation ($9/hour at 48/h per week – AKA – Full time) she would only make $1,020 per month after the 30% tax deduction. (Not counting commission) You’re saying somehow she ends up with $3,200 per month. I’m using the highest end minimum wage to show in the best case buffer scenario, she would still need to make more than DOUBLE her current FULL TIME salary worth of just commission. You cannot consistently make more commission than you have income every single week. That’s not how the law of averages work. It also isn’t as easy to make sales in a poor economy in order to ensure that large commission you would need. You can’t just say that “Best case scenario I think she made X. So let’s just skip averaging it with the worst case scenario and… Yeah, see? She makes a small fortune.”

          If she was living on her own, she wouldn’t be eligible for government subsidies like welfare. Which also means she isn’t eligible for anything else. Unless you have a local charity city-run subsidy that is specific to your area. If she has a spouse that is working? Then they would obviously be making more and definitely would not be eligible for any subsidies. Even if they also happened to have 2-3 children. Taking everything you’ve argued into account, you are wrong every which way. She cannot make that much at that job. Not working the hours you have listed, with the information we know about her job, how much per hour she is paid and needs to exceed via commission on a daily basis.

          Secondly, you “mention Poverty level wage earners do have other subsidies which as I mentioned, includes housing, food, day care and health. I did a quick check of numbers on line. If someone receives $500 a month in housing subsidies, they are receiving an equivalent to a little over $3. an hour for a 160 hour work month. Day care subsidies on average, on the low side, another $600 a month which equals $3.75 an hour. Just adding those two amounts on to minimum wage, people have the equivalent income of $14.00 an hour. And to be honest, I’m being very conservative about these dollar amounts of subsidies. You have to also take into consideration that the dollar equivalent of these subsidies are not taxed. If the minimum wage earner is taxed at 30%, take home is around $5. An hour which still leaves the earner at about $12.00 an hour.”

          You can’t just round down with small numbers. It distorts the facts. -30% from $11 and you don’t get $7. You’d get $8. You don’t chop down a WHOLE dollar when we’re talking single digits because of a couple cents difference. Rounding down would only be prudent if the number was going to end up closer to $7 than $8. Math! The only reason you’d overexaggerate or underexaggerate things that suit your stance, is if you’re wrong and need all the made up help you can get.

          You are also not being “conservative” with any subsidy amounts. Most government subsidies that you can get, are negated by another or are not relevant to everyone as a whole who happens to be working for minimum wage. Child Care subsidy? Great. If you have children. Not everyone does, so you can’t just add that to a minimum wagers per hour amount of income. Housing and Food subsidies? Yeah, sounds like everyone is eligible for those… Except that also isn’t always the case. Most welfare services which are the ones who offer both those subsidies take half (Or sometimes ALL) of whatever you make off of the total subsidy they give you. So… Let’s say you’re a single person with a child. That’s $900 per month in Ontario, Canada from welfare services. (To broaden your perspective of an issue plaguing both Canada AND the U.S.) But… Let’s say you make minimum wage full time. That’s about $1,230 at 10.50/h 5 days per week 4 weeks a month after tax deductions. That means $615 gets taken off the subsidy right off the top. Which means you only really get $285 worth of subsidy. Most ignorant people such as yourself see subsidy numbers and immediately start going. “Well, where’s the problem?! Just add this and this… It isn’t rocket science!” It may not be rocket science… But… There is more to it than banging a couple rocks together. So… Let’s sum up. $1,515 total after subsidy+income. $300 food costs, $900 per month for a two bedroom apartment, $100 hydro, $60 water, $40 cellphone/home phone and $40 internet = $1,440. Can’t pay for insurance for a vehicle, can’t make monthly payments for a vehicle, can’t pay for repairs for the vehicle you don’t have, can’t pay for gas for a vehicle… God forbid you need to buy clothes or something to take the edge off your day like a video game or some alcohol. Let’s say they even got the Child Care subsidy, which they would need to even get to this point… Good! It negates the child care costs and they are no more ahead than they would be if they didn’t have a child. Which is why it’s irrelevant to bring Child Care subsidies into the debate. It only ever breaks even and only applies to people with children to begin with. So… After we take into account all your subsidies, the person ends up with pretty much $0 at the end of each month working full time and can’t own a vehicle or buy clothes. Before you get into “Well, there are clothing subsidies…” Yes, in some places. In Ontario? There are none anymore. No winter clothing allowance either for emergency winter wear. There is also no community startup benefit as of two years ago. That benefit helps pay for last months rent and moving expenses if you need to move. Like if you’re a woman in an abusive relationship and need to get out and be financially independent. Or if you get evicted through no fault of your own, like a landlord being required to sell off his property for whatever reason. Or… God forbid, the landlord doesn’t like you and your lease is up. Which means if you ever need to move? You MUST find a place that doesn’t require first/last and quick. 30 days isn’t an eternity to look and almost everyone asks for first/last. If you can’t find one in time? Well… Sell your stuff and move your family into a hostel. That is reality. It’s happened to me once already.

          I could go on and on ripping apart your argument, but sadly… I don’t have the time. I am a single parent and have been living in this system my entire life. In most situations (Oddly enough) it is actually more beneficial to be unemployed than employed in terms of having more $ at the end of each month. Not even counting the time saved not working. Which is just pathetic considering the government is apparently trying to get people into employment. And this isn’t because people on welfare make too much, it’s because jobs do not PAY enough. Which is why that is the REAL issue that needs to be fixed. That and making more jobs available. Obviously.

          • The minimum wage does need to go up to around 11/hr, but the big argument in the US is that you can’t support a family of 4 on just one min wage earner. So saying that children shouldn’t even be brought into the argument takes a lot of the wind out of the sails for people arguing for higher min wage.

    • What the author naively assumes is that people actually have some say in the political process. The cost of running a political campaign and successfully being elected to a National office excludes the participation of Citizens. It requires contributions from huge multi-national corporations and political action committees. Very very few of these have the common good as part of their agenda. The truth is, go against the goal of these corporate goliaths and you lose your job. It is not in the interest of them to pay 1 cent more. Why should they? They can off load wages and benefits to the Federal government thus boosting profits, and owner equity. Where wage costs are high (technology, engineering), they can simply push the work with mouse click to the country of lowest wages. Millions of highly skilled jobs have been sent overseas. This leave no work for once high paid people who have no way to support their family’s other than minimum wage service jobs. The article goes into some demographics of minimum wage workers but neglects to say the 15 years ago, the average age for a fast food worker was a 17 year old high schooler, now it’s an adult. The reason for that shift is the off shoring of jobs. FoxConn, the company that makes Ipads, Iphones, and Ipods for Apple is located in China. It has 900,000 workers in conditions so appalling FoxCon had to install netting around the building to catch the suicide jumpers. Prior to his death, Steve Jobs was at a conference attended by Barak Obama, and Obama asked him what he could do to bring those jobs back. Steve said, ‘Nothing, those jobs are gone forever, get used to it”. While CEO pay has surged from 45x the average workers income to 350x’s the average workers income and stock prices are at record highs, the average worker now takes home LESS than he / she did in 1987.
      There is 1 way to stop this trend. Change how politics is funded.

      • Tom Brechlin says:

        Luther, you said “This is a physical impossibility. Even if she were working FULL time. (Even though you say she only works part time) It doesn’t matter whether we are talking about commissioned minimum wage or even non-commissioned minimum wage in the best State in the U.S. (A little above $9 per hour) The highest end situation ($9/hour at 48/h per week – AKA – Full time) she would only make $1,020 per month after the 30% tax deduction. (Not counting commission) You’re saying somehow she ends up with $3,200 per month. I’m using the highest end minimum wage to show in the best case buffer scenario, she would still need to make more than DOUBLE her current FULL TIME salary worth of just commission. You cannot consistently make more commission than you have income every single week. That’s not how the law of averages work. It also isn’t as easy to make sales in a poor economy in order to ensure that large commission you would need. You can’t just say that “Best case scenario I think she made X. So let’s just skip averaging it with the worst case scenario and… Yeah, see? She makes a small fortune.”

        You really lost me here. She makes $800 a week on average and works no more then 35 hours a week. At most, she may have 3 to 5 hours a week where she is doing non-commission work where she’s paid the minimum. I will note that it’s my understanding that she is one of their top producers but that aside, it is what it is. So I guess I’m not understanding what you’re saying and I’m not sure you’re understanding what I’m saying.

        I never said she would be eligible for any assistance, not sure why that was even mentioned.

        The fact that you’re from Canada, I would say that your system,without research,is different from our own. I would no more comment on your system then I would any other countries because I’m totally unfamiliar.

        • Reasonably effective sales people consistently make more in commission than they do in hourly wage. If ANY sales person is consistently hitting the minimum buffer they won’t (and shouldn’t be) be selling for long.

          I think Luther would be shocked to find out what a decent shoe salesperson at Nordstrom actually makes an hour. $800 per week and above happens if you have the ability and the hustle to do it.

    • The reason so many people can’t get by is taxes, pure and simple. Their money is going to foreign
      aid to countries like Pakistan, the UN, which has no Constitutional basis to exist on American soil,
      two undeclared wars over the last 12 years and a Congress that votes itself pay raises and gets
      free healthcare. There is more, but you get the idea.

    • mdbonneaux says:

      Tom, I’m going to reply to this comment because it applies down the chain to the rest: all these “subsidies” and welfare programs are a bandaid to the root of the problem, not a solution. What’s wrong with trying to get people off these programs? If more people are off of them, we spend less on them, which (in theory) we can either lower taxes or put the savings to better uses (anyone remember that we have an infrastructure crisis here in the US?). I’m not posting this to start a debate on it with you because I’m not going to be checking back on this, but I do want to put that bug in your head. Why have all these people get on government programs when we should be trying to get them to be able to stand on their own instead? Or are you in favor of a welfare state?

      End.

  2. I have had this argument with friends of mine on many occasions. Friends that are all well off, educated, and republican for the most part. One of them constantly whines that “Raising the minimum wage undercuts the middle class and isn’t fair”. This person, by the way, makes just under six figures a year.

    I always use the same argument: “Does inflation stop? Has the price of ANYTHING ever gone down? NO? Then all you are doing by denying increases to minimum wage is pushing people further into poverty, more of them onto government assistance, and many of them into crime, all because YOU think Minimum wage is fine where it is”.

    • mdbonneaux says:

      … I’ll pay more attention to this article if you can please translate that very first sentence for me.

  3. I for one am SICKL of Corporate America getting richer while exploiting the workforce!

    http://www.Privacy-Web.tk

    • Tom Brechlin says:

      Interestingly, I found this “In an interview that aired Sunday on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” the show host cited a recent study from the University of California, Berkeley, that found 95% of income gains from 2009 to 2012 went to the top 1% of the earning population.

  4. I believe we should be indexing the minimum wage with inflation with an initial adjustment to get back to par. Then we should invest in solutions that provide a better education for our poor to assure that we don’t have to subsidize them for the rest of their lives; ala “teach a man to fish….” While we may not be able to extricate the children from parents who provide a negative, uneducated, pressure under poverty, violent and drug filled environment; we can at least educate them to see the possibilities should they think beyond their own local, and current, circumstances and try for a better life than the one they started out with. BTW, if you want to lecture me, consider why my wife and I might have this point of view — we lived it.

    • Tom Brechlin says:

      Tim, you’ll not get a lecture from me. The wife that I spoke of is a degreed women in her mid 40’s who was a SAHM but because of her husband losing his job and having to take something far less then what he had (companies aren’t inclined to hire men in their 50’s),she is out there busting her behind.

    • Minimum wage was never “par” because it was never intended to be. If you have no golf skills, you shouldn’t expect to shoot par. And if you have no job skills, then you shouldn’t expect to be up to par wage-wise either. Minimum wage is NOT a career path. And most people are NOT using it as such, despite what the people hope ignorant people will believe. Even those who start out trying to support themselves solely on that get raises fast.

  5. Screw raising the minimum wage, abolish it completely and watch as the unemployment rate drops to 0. yes, 0! not even 0.3 or something like that, literally 0.

    • Funny when we had none we did not have 0 you seem to forget we have a history and it is not pretty.
      But I agree the fix is not to raise wages but to lower prices and hold prices a loaf of bread when I was a kid was 29 cents moms pay was 2.90 with full medical and dental that we could actually use.
      Now min is 7.25 or so and some bread is 5 bucks no good bread is 1.29-39 and regular bread is 2.99

      in twenty years is bread going to 29.99 and min 17.00 it just dont make sense as price rise to distance between poor and making it becomes insurmountable.

      When I was in my 20′s an APT I rented was 100.00 a month that same APT is 2000.00 now my min then had just became 4.25, to be equal it looks to me like you would need 80.00 an hour.

      That APT is on Manhattan Beach BLVD more than 2 miles from the beach.

      My electric bill is now three times what my rent use to be.

      Car insurance mandated we did not have that and be poor.

      Do you not see every time you go to the grocery store the price is higher on everything.

      How did the price of a car go from 3200.00 to 32,000.00 my pay check did not go from 400.00 to 4000.00

      My boss use to make 3000 a year more than me now he makes 3000000000000000.00 more than me.

      But go ahead and think pay minimum wage earners less is the fix.

      • please do tell me of when the employment rate was not 0 with the lack of a minimum wage. As far as i know, unemployment rates were not kept track of until after the minimum wage was created. Then also realize the unemployment rate is does not account for people not looking for a job. It only considers people that have not job that are actively looking for one and cant do so. If their was no minimum wage, it would be impossible to not find a job unless you didnt need one or you refused the job

        • I can not believe that you feel that there is no evidence of unemployment prior to 1933. Just because there wasn’t a federal department keeping accurate records, you feel as though it can not possibly be proven that unemployment didn’t exist? You do know there is evidence of homeless / unemployed people during the time of the pyramids, right? Oh wait, there wasn’t a federal department for that so it can’t possibly be true. I suppose Rome and Sparta didn’t have diverse classes where one end were rich and the other were jobless / penniless citizens who’s citizenship was at risk for unable to meet financial obligations. Also, the Great Depression CERTAINLY didn’t begin 4 years prior to the drafting of Fair Labor Standards Act in 1933.

          I don’t know where you got your informatio, but opinions don’t mean anything when there are facts to be reviewed.

          • Im not talking about the actual amount of people with no job. Im talking about the unemployment rate. Ancient Egyptians did not have an unemployment rate like we do. The unemployment rate is a little misleading to some people because it does not include people such as house wifes, or adult-children living off their parents or whoever else does not need work/income. It is the amount of jobless people actively looking for work, which means filing documentation with their states unemployment office, compared to the amount of people actually working.

            If the minimum wage was abolished, it would be impossible to walk out of the unemployment office without having job choices. They obviously will not pay well, but isnt that better than just cutting them a check?

            • 0% unemployment is like finding a Unicorn. Great, you got it, so what are you going to do with it? Nothing. If your goal is to become a successful, happy & healthy nation then why would you implement a policy that would align you with countries like China (http://news.cnet.com/8301-13579_3-57515968-37/riots-suicides-and-other-issues-in-foxconns-iphone-factories/) and other countries that clearly don’t care about their citizens. Why would you not instead look at countries that have successfully instigated policy that have led to happier, healthier & more productive people? Because those policies don’t allow you the economic freedom to accumulate a ton of assets. Americans have chosen the ability to accumulate cheap goods at the expense of a happy, healthy & productive society.

              I think the USA would be better off defining what their common values are the working to achieve them, instead of chasing the Unicorns of politicians who work toward a goal that has no meaning.

              Also, to toss it out their, I don’t believe minimum wage should be increased. I believe government should work to reduce it’s incredibly stupid expenditures (like war) and work to providing a decent education system, health system & policies that benefit the people. Otherwise, give the people their Unicorn and watch it disappear when business owner raise their prices.

            • China has minimum wage laws too, they might not be very high, but they have them. That would mean abolishing the minimum wage laws would less align us with the likes of China.

              and as for your last part; minimum wage laws force business owners to increase their prices to account for the extra pay roll costs(or move to china), not the other way around.

            • A better education system doesn’t matter if people aren’t using what is ALREADY offered. Many are dropping out of high school as I is. And many more are not choosing to even consider at least a 2 year degree…which IS manageable even for a poor person and ABSOLUTELY necessary to ever get off welfare in this country. And forget about the people who have a little money but are stuck in the 60s thinking that ANY college degree is a guarantee of life long job security.

              People…look at your college diploma. Or think about the one you are trying to get. If is has a A (for arts) in it and not an S (for Science) then you have just bought yourself a $100,000 piece of toilet paper.

        • mdbonneaux says:

          Unemployment rates weren’t strictly “kept track of” but if you go read ANY high-school history book and check out the chapter(s) on the great depression before min wage was established, you’ll see that plenty of workers were effectively forced into company-owned slavery. The company would pay them, say, $.05/hr and they made a total of $10 that week. The company store would charge them, say , $12 for everything they needed for that week to get by.

          That would be illegal these days you say? Human rights activists would step in? Look at how much Walmart pays its employees and, I dare you, take a guess where most of those employees shop. I won’t deny that it’s not the same and it really will never be again (barring a collapse of the US Govt at large), but it’s eerily similar.

          When there was no min wage, the lowest rung employees were used, abused, and flat-out exploited by employers when the times got tough.

      • Wow…typical ignorant debating. You are comparing 29 cent bread back then…which was just plain white bread…to expensive specialty breads today.

        I can still get plain white bread for $1…about the same number of minutes for your mom to work to buy today and then.

  6. You learn why people sell drugs real fast.

    • I think it’s easy to see why people turn to drugs and seek illegal ways of making money, when they can actually make money doing that versus working at K-Mart 10 hours a day! The funny thing is (though I know it’s TV) whenever you see criminals who are making the big bucks on TV, they always live in these run-down houses with no luxuries, etc. So does that mean they themselves got into drugs and stop caring about material things or do they really just not make any money? OR do they make money but have no idea how to save in order to buy nice things? Just a thought.

      • Do you really not understand? The notion of the Walter White drug dealer is largely FICTION. Most drug dealers a dealing to support their own habit. They are also getting caught far more often than on TV. (and contrary to popular belief, most drug dealers get out of prison WAY to EARLY) So they are constantly losing their money.

    • Because they had terrible single parent homes and got no education an choose to take the cowardly way out rather than get a free education and work for a living?

  7. This is a tricky line to tread in ethics, but what is said here is not fully accurate. The global economy is a closed system. The money used to raise minimum wage acts to cut the number of jobs that an employer can support. This is apparent from the very basic supply and demand graph that you would learn in Economics 101. The difference does not usually come out of a lavished CEO’s pocket. This is just like what happened after the ACA was implemented; the number of full time jobs dropped in order to put what-would-have-been full time employees below the 28-hour/week benefit line.

    At the end of the day, there is no free lunch. If you are suffering from a low wage job, read books, increase your skill level, and try hard to move up the employment ladder.

    There is no free lunch.

  8. If you raise minimum wage then prices of products go up and up. Keep going that way and we don’t solve the problem. One day minimum wage will be $100 an hour and people will still be on the poverty line.

    • This is a good point that’s little discussed. The Atlantic ran a piece back in August about how there is a direct relationship between the minimum wage and the cost of fast food – because higher wages for fast food workers translates directly into higher prices for fast food. The net result is that no one is better off because the prices simply adjust to control for the rising expense.

      • Alan Siebuhr says:

        I highly doubt that raising the minimum wage would cause the cost of fast food to skyrocket so much, as you have said. You forget that, when the minimum wage is raised, people have more money and thus are willing to spend more. Yes, prices will rise, but not nearly as much as you think.

        Show me a time in recent history where, when minimum wage was raised, it caused a huge spike in prices (also, your example of fast food prices rising is null, considering the fact that the price wouldn’t rise because of how disgustlingly cheap it is to make fast food in the first place).

        • “your example of fast food prices rising is null, considering the fact that the price wouldn’t rise because of how disgustlingly cheap it is to make fast food in the first place?”

          The restaurant industry doesn’t have incredible profit margins (avg is 2.4% vs. an S&P avg of 8.7%) McDonalds does better but most are single digit profit margin enterprises. So your point about fast food having incredible margins is incorrect. Secondly, pricing is driven to the point of diminishing marginal returns- if any of these enterprises were refusing to raise price because of “disgustingly” high margins they would be immediate takeover targets for investors who could easily ID the shareholder value being left on the table.

  9. So one of the main arguments is that subsidies kick in left and right to help workers make ends meet. I would agree this is true, but I would completely disagree this is OK. We’re essentially subsidizing profits for business owners and putting the burden right on the backs of the middle class. The key word is “middle class”, by destroying that, as a nation you’ve cut your wrists…only a matter of time.

  10. Conservatives think subsidies are too high for poor people. Liberals think min wage is too low. Why don’t they try both? Raise min wage to 11ish an hour over a 3 yr period and then peg it to inflation, but during that same 3 yr period put a freeze on the budgets for all the different benefits including a freeze on the qualifications to get those benefits. After that 3 yrs tie those budgets to inflation. With a rise in min wage less benefits should be paid out and there should be more tax revenue coming in. I say 11ish because that would bring min wage up to about 55% of the mean average of production and non-supervisory workers (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/08/19/the-u-s-has-a-7-25-minimum-wage-australias-is-16-88/).

  11. Won’t boosting the min wage just be a short term fix? Its not really making the work worth more so in time min wage will still always turn in to min wage be it 10 a hour or 100. It seams to me we have to bring the cost of living down and make the work itself more valuable.

  12. Yeah…that is what the term MINIMUM means. Minimum wage for minimum job skills. Minimum worth to a company. And therefore, because of a minimum education, a minimum life.

    Minimum wage was NEVER meant to be a living wage. That is why it is called MINIMUM. And minimum wage is NOT a career path.

  13. I usually enjoy these posts and find them well thought out and fairly unbiased, but this is pretty bad. Its just a one-sided view point with blanket statements tolled out as truths. I don’t even disagree with the overall point of the post, but I think it was covered very poorly. I’d like to see an article that addresses small, family-run businesses and the impact on their survival. I’d like to see how 20k a year entry-level jobs that require a degree or experience are going to adjust, because food and housing costs will adjust to the new minimum wage. The people that stand to benefit from this short-sighted fix for national poverty are those that are in the necessity business.

  14. It seems that the people who live in poverty understand how tough it is, and it really sucks. Others who want to deny the harshness of that reality always find exasperating sources of statistics, which has it’s own way of dehumanizing the subject being scrutinized.

    As long as the gap being those at the bottom and those at the top grow, the problems will only get worse. While touched in some comments, the gap gets much uglier in terms of any analysis of equity . . . funny how that seldom really gets addressed . . . it really should go hand-in-hand with income. I’m sure that’s a headache policymakers don’t want to deal with. Why? Because then the realization of equal opportunity – the myth of it – really hits home. Education as an equalizer is just as much a myth.

    The most disturbing thing for me is that in the natural world none of these dispersions exist with other life forms . . . and they call this evolution?

  15. Tom Brechlin says:

    @Mike L … thank you for the jolt of reality. I tend to get drawn into some of these matters and need to learn to discern when it’s worth it and when it’s not. And at the very best, I hope it simply gives people something to think about. Thanks again.

  16. Alan Siebuhr says:

    I think people who have never experienced poverty should just stop talking. It’s really easy to say, “read books and get an education” as if somehow that will miraculously fix the unemployment problem in the United States (also considering how a large percentage of unemployed people are college graduates).

    Bottom line, if you do not increase the minimum wage to keep it on par with inflation, then people will continue to starve and be in poverty.

    • Alan Siebuhr says:

      To correct my first sentence: I think people who have never had to experience hardship should stop trying to put in an opinion that is negative towards people who are actually trying to live off of the current minimum wage.

      • I literally put myself through college while working FULL TIME in retail. I went to community college first, because it was all that I could afford, and then transferred to a 4-year public school.

        I did well and went to law school afterwards. I had to take on a ton of student debt, but it was totally worth it because now I have a great job. It just wasn’t as difficult as you are pretending it is. I know because I literally did it. Maybe you should listen to someone like me instead of making assumptions about how “hard” my life has been?

  17. Where do people think that money comes from?! Raising the minimum wage means private companies will have to pay their employees from somewhere. Employers aren’t going to sabotage their profits, which means the general public sees an increase in prices for goods. Meanwhile, those that don’t work mimimum wage jobs have to pay much more for those that do. That’s socialism.

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