Minimum Wage


I’m certain many of you have noticed the debate concerning minimum wage.  I don’t know the figures, so someone please correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems the minimum wage has not kept up with inflation and cost of living increases over the last forty years.  This means that someone working full-time earning the minimum wage cannot afford to live in this country.  This upsets people because the idea of “minimum” should be equal to the least amount a person can earn and still support themselves, yet many are living below the poverty line in the riches nation on Earth.

Now, let’s take into account that since the 70s, almost all households have become supported by dual earners.  Everyone of working age in the home is expected to make money to support themselves.  So two minimum-wage workers in a house now should certainly be making as much as the a single earner in the 70s, right?  By that logic, raising the wage to $15/hr is ridiculous.  With dual earners, the house is already making that wage or close enough.  In reality, you’s be raising the wage to $30/hr!

Of course, not every home is headed by a pair of adults legally bound to each other for life.  Obviously.  So what do you tell the single parents out there?  Get married?  Well, no.  We tell them to get a better job.  Which is dumb.  First, find me one person in this country who wants to work min wage jobs.  It’s a job.  It pays the bills until my album goes platinum.  Every min wage job out there sucks.  It retail/service/dirty crap that we like to pretend is only good enough for teenagers and lazy people.  The amount of disdain we heap on the working classes is disgusting considering how much we rely on them.  Deciding that people don’t deserve to be paid a living wage just because their job is beneath us?  Is that what this country was founded on?

Someone is going to say that those people are just not budgeting properly.  They’re to lazy or stupid to get a real job, so they’re sitting back, getting fat on gov subsidies, and complaining because they can’t use their food stamps to pay for their new iphone.  Yes, and ENTIRE class of workers is cheating the system.  Does anyone have the numbers for how many people that would be?  While we’re talking about the lazy people doing an easy job and expecting to be able to live on their paychecks, how can anyone call fast food an easy job?  Is it only people who have never worked in the service industry who can say this?  In my experience, there’s no such thing as an easy min wage job.  They can be fun, rewarding, engaging, sure, why not?  But easy?  Standing over a hot grill for 8 hrs on a greasy floor.  Carrying fifty lb bags of frozen fries around.  Dealing with customers.

You know what I mean when I say “dealing,” right?  There are plenty of polite, generous, cheerful, or at least indifferent people who frequent establishments as customers.  But there are also rude, entitled a**holes, snappy, ungrateful b*tches, and people who are simply in a bad mood and don’t have the inclination or the ability not to take it out on everyone around them.  And it’s not like you can, I don’t know, smack the sense into them.  Beating customers is frowned upon.  So you deal with them.  You placate them by apologizing for things not in your control, you sympathize with their BS complaints, and you act upset when they explain how you’ve lost their business because you were incredibly busy on a holiday weekend.  Aw, we were making so much money from everyone else that we couldn’t dote on you!  Gosh, we’re sorry.

But here, let’s do a real world analogy.  I grew up in a double-earning household.  My dad was a college professor, which is the type of job one should be able to support a family on, but that’s another show.  In order to feed and clothe all five of her children, my mom worked at Hardees.  She got to be the asst manager, so not exactly min wage at that point, but there’s more.  At the same time, my mom also worked at a diner/restaurant down the street AND ran her own business teaching ballet and music lessons.  And we weren’t swimming in money, either.  Then dad got a job in the big city as a senior computer programmer for a big company (another job one might expect to be enough to support a family but somehow isn’t).  We moved.  Mom got another Hardees job, but eventually moved to the more genteel environment of Wendy’s before finding her true calling as a financial planner.  Moral of the story, I didn’t see my mom much in my youth because she worked long, unpredictable hours.  She missed concerts, competitions, and all manner of juvenile milestones so she could work an easy job.  So she could risk walking on grease-slicked floors on her artificial hip in shoes that hurt her feet because the heat and grease had curled up the toes like elf shoes.  So she could come home smelling like french fries.  So she could take crap from dumb teenage kids who had been raised to look down on service jobs but had to do them anyway to earn their way, pay their dues or whatever.  So she could have grown adults treat her like a failure.  Yeah.  Easy.  Exactly the type of crap a lazy person would go through to get a piddly paycheck.

“If you don’t like being unable to feed yourself, why don’t you get a real job?”  Oh?  How?  Ah, yes.  Go to college, get a degree, and spend the rest of your life digging your way out of crippling debt.  Provided you can get a job with a mere Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree in a job market bloated with fancy degrees.  That is also another show.

What really set me off today was an oft-repeated meme that compares the possible income of a $15/hr Johnny Fry-Boy with the pay rates of military personnel.

Why indeed should someone flipping burgers make more that someone sent to die in a war by old bureaucrats making six figures?  Well, first off, the math is wrong.  Yes, E-1s make sh*t.  However, s/he isn’t paying for sh*t either.  Single soldiers are put in barracks, for which they pay no rent or utilities.  They get meal deductions taken directly from their paycheck so they can have three-square meals at the DFac.  When they’re sick, they get free healthcare at the clinic.  They also get to have sick days and paid vacation.  Not to mention the lump sum they get every few years to buy new uniforms.  And if they’re married, they get extra pay for their dependents and they get a house on post, paid for by the Basic Allowance for Housing added to the regular paycheck, or they can find a place off post and the BAH boosts their pay enough that they shouldn’t have to pay for anything out-of-pocket (key word: shouldn’t).  No, they’re not living high on the hog.  But that’s why a private can make so little and stay off welfare.

What’s infuriating about posts like this is that it’s basically poor people squabbling against poor people.  Having lived on E-5 pay alone and as a dependent of E-7 pay, I can say categorically that our military is not paid enough to make up for the type of crap we put up with and the risks we take.  But using me and my friends as a foil against other poor people with sh*t jobs is frankly insulting.  I didn’t put my ass on the line so everyday Americans could starve because their job isn’t glamorous enough, while sleazy, bloated, patronizing, smug, over-grown children natter on about how entitled the poor are getting and then voting for their own pay raise.  Again.  Stop asking why we should suddenly double the min wage for “unskilled labor” and start asking why our gov has seen fit to continue raising the pay of people who only work 120-some days a year while ignoring the sky-rocketing cost of education, the crumbling infrastructure, and the staggering wage gap, not to mention archaic race relations, gender bias, global warming, and the increasingly pathetic and embarrassing reality TV show that is our political system and the lamestream media.  Maybe start comparing the paychecks and benefits of government officials to those of the soldiers/sailors/marines/airment they send to get blown up every day and stop picking on the people struggling to make it by while working two or three jobs.

In conclusion, minimum wage should be a living wage.  Not living with four other people, eating ramen and poptarts because how else will you afford the car you need to get to the job you have since [no one is hiring/you can’t afford school/your other entry-level job isn’t sufficient to pay off your student loans and the rent] because the public transit system is so inadequate as to be almost entirely useless.  Please, please, stop looking down your noses at people because the work they do is beneath you.  Those jobs are not “designed for a kid in high school.”  They’re jobs, plain and simple.  If you want to compare fry-boys with privates, why don’t you point out their similarities.  Both require a bare minimum in education, skill, and experience.  Both get paid the bare minimum as dictated by the gov regulations.  Both have to put up with a certain level of BS on a daily basis.  Both are demoralizing and demeaning in their own ways.  And while you chirrup about how our military risks their lives everyday, you forget that we signed a contract and took an oath to do that, which means it is a choice freely taken and with our full knowledge and consent.  Plus, we are financially compensated for hardships (as a single E-5, my paycheck effectively doubled when I deployed).  If anything, the above argument advocates for a higher min wage, or at least an increase in entitlements for min wage workers.  Here’s the deal McBurgertown, we’ll continue to work for $7.25/hr so long as you pay our rent, utilities, meals, healthcare, and buy us new clothes every three years.

Or we could continue to blame the poor for being poor in a system set up to keep them poor and admire the rich for being selfish, greedy gits.

Rage is spent for now.

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3 Comments

15AM00000032011 · 03:48

3 responses to “Minimum Wage

  1. numbers for people on snap? 47 million people in 23 million households. about 14.7% of the total population of the US. oddly enough, that’s almost the same number of people living below the poverty line and the same number of people who are uninsured. it’s almost as if people who are on SNAP might actually need help.

  2. mom

    Anyone making less than $24k/year for a family of 4 is considered in poverty. Typically, they spend 1/3 of their income on food. So that would be $8k/year or $600/month. That leaves about $1800/month for housing, transportation, utilities, insurance. Typically, they depend on their work places to provide life insurance and health insurance. OOOPS! They’re min wage so they aren’t entitled to this as min wage jobs rarely allow 36-40hrs/week in order to qualify for benefits. Since most of the Life insurance sold is cash value, they typical cost is about $100/month for $50k face amount and that doesn’t include the kids. Car insurance is another $60/month, and health is out the window. Utilities run about $200/month, car payments about $250 if they got a good deal, and gas is about $40-$50/tank. What are we down to now? $600. Housing costs for an apartment are between $600-$800 for a small 2 bedroom apartment. OH and BTW, HHS does not allow boy and girl children to share a room. So if you have 2 children and one’s a boy and the other’s a girl, you get the couch and they get the bedrooms. Oooorrrr you could pay $1200/month in rent. Let’s take a look.

    Income: $2k/month Expenses: $2400/month Well that’s not going to work…

    During the winter months, Fast Food and Retail (other than Christmas) drops hours to as low as possible. So that LAZY person, in order to work 40 hrs a week, has to have 3 (yes 3) jobs. And no sleep.
    And most dual income earners on min wage jobs are putting in about 40-60 hours/ week with 2 jobs each. 40 hrs/week is 2600 hours at $7.50 is $15k/year, and 60 hrs/wk is $22,600. When I worked fast food, nearly every shift had a college graduate working on it. People were fighting for management jobs to bring up income to $37k. As an assistant and co-manager, 1/3 of the applications I received for entry level Fast Food were from people over 25 and 1/2 of those had college degrees.

    • also, there’s not enough space in hud programs to help house everyone in the poverty range, and it often goes FCFS. i know people who were on lists for upwards of 2 years for an apartment. i waited a year for mine, sleeping on couches, and i’m one of the few that has a rent reduction of “all of it because holy shit you’re poor”, most people just get reductions

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