Thursday, March 26, 2009

Living Wage versus Minimum Wage

I heard someone terribly confused the other day. She made the statement that she was paid a living because she made minimum wage. Unfortunately, the woman was serious. Minimum Wage isn't a Living and you can do the numbers for yourself.

First, let's define minimum wage, the purpose, the type of job and the results.

Minimum Wage became required because there were people who abused their power over their employees to not pay them for their work. This became required minimum wage for entry no-skill type jobs. Entry level no-skill jobs were fast-food, labor and the like.

The employer would have incentive to train the worker during the minimum wage period and promise raises, if after training the employee would stay on. These jobs were mostly part-time and taken by teenagers.

The incentive for the employee was work hard to work your way up and make more money by performance and loyalty to the employer, or understand the value of training, schooling and developing a marketable skills to get to the point of making a living wage.

The time in a life cycle to begin making a living wage should coincide with the fertile years & making a family: twenties. Scientifically, a woman's best years for child bearing are mid-late twenties to early thirties. Does it happen later? Yes. Is it physically advantageous for the average woman? No. So to create a healthy society, these physical needs that impact on society should be not only considered but of primary importance to policy makers.

Other minimum wage jobs were wage plus commission during the training or start up period for sales, or wage plus tips as in service, waiting tables etc. Hard work & service again providing more money, in addition to the minimum wage.

Dead-end minimum wage jobs like newspaper delivery, while a good job for a school kid were never meant to be more than temporary, part-time, fill-in.

Living wage jobs are for the majority of people working. They do this job for a living. How do you know if you've got a living wage job? Do these simple calculations for your geographical area.

For the purposes of these calculations let's agree that an average family consists of 2 parents, 2 kids. While yours may be different, the point of this exercise is to make a comparison in the end, so please play along.

How much does it cost an average family to:

Provide a average house 3 bedrooms, 2 baths (buy or rent) ____________
Food: Eat three healthy meals plus two healthy snacks a day ____________
Running Expenses: heat/air, water, sewer, electric, gas, TV, phone, Internet ________
Clothing: an average wardrobe work, play, church clothes _____________
Cars: Two cars (one with a payment, one without) _____________
Car Maintenance: gas, oil changes, tires __________
Car Insurance ___________
House Insurance _____________
Health Insurance & Expenses not covered ____________
Dentist 2 per year per person ________________
Eye Check & Glasses once per year _____________
Life Insurance _______________
School Expenses: Books, Paper Products, Sports, Music Lessons, etc _____________
1 week Vacation per year ______________
House Furnishings: linens,furniture,small appliances etc _________
House Maintenance: Lawn Care, Large Appliances, Repairs & Upgrades __________
Charitable Giving: Church & other organizations ____________
Anything Missed: ________________

What is your total?? ________________________

I guarantee it's not possible on a minimum wage job, two minimum wage jobs, three minimum wage jobs, four minimum wage jobs... and there is no more time in the week for two adults to have more than four full-time jobs.

In many areas of the country, this number starts in the $50,000 range and depending on your location could start closer to $100,000.

Well, two $25,000/yr jobs is the same as one $50,000/yr job, right?

Well, no. Clearly, you aren't thinking about living a life. Two jobs and two kids means what? Babysitters, unhealthy food, eating out more often, less family time, more taxes, less upkeep on the house, more strain, more adultery, more abuse, more divorce, more youth trouble, more crime, general societal break-down. (Don't believe me, travel through your city to the areas where mom & dad have to work to make the household bills.) Other parts of life suffer. Really. Which makes your number crunching, while numerically correct in the short run, do nothing for the long term of the family or society.

Let's look at the bright side of a living wage for the majority of American families.

American Companies would definitely make money because there would be more money circulating in the economy.

Car Companies would sell more cars.

Insurance Companies would sell more insurance.

Manufacturers would sell more stuff: clothes, shoes, coats, linens, rugs, can openers, sewing machines, lawn mowers, bird feeders, dining room tables, bedding, beds, sofas, tables, lamps, hats, socks, books, paper, personal care items, pencils, radios, TVs, movies, storage containers, shelving, flooring, tile, dishes, pillows, tools, yarn, crafts, cameras, computers, sports equipment, etc.

With one vacation per family per year, Tourism would be moving the economy along: airplanes, trains, cars, rentals, hotels, motels, eating-out, buying souvenirs, entertainment and all the items that make a vacation comfortable.

Society would improve right away because more mothers would stay home with their children, if their husbands could provide the family living (or mom could work and dad could be home, it matters not which but there would be a parent available to the children).

Fall-Out: Better School Test Scores, Better Behavior, Less Crime, Back yards and Play would be the after school program, instead of being shuffled from one stranger to another all day long.

Let's say there are no kids just the couple: ______________

Let's say it's a single person: _________________

Making a living in America is something that the soldiers coming home from WWII did. Look at the thriving economy they had.

We know from history that a living wage thing is a win-win all the way around.

A healthy economy is a pyramid in correct proportion: the base of the society has enough to sustain themselves well with enough to provide for the few that don't have enough and to provide the gravitational support required for the blocks higher or the pinnacle of the pyramid.

Who should be the base? The largest numbers of workers in America are high school graduates. This is the base. Trade school graduates should do better, College Graduates even better, College Graduates with extra training or specialized fields even better.

If you love America, insist on American Adults making a Living Wage and even better.

(I'll put the soap box away now. Thank you for reading.)

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