mardi, mars 08, 2005

The Life of the Working Poor, A Case for Increasing the Federal Minimum Wage

The federal minimum wage is $5.15 per hour.

Did you look at your watch to confirm that it is 2005? I did.

$5.15 per hour. Let’s do the math.

$5.15 x 40 hours a week = $206 per week for full time work.

$206 x 52 weeks per year = $10,712.

Because I live in Minnesota, I will use Minnesota as an example of how ridiculous this is.

Let’s get really silly for a second, and assume that a minimum wage worker, we’ll call him Frank Forgotten, lives alone and somehow found an apartment for $400 per month. ($10,712 minus $4,800 leaves $5,912). For the record, it is very difficult to find an apartment in the twin cities for $400 per month, but I want to give every advantage to our conservative brothers and sisters.

Also, let’s assume that Frank needs transportation to get to work and to the grocery store, etc. Let’s also assume that Frank can use the least expensive bus pass all the time (he never rides the express bus, and he never rides during peak hours – absurd, but bear with me). That pass is $42 per month or $504 per year.

$5,912 minus $504 leaves $5,408.

To continue the silliness, let’s assume that Frank’s water, gas and electric only come up to $100 per month. They won’t, but let’s assume that they do.

$5,408 minus $1,200 leaves $4,208.

Let’s also assume that Frank can eat for $100 per month (again, impossible, but humor me).

$4,208 minus $1,200 leaves $3,008.

So we’ve done food, shelter and transportation. But we have not done clothing. Let’s allow Frank to spend $500 on clothes per year.

$3,008 minus $500 leaves $2,508.

Let’s add $40 per month so that Frank can have a phone (but let’s not allow him to use it for long distance; if he has a cell phone, he can never go over his allotted minutes).

$2,508 minus $480 leaves $2,028. Okay, good. Frank has food, clothing, transportation and shelter, and he still has two grand left for “walkin’ around money.” Wait. I forgot something.

Frank has not paid taxes yet.

The federal income tax is 15% for single filers like Frank who have an income between $7,151 - $29,050. Source.

So, 15% of $10,712 is approximately $1,607.

$2,028 minues $1,607 leaves Frank $421.

But the State needs her pound of flesh too. The state income tax for Frank is 5.35%. Source.

5.35% of $10,712 is $573.

$421 minus $573 is -$152.

And Frank has not gotten sick. He has not had an injury. He does not have a gym membership, nor does he tithe at church. Frank does not have a bicycle or running shoes. Frank has no fun. Frank cannot buy a gift for his mother or father or any siblings. Frank never goes to a concert nor does he rent roller skates at the park. Frank has no margin for error at all. Frank has not paid his Social Security taxes. Frank does not have medical insurance or dental insurance. If his employer offered it, he is not likely to be able to afford it. If Frank gets a toothache, my advice is bourbon and a string (borrow the bourbon BTW). If Frank’s vision blurs, he’s in trouble. Frank cannot go out to dinner. Frank, at this point, does not have a hunting license or a fishing license. Frank cannot go to the home opener. Frank cannot buy the new 50 cent album or rent videos at Blockbuster. Frank does not have a television or a radio or a DVD player. Frank does not have a newspaper subscription. My advice to Frank is: avoid coffee, because on the weekends, when he is not getting free coffee at work, he is going to have impressive caffeine withdrawal headaches. Even though Frank has no money for condoms, Frank can have no dependents – ever. Frank does not make a living wage for even one person.

The Democrats propose that we raise the minimum wage $2.10 over the next 26 months.

Republicans, seeing the embarrassing largesse in that proposal, want $1.10 over the next 18 months.

On an unrelated item, have you seen this?

Or this?

We can do better. You know we can. We can distribute the pie more equitably. You know we can. We can insure a living wage for people who are willing to work a 40 hour week and still make sure that the middle class, the upper middle class and the wealthy can buy gasoline for their multiple cars that they use to travel between their multiple houses.