Thursday, January 25, 2007

Common Lies And Misperceptions About Minimum Wage Workers

Minimum wage in this country has been ridiculously low for a ridiculously long time, while members of Congress received annual raises, many Americans lived with the same low income in a world that is increasingly becoming more expensive.

Big money and Conservatives have argued for years that raising minimum wage was counterproductive, words that sound harsh to the ears of people who routinely have to choose between toilet paper and food.

To put it this way, someone who works full time (40 hours a week) that is making $5.25 an hour will only make $210 a week, before taxes. In a mid sized city, such as the one I live in, a one bedroom apartment can go from anywhere from $400-$600 a month, in larger cities the price is higher.

Assuming we are paying $500 a month for rent alone that eats away half our monthly income in one shot, and we still have utilities to pay. In a state such as the one I live in, Michigan, it is not uncommon for a gas bill in the winter to range at low $100 to a high of $200 plus. So now $600 of our monthly income is already spent, leaving approximately $200 to pay all other utilities, buy food with, provide personal hygiene products with and pay for transportation with.

The way I figure it, even living frugally minimum wage workers have very little chance to succeed and live at least a somewhat comfortable life.

You would hope that there would not be people in this country who were so unimaginably cruel that they believed that people who were at a lesser advantage did not deserve something more.

But there are, and they come making false claims about the America worker, their worth and whether or not the workers actually deserve the raise, even though this country boasts of being the richest in the world.

Take example Conservative columnist Mona Charen, who's views most likely reflect those of the Conservative snobarchy in right wing America.

Charen tries to make the case that American minimum wage workers do not really need, nor deserve a raise. How pleasant of this pro-life mother of three to proclaim that working families do not actually need a raise.

I am assuming Charen has never endured the grinding wheels of a real working life, nor has she actually ever tried to live on the budget of a minimum wage worker, so her ability to determine the worth of American workers is.. well.. worthless.

Charen launches into her "the poor don't deserve more help" column by writing

"Fewer than one in five minimum wage workers lives in a family with income below the poverty line."

According to that statistic that means 4 out of 5 minimum wage workers do not have children and are only reliant on themselves for income. So is Charen trying to say that people without children do not need to have an income above the poverty line to sustain a high quality of life? That no one needs to be concerned about minimum wage workers, because many of them are single?

A one person unit is considered as living in poverty if they make less than $9,750 a year in the 48 Contiguous States and D.C. A minimum wage worker who works 40 hours a week will make 10,920 in a year, putting the worker just over $1,000 over the poverty line.

A unit of four, with two full time working adults at minimum wage will only clear the poverty line by about $2,000 in a year and that is with two adults working full time.

Other arguments Charen makes against the poor as follows:

"more than 82 percent of minimum wage workers have no dependents"

Is that to suggest that because one has no dependants they should be doomed to working hard for relatively little reward, to barely get by in the richest country in the world?

In fact, people should rejoice that the average minimum wage worker has no dependants, because if they did, because of their low incomes they would be forced to ask for additional help from the government threw welfare programs.

"Minimum wage workers tend to be young (under 25) and single (often they are students working part time)," Charen writes.

So, I see. Because some are young, tend to be single and go to school they do not need more money! I get it, they need less money! That way they have to work more hours just to make ends meet so they can never graduate from college and never get ahead! It's so clear now.

Now here is the statement that has me confounded, Charen writes that

"a full 40 percent come from homes with an annual income of $60,000"

If that statistic were true it would have to mean that there were at least five adults in one household who were all working full time for minimum wage, and that idea just doesn't hold water.

In the past I have lived on minimum wage and know for a fact hat it isn't fun, it isn't easy and sitting a mere couple hundred or a couple thousand dollars above the poverty line and it does not bring much comfort when you can barely afford to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Making minimum wage you often find yourself in positions where you have to choose between food and toilet paper, you choose to not go to the hospital when you are sick because you cannot afford the high cost and you have no insurance.

You have to choose between ramen noodles and the luxury of hamburger helper. Social activities? Forget it, it cost five hours of work just to go to a movie and buy a popcorn and soda and that's a lot of work for a little gratification.

Charens elitist hogwash continues

"63 percent of minimum wage workers receive a raise after the first year of employment"

Oh, WOW, so after a year they were making $5.25 an hour, a whole extra ten bucks a week buys a lot of ramen noodles! They must be wallowing in luxury by the time they are making a whopping $5.25 an hour. That's Kool-Aid money, we won't be drinking Flavor Aid tonight!

"part-time workers are far more likely to be paid minimum wage than full-time employees." Goes on the capitalist jargon dribble.

BUT, don't bother to mention the fact that many employers would rather employ several part time workers rather than a few full time workers, because employers are not required to provide health insurance to part time workers and do not have to promote or give raises to part time workers.

Wake up people, this is America, and we are supposed to be a civilized society. A civilized society should not let people fall between the cracks. These people are working and trying to make a living.

Unfortunately, for various heartbreaking reasons, these people were unable to achieve a college education, whether it is because they do not have the opportunity, finances or time.

Minimum wage workers do not come from families of privilege and they have no one other than themselves to rely on, so a helping have should be reached out to them. Their working and trying to make a living, not trying get something for nothing.