Barbara Ehrenreich describes in her article “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America”, her experiences trying to survive while working minimum wage jobs in Key West, Florida. An eye-opening experiment for her and anyone reading her story, it proved just how hard it is for many people to survive in America. I have been fortunate to have found jobs that always paid more than the federal minimum wage. At $7.25 per hour, I would never be able to afford half the things that I take for granted now. Though I have a hard enough time making ends meet as it is, bringing in a paycheck like that every week simply wouldn’t cover the expenses. Consider that $7.25 an hour equates to $290 gross weekly income. I am taxed roughly 20% which brings my net weekly paycheck to about $232. My rent which is very low compared to the average tenant is nearly half that amount. I am fortunate to not have a car payment but I still spend about $35 a week on gas. Not to mention my $100-a-month car and cell phone payments. Further budgeting a measly $50 a week for food, my entire paycheck is effectively exhausted.
A family of four, if attempting to survive on two minimum wage jobs would be far less fortunate than I. They would want to have a 2 bedroom apartment at least, which runs no less than $600 and that’s if you catch a break. A 3 bedroom living arraignment would be upward of $700 for anything with no leaks in the roof or bullet holes in the walls. Throw in daycare, diapers, and an endless number of surprise expenses and one is no longer surprised at the amount of welfare dependents.
I have mixed feelings about minimum wages. One argument states that setting a minimum wage raises the entire economic plane. Or in other words, it drives up the cost of living for everyone, effectively neutralizing the purpose of having a wage minimum to began with. The thinking with this theory is that employers would find it necessary to keep wages at a certain level to compete with other businesses. On the other hand, if there was no minimum then employers could pay as a low a wage as they wanted. They could underpay more if they were a major employer in the area, potentially leaving a region in a lower standard of living.
I have much experience dealing with bosses concerned with the corporate image of their business. These people suspect that each and every one of their employees are professional criminals and thieves. The slightest misplacement of minuscule items is grounds for thorough investigations and questioning. They expect their underlings to continually work nonstop and whenever they are called. Personal crisis is regarded with annoyance and often consequences if work is missed. In short, they rule with iron fists, generally for reasons they don’t understand, forgetting they often come from the same lowly beginnings as the very people they love to berate and belittle.