Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Minimum Wage: By The Numbers
Think Progress put this out last year, and it bears being seen again:
Morgan Spurlock is at it again. The man who exposed the unsavory side of fast food in the popular documentary Supersize Me takes on minimum wage in his new series “30 Days.” In the show, which launches tomorrow night on FX, Spurlock will submerge an average American in a completely different lifestyle for one month. (The Center For American Progress is holding an advance screening of the show in Washington, DC tonight.) For his first episode, Spurlock decided to explore exactly how hard it is to live on a minimum wage income for thirty days. He and his fiancee, Alex, moved to Columbus, OH and lived on $5.15 an hour for a month. They found out it’s pretty impossible. Here are the facts behind minimum wage in America:
4.3 million: Number of Americans who have fallen into poverty since President Bush took office
$5.15: Federal minimum wage
26%: How much the inflation-adjusted value of the minimum wage has eroded since 1979
0: Number of times minimum wage has increased since 1997
7: Number of times Congress has increased its own pay since 1997
$0: How much more a year people earning minimum wage earn today compared to 1997
$28,500: How much more a year members of Congress make today compared to 1997
$10,700: Amount a person making minimum wage will earn in a year
$5,000: Amount below the poverty level working 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year at minimum wage will leave a family of three
7,300,000: Number of workers who would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage
72%: Percentage of adult workers who would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage
1,800,000: Number of parents with kids under the age of 18 who would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage
11 million: Number of jobs added to the economy in the four years after the last minimum wage hike
$8.70: Amount minimum wage would have to be today to have the same purchasing power it had in 1968
2.5 years: Amount of health care for two children which could be bought by raising the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25
86%: Percentage of Americans who support raising the federal minimum wage
I would be grateful if you would read and reflect on the thoughtful responses to your childish comment spam. Here is my response in another thread, to which a mature person might have taken a few minutes to digest:
And Mr. Anonymous Coward #62,846, here's a living wage:
1. It provides you with enough money on an hourly basis that you don't need to work so many hours as to damage your health to meet basic human needs.
2. The basic human needs it should supply are: (a) living space no less than 400 sq. ft. for a single person (more for families), and including electricity, telephone, sanitary and cooking facilities, as well as hot water, (b) sufficient food to sustain a typical healthy diet, (c) money for transportation to and from work, (d) basic medical care, (e) basic clothing, and (e) sufficient additional money to permit savings for the following normal human events: medical emergencies, the births of children, higher education for qualified children, and old age.
You want a dollar figure? Fine: look at what is defined as poverty. That's about 20% less than a living wage, worse in cities.
No wage should be so small that a person cannot afford to live on it. So, the minimum wage should be identical to the living wage.
Ok, then. I’m guessing you mean poverty as defined in the US. (and not the IMF or WB number of $2 per day). The poverty line is roughly $9500 for one person (and $19000 for a family of four) (per the HHS). So if we increase the one-person poverty income to the number you want (that of which 9500 is 80%) (to your said living wage number) we’d arrive at a living wage, (defined by you) as about $12000 per year. I rounded up to be nice. As you’ll note from another post, the ghastly-low minimum wage, at 2000 hours per year equals an income about $10000. And this time I rounded down (I must really like you). Difference being $2000 per year or $1 per hour.
So, your living wage number is $6.15 per hour. Care to revise your figure?
Becasue I know you don’t think $6.15 is enough because of all this other babble:
“1. It provides you with enough money on an hourly basis that you don't need to work so many hours as to damage your health to meet basic human needs.”
How many hours damages your health? Seven hours a week or more damages mine. I hope you let me go on that.
”2. The basic human needs it should supply are: (a) living space no less than 400 sq. ft. for a single person (more for families).”
How much more for families? 400 sq ft per person? Why not 500 sq ft. Where’d you get your number? It’s not some arbitrary round number, is it?
“and including electricity”
How much electricity? Enough to run which appliances? Should those appliances be provided, too?
Long distance included? Or just to call for affordable carryout? Or to call emergency services?
I guess that means clean water and plumbing. (You know, thinking about standards of living and how bad you think everyone has it, it funny what your list of “basic” things includes and how rich you’ve gotta be to think that all these are “basic” things people should have (of course, paid for by others, but that’s beside the point.))
This may answer the appliance question from above. A minimum number of stovetop squeare inches, I’m assuming. You see, your great plan ends up being a great question and answer session for which you have no answers… Eventually you throw up your hands and say, “400 square feet by my decree is the number of feet each man be afforded!” Thank you, oh wise one.
“as well as hot water, “
How hot? This may fall into the electricity question.
“(b) sufficient food to sustain a typical healthy diet, “
See, there you go again using words like “typical” and “healthy.” Generalized language that applies universally to no one and exists only in the minds of Stalinists—er, central planners like yourself. But I get your point. So that’s 2000 calories per day plus all the vitamins you need. Got it.
“(c) money for transportation to and from work,”
What kind of transportation? Car in every garage? You know, if we limit the number of hours people can work, we don’t need to spend as much paying for their transportation.
“(d) basic medical care, “
What does “basic” mean?
“(e) basic clothing,”
See confusion above. And everywhere else for that matter.
“and (e) sufficient additional money to permit savings for the following normal human events: medical emergencies, the births of children, higher education for qualified children, and old age. “
This one’s way to out there to come close to bothering with. But curiosity has got me per this section… how many children are we allowed to have? Of course, the number which would fit your “normal human events” criteria.
So, why don't you take all that leisure time and learn about what genuine overwork does to people? In Japan and increasingly in China it's a major issue. France is having riots because they regard maintaining human standards a basic
element of liberty.
Why don't you learn about how poor people in this country die years and years earlier than those who earn more? Better yet, go to hospice and help one of those people go through an early death. Experiences like that help people grow up.
Alternatively, state a proposition that you think that you can defend and we'll really debate. Based on your questions, I'd suggest that you consider as your proposition: "Human beings should be reduced to slavery at the whim of the wealthy."
By the way, every time someone behaves the way you have on our site, I write another check to a Democratic candidate.
Just so you know.
First, to illustrate just how shallow the poster's statements were, take the comment "Becasue I know you don’t think $6.15 is enough because of all this other babble:" at simple face value. As the poster says, the federal minimum wage is presently $5.15. If it were raised to $6.15, that's a 20% raise, and would add $2000 to the income of a person working 40 hours a week. It would substantially improve their quality of life. The poster imagines he can read my mind, but he can't even imagine what a huge difference $2000 makes to someone living on roughly $10,000 per year.
Second, defining poverty is more complicated than the figure that was so glibly and anonymously thrown out. Poverty threshholds are given by Census here and poverty guidelines by HHS here
For a single person under 65, Census calls $10,160 poverty for 2005and HHS calls poverty $9,800 for 2006. So the anonymous poster's figure of $9,500 was wrong by 3-7%. $300 may not be a lot to you, but for the poor, it's a lot of money.
But the problem with his statement is even deeper and the misstatement more cynical than that. In setting a minimum wage, we would naturally not choose a poverty statistic, whether threshhold or guideline, based on a one-person family. We would weight it so that it accurately reflected the poor families that must live on it. So, we would probably use a family size of 3-4. That means that for purposes of minimum wage, a figure more like $17,000 would be the base. Add 20% to that, and we are talking about an income of roughly $21,500, or a wage of about $10.75/hour.
Could a wage of $10.75/hour (outside of places like San Francisco, Boston, or New York City) provide a modest apartment, with basic utilities and cooking facilities, a healthy diet, basic clothing and medical care, and transportation to and from work? Yes. Could two adults, both working 40 hours a week, achieve a middle class living standard, saving enough money to send their kids to a community college? Yes.
Isn't this exactly what we want to make available to every American willing to obey the law, work diligently, and save? To me, the answer is as obvious as the Golden Rule. If the anonymous poster wants people to be desperate, lacking a home, a healthy diet, and basic medical care, why doesn't he come out and say so, instead of throwing out tendentious questions? My guess it's because he understands just how ugly that would look.
But the poster was even more dishonest in reading my post. I said, "You want a dollar figure? Fine: look at what is defined as poverty. That's about 20% less than a living wage, worse in cities." Words like "about" and phrases like "worse in cities" mean that $21,500 is not something to be chiseled in granite. It's an approximate figure meant as a starting point for discussion.
I am always ready to debate ideas with people who want to debate. I know my facts pretty well, I think through what I say, and I think I can win any debate I take on. But if I'm wrong, I'm also willing to acknowledge error and learn, even from people whose politics I despise.
Can you honestly say that the anonymous poster approached this with the same good grace?
I have told you in great and patient detail what I stand for: We must have a nation where everyone feels they can succeed, or else we will have no nation at all.
What do you stand for? Do you believe in slavery? Do you think that people who make their money through crimes should be allowed to do so?
We have regularly offered right-wingers to create a thread tp debate a specific proposition under basic debate rules. Not one has accepted.
That's because they can't defend their ideas. All they can do is badmouth the people who can.
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