Truth, Justice, and the American way. TRUTH: Helping to correct people's misconceptions about history, science, and the state of the world. JUSTICE: Meant in the biblical sense. Fair treatment of other people, rational laws, and assisting the disadvantaged. THE AMERICAN WAY: A classless society where everybody has an opportunity to meet their potential and for economic advancement, regardless of race, ancestry, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Why the national minimim wage should be over $15

US society owes every resident "Life, liberty, and property" and "Equal protection under the law." This includes medical care, unemployment insurance, retirement insurance, and other requirements of a healthy life. These were usually provided by churches and volunteers, but the availability was uneven. Then in the 1960's many who could provide this assistance started to believe that "Greed is good." In the 1980's this became part of the tax code and if government had not stepped in, we would be stepping over the corpses of the poor in downtown streets.

After accounting for inflation, the average lower and middle income wage in the US is less than 1/2 of the average wage in 1975. In 1974, the minimum wage was $3.10/hour - after inflation (excluding luxury items and services), that would be well over $20/hour today.

When I discuss living on a minimum wage, I mean a very modest lifestyle. Food for a healthy diet (which has more than doubled in price in the past 6 years) without EBT (AKA food stamps), shelter, medical co-payments (assuming the government pays the premiums), a monthly bus pass for each person, telephone, furniture replacement every 10 years, a separate bed for each child, and annual replacement of one set of clothes per person, sheets, blankets, and towels. If the items are purchased through a thrift store, they have to be replaced twice as often. Children's clothes have to be replaced twice as often. $50/year for toys and games for each child. This means no money to purchase of a computer, car, restaurant/take out food, internet access. It means brown-bag lunches.

Apartment rentals average $650/month nationwide, but one bedroom apartments in poor metropolitan neighborhoods average around $1500/month. The urban poor don't move to rural regions, because there are few jobs for them that pay enough to afford to live there (rent is approximately proportional to wages).

Apartment rental rates for one tenant apartments with a kitchenette and bathroom average over $1000/month in poor metropolitan neighborhoods. Health insurance co-payments, a bus pass, one set each year of new clothes, blankets, pillows, sheets, and towels, and food bring this to over $2000 per month. Taxes (including Social Security premiums and Medicare premiums) are approximately 25%, bringing the monthly costs for a single working person (living separately) to $2500, or $14.42/hour. In the common scenario of a single working parent with 2 children in a one bedroom apartment, rent is 50% higher and other costs are more than doubled for an estimated $3500 + taxes (which includes no money for child care). There are a huge number of famililies sharing homes that are designed for a single family.

In rural areas, housing costs are much lower, but a single parent raising two children (with no child care or government support) still needs over $2500/month to eat and pay all of the bills.

It is government programs that pay the difference between minimum wage and the cost of a very modest lifestyle. Essentially the government is is giving employers the money to allow them to keep wages low. Employers should be paying a minimum wage that allows a single worker with two children to survive on a full-time job.

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Canoga Park, California, United States
Software Engineer with Ph.D. in Computer Science. I have a deep background in the sciences and in computer-human interaction. I was a college professor for 11 years, followed by over a decade of work in industry.