I saw this idea in “Think” “Progress”…:
Five state lawmakers in Minnesota have decided to take on the “Minimum Wage Challenge” and live off of a typical budget for a worker who makes the federal minimum wage of $7.25.
…and I thought “I loved that skit the first time I saw a bunch of upper-middle-class liberals pretend to be poor to advance their narrative the first time I saw it – when Barbara Ehrenreich did it!”
Back during the high times of the early 2000’s, Democrats assuaged their self-righteousness about poverty by reading Ehrenreich’s Nickeled And Dimed. Ehrenreich – an upper-middle-class congenital “progressive” who has lived her life by her parents’ dicta “never cross a picket line and never vote Republican” – made a great show of pretending to live as a minimum wage worker in various parts of the country.
It was BS, of course. Ehrenreich approached minimum wage life the way you might expect someone who’d never had to do it.
And I wouldn’t expect much better from the DFLers that’ll be doing this iteration of the stunt:
Rep. Frank Hornstein (D) told CBS Minnesota that it made him take more notice of his costs. “An orange juice was $1.79. That’s not something that I would normally notice,” he said after getting breakfast from McDonald’s Dollar Menu. “Making the decision to take the bus today versus taking the car will save me a little money for dinner. For food,” he added.
Another lawmaker who lives far from the capitol, Rep. Shannon Savick (D), said, “I can live on what they set for food. I don’t eat a lot,” but she worried about transportation. Where she lives, “if you don’t have a car, you don’t go anywhere, because there is no public transportation. Driving will cost more than what they’re allowing me.” The other three participants are Democratic Reps. Karen Clark, John Lesch, Jason Metsa.
And what exactly will these legislators be trying to do?
The state has one of the lowest minimum wages in the country at $6.15 an hour, which means it gets trumped by the federal wage. A worker who puts in 40 hours a week at that level will earn just $290 before taxes. The challenge limits the lawmakers to $5 a day for food and $9 for transportation.
Meaning $210 a week (before taxes) on…what?
It’s not an idle question. When you’re poor – and I spent a good chunk of my 20s and early 30s as “low income”, and I’m happy to say I’m forgetting some of the finer points of that lifestyle – you either budget ruthlessly to your circumstances, or you flounder. Or, often enough, both.
But this stunt seems to assume that the minimum wage earners are heads of households. Not teenagers living in Eden Prairie and working at Boston Market for pin money.
But minimum wage workers are not, as a rule, adult heads of households – even their own.
This table – from Heritage – shows the demographics of minimum wage workers as of 2012:
Check out the average income line: most minimum wage earners, even those older than 25, are parts of households with average incomes averaging $26 an hour (including, it must be said, all of the DFLers in the stunt – who, presumably, won’t be eschewing their spouses’ incomes during the stunt).
Upshot? They are a third as likely to live in poverty as they are to live in a household over 150% of the poverty line.
Most – even the older ones – work part-time, and they are 3-4 times as likely as the general public not to have finished high school yet.
So the push to hike the minimum wage will benefit the Dairy Queen worker in Maple Grove – who at best will get a 40% raise, and at worst will spend more time playing “Grand Theft Auto” at home while bitching to their friends about getting laid off.
It’ll directly harm the stereotype they claim they’re trying to help – the urban single parent who never finished high school because they were busy raising kids, and is part of that minority of minimum wage workers who don’t actually have a functional support system, a family to fall back on (like the legislators all do, even during the course of their weaselly little stunt).