Not everyone strives to become a billionaire; most just try to make ends meet. But the dire reality of the federal minimum hourly wage in the US makes it a daunting mission. Failing to keep up with the times, the amount of $7.25 per hour has remained glued since 2009. No wonder people still fall short when covering their basic expenses, right? As Americans continue to live paycheck to paycheck, activists have been fighting to raise the national wage floor to a $15 threshold, something that most workers see as a living wage.
But as it turns out, $15 per hour just won’t cut it anymore. As researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), who developed the Living Wage Calculator, stated, “families and individuals working in low-wage jobs make insufficient income to meet minimum standards given the local cost of living.” So they created this tool to help people better understand the pay required to meet bare minimum standards of living in their region.
Recently, New York-based Redditor 6inchsubstrate came across a report from MIT and shared some illuminating statistics with the AntiWork community. Raising awareness about today’s financial situation, the post immediately sparked an important debate about living wages in the comments. Scroll down to read the user’s post, as well as the reactions it received from people online, and be sure to weigh in on the discussion in the comments.
Recently, a Redditor sparked a debate about living wages after sharing an MIT report, saying the minimum wage should be $26
Image credits: Alexander Mils (not the actual photo)
The user urged readers to check their region’s living wage using the calculator (providing links to the mentioned New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY and Bronx County, New York areas), as well as to take a look at the amount they should be spending on rent in the Fair Market Rent Documentation System. They also raised awareness that the current economic downturn, coupled with soaring inflation, can make people fall behind on paying their landlords. “If you use the inflation calculator and this data and compare it with this, you can see rent has outpaced inflation.”
In the MIT report shared by the user, the researchers stressed that “the living wage is the basic income standard that, if met, draws a very fine line between the financial independence of the working poor and the need to seek out public assistance or suffer consistent and severe housing and food insecurity. In light of this fact, the living wage is perhaps better defined as a minimum subsistence wage for persons living in the United States.”
The user also mentioned that the Living Wage Calculator is the same one used by “The Fight for $15”, a global movement that started in 2012 demanding a pay boost and union rights. “We are fast-food workers, home health aides, child care teachers, airport workers, adjunct professors, retail employees — and underpaid workers everywhere,” it states on their website. Struggling to survive, the activists organized and fought for what they “knew was right”. “We’ve already won raises for 26 million people across the country — with 10 states at or on their way to $15/hr — all because workers came together and acted like a union.”
But, according to Judy Conti, government affairs director at the National Employment Law Project, a worker advocacy group, “When people are screaming [that a $15 minimum wage] is such a radical proposition, the radical thing about it is, quite frankly, how low it would actually be.”
See, if the minimum wage had kept pace with gains in the economy’s productivity since its value peaked in 1968, it would be nearly $23 an hour today, or an annual income of $46,000, economist Dean Baker wrote in a blog post for Center for Economic and Policy Research.
“Having the minimum wage track productivity growth is not a crazy idea. The national minimum wage did, in fact, keep pace with productivity growth for the first 30 years after a national minimum wage first came into existence in 1938,” Baker explained. “While [$23 an hour] is hardly a luxurious standard of living, it is certainly enough to support a middle-class lifestyle. For a two-earner couple, this would be $110,000 a year. Imagine this is what people at the very bottom of the labor force could reasonably expect when they are in their thirties and forties.”
As the Redditor explained in the post, increasing the hourly minimum wage to an amount that would allow families and individuals to cover their basic expenses is “the barest of the bare minimums.” Do you agree with their insights, dear readers? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this matter, so be sure to share them with us in the comments below.