A $15 Minimum Wage Won’t Cut It

We should fight for localized living wages instead

Homeless man takes care of his cat in Philadelphia, USA. Photo by Zac Durant on Unsplash

$15 Is Already Too Low

A $15 minimum wage would leave a lot of people unable to pay their monthly bills. In rural Mississippi, the lowest-cost area of the United States, EPI estimates $17.17 as the basic wage needed if someone is to make ends meet for their family while working 40 hours a week. In Phoenix, AZ, that wage would be $20.16. In New York, NY, it would be $28.52.

Wages for five cities, extracted from MIT’s living wage calculator
  • Childcare (at rates for a four-year-old, not for an infant)
  • Medical (insurance plus a few prescriptions, nothing major)
  • Housing (rent for a budget apartment, not a nice place)
  • Transportation (cost of a reasonable used car driven for a short commute)
  • An “Other” category for things like clothes and a low-cost cell phone plan.
  • Student loan payments
  • Major medical expenses, such as you might incur if you have diabetes
  • Cushion for catastrophes (car accidents, hurricanes, etc.)

We Need to Tie Minimum Wage to Purchasing Power

Until the 1980s, the minimum wage was adjusted frequently. Since then, however, the minimum wage has stagnated. Instead of incremental growth that keeps up with inflation, the adjustments create odd jumps and hiccups in the labor market. Everyone readjusts. Employers set their wages a bit higher across the board. Then keep them there for as long as they can.

We Need to Tie Minimum Wage to Local Costs

Aerial view of San Francisco. Photo by Madhur Chadha on Unsplash
Living wages in five cities. MIT Living Wage Calculator.

So Why Not?

Passing a bill that is this radical would require consensus in the House of Representatives, Congress, and the White House. It would also require substantial courage from Senators to stand up to corporate donors and lobbyists. We haven’t had that type of agreement or leadership courage in the last 10 years.

Freelance writer trying to make the world a better place

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