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According to Cornell University’s explanation of minimum wage, it was created as a way to create a minimum standard of living to protect the health and well-being of employees.” By this definition, anyone working for minimum wage should be able to afford a standard of living. However, the United States’ standard of living is quite high compared to that of other countries. According to the Pew Research Center, the poverty line in the United States for a family of four was $23,021 in 2011. Assuming that, out of a family of four, two are working adults, it would take them each working nearly 1,600 hours at the national minimum wage of $7.25. That computes to 66 24-hour work days, or 200 8-hour days per person in the household. Keep in mind that a family of four can be above the poverty line with two adults working 8-hour days not including weekends or holidays. If only one person in the household had a job at minimum wage, they would be able to live above the poverty line if they worked 397 days per year, which would be fine if there were 397 days in a year.

Things are slightly different for the state of Iowa itself. The poverty line in Iowa for a family of four in 2019 is $25,750. If we use the same format of two people being adults with jobs, living above the poverty line would require both adults working 1,775 hours, or 222 8-hour days each. Once again, this does not include weekends or holidays. While this seems achievable at the current minimum wage, there are other factors to consider that make living minimum wage more expensive. Anyone that has wages within the 25 percent lowest percentile of wages, such as minimum wage, don’t have the opportunity for health insurance as often as those being paid more. Statistics from the United States’ Dept. of Labor Statistics reveal that those being paid less are only offered health insurance benefits by their employer 39 percent of the time. In addition, they are offered dental benefits 18 percent of the time and vision benefits a mere 10 percent of the time. Therefore, having a minimum wage job can cause the cost of living to be even higher, as medical issues may have to be treated out-of-pocket.

The need for medical care can even be exacerbated by poverty due to the price of food. A study at Harvard found that buying and eating healthy foods costs on average $1.50 more per day than buying and eating cheap “junk food.” A study by the American Diabetes Association even shows a correlation between poverty and obesity that “cannot be ignored.”

So what should be done about the minimum wage to truly allow individuals to earn the “minimum standard of living?” In the past, many individuals have advocated for a new minimum wage of $15 an hour. However, I believe the solution is not to raise the national minimum wage, but each state's minimum wage. For example, California’s minimum wage is currently $11/hour. Upon a quick search on apartments.com, a studio apartment in San Francisco can cost, at a minimum, $950 per month. At $11/hour, an individual in San Francisco would have to work roughly 86 hours per month, or 21 hours per week. That would mean that at least half of that person’s monthly check would go just toward rent for a studio apartment. If the state of California instead only offered the national minimum wage, it would be impossible to live in San Francisco at all. That is why states need to be responsible for their minimum wage, rather than establishing a national minimum wage with the “option” to offer a higher one.

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(2) comments

Steve Gregg

The world does not owe you a living, kid. If you want a living, you need to be able to produce goods or services the world wants.

If you have no skills, you will not generate the profit necessary to pay you extravagant benefits. If you want benefits, then you must acquire the profitable skills that produce the profit to pay for them. If you push the government to pass a law that forces employers to pay you a $15 min wage, they won’t hire you because they will lose money.

If you need proof, go find the budget of a McDonald’s on the net. An average crew member earns $9 per hour. To figure out how the crew costs would affect the profit of the restaurant if you raised their pay to $15, multiply the total crew costs by 15/9. You’ll find that plunges the restaurant into bankruptcy. That experiment tells you that unskilled labor does not generate $15 per hour in gross sales to pay for itself.

It’s pretty silly to argue that somebody with no skills can’t live in a hyper-expensive city like San Francisco. OF COURSE, they can’t live in the most expensive neighborhoods in America. They can’t buy Rolls-Royces or caviar, either. The answer is not to raise the min wage to $15 so that nobody will hire them, but for them to leave town for cheaper places to live, like Des Moines.

Raising the minimum wage doesn’t lift unskilled workers up, it leaves them unemployed. It prices them out of the job market. If you are priced out of unskilled jobs, you can never acquire the skills you need to climb the job ladder to higher-paying jobs. The $15/hour min wage is the perfect example of liberal stupidity in that it harms most the people it purports to help. Nice work, liberal geniuses.

Killary Clinton

I applaud your concern and research on the issue, but raising the minimum wage does not in fact help low income earners. Raising the minimum wage increases the cost of production for any given product, meaning that that increase will be passed on to the consumer in the form of increased prices. When prices increase, the standard of living inevitably increases. Raising the minimum wage will only benefit large businesses because it will cause their smaller competitors to close.

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