Why Not Raise the Minimum Wage?

I was recently told by a friend who works at a register that she doesn’t think she deserves $15 an hour. She told me she knows too many people working “skilled” jobs who get paid $12 -$13 an hour. I told her I thought her “skilled” friends were grossly underpaid.

Is $15 an hour a lot of money? Does it put a person on easy street? Is it the kind of money that spoils a worker so much that those workers lose all ambition to get better paying jobs? When have people ever been discouraged from making more money?

A worker making $15 an hour, full-time, will bring home an annual salary of about $31,200 before taxes.

Is that a lot of money? Even for a person working an unskilled job. Is that a lot of money in today’s terms?

There has been a lot of talk and protests supporting the effort to raise the current minimum wage of $7.25 to $15 an hour. Of course, there has been tremendous push-back, too. Particularly from business owners.

There have been numerous strikes by fast-food workers demanding an hourly wage of $15. Almost immediately the cries of “Big Macs would cost $8.00!” or “A small fry will be $5.00!” rang out. Which are both untrue.

According to ABC News, the cost of a Big Mac will increase by .68 cents and everything on the McDonalds Dollar menu will shoot up a whopping .17 cents, if the company who makes over 2 billion dollars a year would be forced to pay their employees a living wage.

As it stands, the Federal minimum wage for 2015 is $7.25. An annual salary of $15,080. The Federal poverty level for a single person is $11,770 and for a family of two, $15,930. Even for a single person, a minimum wage job doesn’t give much leeway from falling into poverty levels. Especially since not all jobs guarantee a worker full-time hours, nor do they all provide sick days.

A gallon of gas costs about $2.49, but not long ago they were hovering around, and above, $4.00 a gallon.

According to The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, between 2011 and 2013, the median annual income in the US was $52,047.

A new car today averages about $31,000.

The average annual cost of college tuition at a 4-year institution is $23,600.

Depending on where you live, the average price of a home can cost $300,000 or more.

In 2015, the average cost of healthcare insurance for a single person is $5,615 and $15,745 for a family.

When we look at these expenses, does $31,000 a year really seem like a lot?

The Federal minimum wage in 1975 was $2.10. An annual salary of $4,368.

A gallon of gas in ’75 costs .57 cents.

The median annual income was $10,257.

A new car cost $3800.

The annual cost of college tuition at a 4-year institution was $2265.

The average two-bedroom home cost about $51,000.

Healthcare expenses were less than $1200 a person.

In 1975, the difference between a minimum wage job and the median annual income was $5,809.

In 2015, the difference is $36,967.

The difference between annual college tuition between 1975 and 2015 is $21,335.

The price of a car has risen by $27,200.

Homes have increased by almost $250,000.

The price of healthcare has rose astronomically and for people without insurance, according to CNBC, medical bills were the number one reason for bankruptcy filings in 2013, far outpacing credit card bills or unpaid mortgages.

Yet, with all these increases in expenses since 1975, the rate of minimum wage has risen a mere $5.15. In forty years.

This is sad. I know a minimum wage job is supposed to be a starting point, but it should provide a person a living that affords food, shelter, clothing, etc. A person working 40 hours a week, shouldn’t be a pay check away from living on the street because they can’t afford housing.

A few years ago, McDonalds was caught instructing their employees how to file for government help. This infuriated me because here is a company making billions of dollars a year, and even though they can afford to pay a higher wage, but choose not to because of greed, they force their employees on government help, and the US tax payers foot the bill.

There are many people, wealthy people, CEO people, making tens of millions of dollars a year, who love the attitude my friend expressed about not deserving $15 an hour. They love that because they want Americans happy to be working for less. More money for them. And these people won’t shy away from snagging that extra money. They’ll knock their grandmothers down getting to it first.

And they won’t ask if they deserve it. They’ll just take it.


*The source for all my data was Kaiser Family Foundation.

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net