By Zachary Phillips
American River College Student, 21
The minimum wage is not enough to live on; a known fact for those who have lived with sub-par wages. Yet, during this recession, a number highly qualified people have found themselves having to take jobs which simply do not pay enough to meet their needs. This can have the effect of leaving many people feeling broken-hearted, hopeless, and worthless. The job they once held has been eliminated, and, at the expense of their former position, employers are often announcing growing profits.
Yet, somewhere, in the dark recesses of society, there is hope. It is in the living wage, a wage which would provide the necessities and comforts of an acceptable standard of living. Whereas the minimum wage requires only that you be paid a mandated minimum, it is inadequate in most environments. By comparison, the living wage allows a person to have a modest life, albeit not an extravagant one, while lessening the load on government-funded programs providing assistance to the needy.
This reduction in assistance programs could allow the diversion of funding into other programs which might benefit the public in a much larger way. To allow a more adjusted view: the minimum wage is currently at $8.00 per hour, regardless of any dependents or other family members. The living wage for Sacramento as estimated by a living wage calculator put out by MIT is $18.81, more than twice that of the minimum wage.
Within the current economy it would be possible, and not unheard of, for both parents to be working at, or barely above, $8.00 per hour, assuming they both have jobs at all. All the while inflation continues to rise; in the last 31 years since 1980 inflation has increased by 260%, while the median household increased income has risen slightly over 1%. The lack of a dramatic increase in the income of median households with the stagnation of median wages has led to a significant loss of power for the average household. Simply put: more money came in, yes but at the same time it lost a lot of spending power.
A widespread implementation of a living wage would significantly ease the suffering of low income workers and their families by raising their wages enough to be able provide a means to an end without the incursion of significant debt. Realistically, it would only affect the impoverished workers who are underpaid, allowing them to become a more productive consumer due to their increased wages.
Without a living wage these workers feel trapped, for if they look for better work or try to obtain new skills it takes from their time that they would be working. That is a price they cannot afford, a loss in wages could mean a loss of food, or shelter. The number of people in these situations is too high to ignore and the situation takes more than a simple overview.