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A Living Wage, Part 1

Aug 28, 2010
So what is a living wage (LW)? I am happy to let anyone establish that figure, if they are willing to live on it for the next two years. Hands? Well, all right, we will have to arrive at an LW by a different path.

Pennsylvania State University has developed a Living Wage Calculator1 which is probably as good a place to start as any. They provide living wages for a single adult, an adult with one dependent, two adults, two adults with one dependent, and two adults with two dependents. In a drastically overpopulated world, I would argue that we need not go beyond these numbers in our guaranteed LW. If you want to burden the world with six children, you had better be prepared to pay the price.

In my neck of the woods (Windsor County, Vermont), the LW for a single adult is $8.38, $1.13 more than the federal minimum wage and $.32 more than Vermont’s more generous minimum wage. An LW for an adult supporting a spouse and two children is $25.38 per hour, $18.13 more than the federal minimum wage and $17.70 more than Vermont’s minimum. At that level, the difference in the shortfall between the two is negligible.

Which brings us to our first practical problem. What is to keep employers from favoring hiring single adults without children if we establish these living wages based on marital and dependent status? What employer would not rather spend $8.38 than $25.38 per hour on an employee? And from the other point of view, would not the prospect of a significantly higher wage motivate many to have children who would otherwise not want them and who, consequently, probably shouldn’t have them?

I will propose one solution to this conundrum in my next posting. Follow me on Twitter to find out when that will be.
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1 Living Wage Calculator, from Pennsylvania State University, accessed Aug 28, 2010.
tags: Employment | Labor | Poverty

A Modest Proposal

Aug 22, 2010
Among thoughtful observers, a consensus seems to be forming regarding the only way out of the nasty mess(es) we are in, and that consensus is jobs. We need to put people back to work, and fast. Read the essays by Bob Herbert and Bob Burnett linked on this month’s Noted with Interest for starters, then search "jobs" in Google News for the past 24 hours and read many more.

Employment, in my view, should be a right, embodied in a constitutional amendment, along with the other rights we hold so dear.

The right of all adults to have a job and to be free from the vicissitudes of unemployment can and should be realized in this country, though to do so will require a sea change in our attitudes and a huge shift in priorities, away from a government of, by, and for corporations and back to a government of, by, and for the people—that is, back to a democracy instead of the corporatocracy which now controls our nation, our state and federal governments, and you and me.

We are a rich nation only at the very top of income levels. Otherwise, we are a poor country that is getting poorer under the thumb of the corporatocracy. Over thirteen percent of Americans—39.8 million of us—lived in poverty in 2008 and that number has gone up since then.1 This includes nearly one in five children, the highest rate of childhood poverty—by far—in the industrialized world.2

An essential step before guaranteeing employment for every American adult is to ensure that those jobs will pay a living wage.3 The federal minimum wage, forty years ago, was not even close to a living wage and today it is significantly further from one. It is past time to acknowledge that it is immoral to accept an adult worker’s full-time labor and pay that worker less than a living wage. It is immoral, and it ought to be illegal. So this is step one on the road to full employment—every job in America must pay a living wage.

In my next post, I consider what should be included in computing a living wage. Meanwhile, click on footnote #3 to find out what a living wage is in your state (according to one university’s calculations), and footnote #4 to find out your state’s current minimum wage.4 The federal minimum wage, below which states are not allowed to fall, is $7.25 per hour.
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1 U.S. Census Bureau, accessed Aug 22, 2010.
2 Safety nets for children are weakest in US, from UNICEF, accessed Aug 22, 2010.
3 Living Wage Calculator, from Pennsylvania State University, accessed Aug 22, 2010.
4 List of U.S. minimum wages, from Wikipedia, accessed Aug 22, 2010.
tags: Employment | Labor | Poverty

Noted with Interest, August 2010

Aug 21, 2010

Top Ten Facts about Society Security on the Program’s 75th Anniversary
The most successful federal program in history, and Republicans want it to go away. Why? Because the dollars are not going into the pockets of the corporatocracy. From Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Aug 13, 2010. Accessed August 22, 2010.

Too Long Ignored
By Bob Herbert. Do we have to wait for firebombs through our living room windows before we understand that this situation threatens us all, that the alleviation of black hopelessness in the U.S. does not require compassion, but merely a healthy sense of self-interest? And be sure to read the Reader Recommended comments on this column. From the New York Times, Aug 20, 2010. Accessed Aug 21, 2010.

The Jobs Crisis: What Hit Us?
By Bob Burnett. Note “the three malignant notions.” They are still with us. And when will Burnett’s important point, that “creating wealth for a handful of CEOs isn’t consistent with the national interest” finally be understood by the electorate? From The Huffington Post, Aug 13, 2010. Accessed Aug 21, 2010.

The Horror Show
By Bob Herbert. “You cannot allow joblessness on this scale to fester.” From the New York Times, Aug 10, 2010. Accessed Aug 21, 2010.

Video: Flash mob erupts in West Seattle Target
By Amy Rolph (with YouTube video link). And don’t miss this video of a musical protest at a Seattle Target store that contributed $150,000 to a corporate-picked, homophobic candidate for governor of Minnesota. Young people, putting their safety and their futures on the line for a cause! Can we bring back the 60s, even without a draft? From Seattlepi Blogs, undated entry. Accessed Aug 21, 2010.

tags: Noted with Interest

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