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America, Home of the Free, Brave and the Minimum Wage Job

The Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, is pushing the idea that being poor and living on government benefits in America is actually living high on the hog. But according to the Living Wage Calculator [LWC] designed by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology [MIT], a hypothetical single parent needs to make at least $20.14 per hour just to cover his or her family’s basic necessities.

And to do that, living in the cheapest state—South Dakota—is a prerequisite. MIT, which designed the LWC tool to provide a minimum estimate of the cost of living for low wage families, calculated that the nationwide living wage average is $24.09 per hour. The federal minimum wage, had it kept up with American workers’ productivity, would fall somewhere between $16.50 and $22.00 per hour instead of $7.25, MIT said. [...]

David Callahan, author of "Indispensable Low-Wage Workers" at Demos, a public policy organization dedicated to reducing inequality among Americans, said, "There is so much in our lives that hinges on the lowest paid workers in America showing up every day and doing their jobs. Which raises the obvious question: If these people are so crucial to making our lives work, why are they so poorly paid?"

Callahan said, "We expect a bunch of crucial positions in the economy to be always filled, and our lives would be disrupted if they weren't, but we don't insist on a basic and humane level of security for everyone on the team: health insurance, a pension, and enough money to afford housing."