Those on minimum-wage jobs know what they make really is better described as minimal. There are periodic reminders of that; statistics on the cost of groceries, for example, and other daily expenses that outpace wages. Particularly when those wages are frozen.
The failure to seriously address the minimum-wage issue is amplified again by research from the National Low Income Housing Coalition. The Washington Post reports the coalition found that in no state does someone working 40 hours a week for the minimum wage make enough money to rent a two-bedroom apartment.
It’s disturbing to ponder. A 40-hour worker is laboring pretty intensely. There’s not much idle time there.
But such diligence is supposed to produce a living, one that enables someone to provide for a family and have a roof and food and other necessities.
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And to have those things out of reach despite working that 40 hours frustrates not just an individual but a country. It dampens economic growth and individual incentive. It hurts all businesses because that minimum-wage individual is unable to buy anything beyond the bare minimum, literally. He or she is on the outs when it comes to participating fully in the economy.
The only good news is that polls show a majority of Americans now favor raising the minimum wage. A push for $15 an hour – the current federal figure is $7.25 – is on in some states, but that poll majority favors if not that figure at least a higher minimum, which is a good sign. Those kinds of polls drive politicians in Washington, who certainly in Republican circles don’t have their eyes on the minimum-wage issue. A North Carolina poll also was interesting: Three-fourths of people overall, including a majority of Republicans, favored raising the state’s minimum wage to $9 an hour.
That action is needed is made clear in the coalition’s research: A person making the federal minimum would have to work 94.5 hours a week to pay for that two-bedroom apartment. And in the United States, more than 11 million families spend more than half of their pay on housing, which obviously cuts their ability to buy clothes and food and other necessities. And many also have difficulty getting to and from their jobs, so transportation becomes another expense.
But it must be said that this isn’t just a wage issue. In Raleigh, housing is at such a premium, particularly in the city’s downtown-adjacent neighborhoods, that many younger people with high-tech firms who make good salaries are spending a larger percentage of their incomes on housing than their parents ever would have dreamed of spending. They’re making a lifestyle choice, perhaps, but they’re also facing the realities of a modern, growing city. But that city has to do more to see that affordable housing is part of long-term development plans.