News

President proposes raising federal minimum wage

Luckily, moving back home is in vogue.

Christina Clark JPEGBy CHRISTINA CLARK
Columnist

During President Obama’s State of the Union address on February 12, the president proposed raising the federal minimum wage from its current status of $7.25 an hour to $9.00 an hour. This could have quite an effect on the workforce, for employers, and the economy.

I am not going to waste your precious time looking at the current political situation, however. I would rather point out the disparity between what a real living wage is and what the federal minimum wage is in the United States right now. There was an image of a map of the United States floating around MoveOn.org and Facebook, showing how many hours of minimum wage a worker would have to work in each state to afford a two bedroom apartment. The image comes from the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s website.

In the South Bend/Mishawaka area, at Fair Market Rent, a two bedroom apartment costs approximately $715 per month (less than the one I’m sharing at the moment!). Assuming that you’d be employed 40 hours a week for all 52 weeks of the year, you’d have to make $13.75 per hour to afford this, along with other basic living costs. That’s quite a bit of work, never getting sick and never taking a vacation. Not making enough money to advance oneself to “the next step.” But right now, working the current minimum wage for an apartment priced at $698 in Indiana, one would have to work 74 hours a week. I’m not sure about you, but that seems like an exhausting amount of work to be doing to be hardly enjoying your home.

I’m not sure if anyone sets out in their life to earn minimum wage, but minimum wage in theory should provide a basis for living decently. Working a minimum wage job puts buying a house out of reach, and makes renting the main means for having a roof overhead. And sure, someone else can do the maintenance when things go awry. But that isn’t really the point, is it?  When working a full-time job doesn’t make ends meet, where does that leave Americans families that cannot advance past a ceiling on the income levels?

Moving into a home or apartment with a roommate is a rite of passage, but so is advancing to the next step and having a place to call your own. What happens when the next progressive step comes and the income doesn’t follow suit?

We’d all like to think that education is the means to a better life. It is certainly the way to a more enriched life. But if “the dream job” isn’t there at a pivotal part of one’s life, where that does that land a person? Sharing a house with many? A roommate at midlife?

Luckily, for all the minimum-wagers at the moment, it is in vogue to move back in with your parents. Rent free? Check. Free meals (at least every so often)? Check. Laundry facilities without coin slots? Check.

But like all trends, this cannot last forever. With a higher minimum wage, the next step could be in reach.

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