Minimum Wage in America
by John Willard, Chairman of the Kankakee County Democratic Party

So, I felt compelled to write something about the crime of the stagnant minimum wage and decided that some research would be prudent rather than just ranting. That effort led me to some interesting revelations on just how we, as a society, decided that workers should not be ‘entitled’ to a wage that lets them eat well enough to be healthy, productive contributors to society at large. It is interesting that most of the ‘opinion’ and ‘advice’ articles I found were written by people who were not now, nor had they ever been, poor. I attributed that to poor people’s lack of internet access; or maybe their funds did not allow them to buy paper, pencils and stamps; or maybe their work schedules did not provide ample time for quiet reflection on the sun-drenched sands of some secluded Caribbean Island where the pressures of the world subside and profound enlightenment is achieved. In any case, what I was hoping to find did not pop up on a quick internet search.

What did show up on my search for how to live on a minimum wage? Hmmm . . . well, there was some good advice on why poor people should not invest all their extra money in the stock market. It seems that unless you are a skilled trader with inside information you may be at a disadvantage, in addition to having no money to invest. Another ‘advisor’ offered suggestions on where best to relocate to stretch your dollars, perhaps Texas or Louisiana might be appropriate because a New York City penthouse is likely beyond reach. He noted that ‘low rent enclaves’ continue to exist where minimum wage workers can make the most of their meager incomes. Efficiency apartments and house sharing also made his list of how to ‘survive’ on minimum wage. And, of course, living with relatives is always an option. To my surprise, he did stop short of the obvious VW microbus . . . perhaps the classic status of the microbus has put it beyond reach along with the New York City penthouse. Funny that I could find no advice on how to buy a home on minimum wage. Is it just not possible?

Well then, I guess we can conclude that minimum wage workers should find a job near a ‘low rent enclave’ in a warm climate and never invest in the stock market. Or we, as a society, can admit that the minimum wage is insufficient and do something about it. What should we, do you ask? First, have some empathy for your fellow citizens. Stop belittling those who are doing the best they can. Support better education so people will be better prepared to be contributing members of the workforce and to skillfully negotiate for better wages. But, most importantly, let the people who set the minimum wage know that you will organize the voters to oppose them for re-election if the minimum wage is not raised to a living wage . . . and then actually do it!

John Willard