We Can Predict The Effects Of Seattle’s $15 An Hour Minimum Wage

(my comment in response to Tim Worstall’s first comment)

“That one sentence is the only part of their comment that you deemed worthy of a response, Tim? It surprises me that a Forbes writer would cherry-pick.

Moreover, it’s unfair to categorize those who push for a higher minimum wage as non-evidence based. Evidence is the reason why I think it’s important to raise the wage. From my own experience as well as from verified facts, I have discovered that the current minimum wage in Seattle (and in the US) is not live-able. I currently make $12/hr at a full time office job in Seattle, which is well above the current local & federal minimum. And I can tell you from first hand experience, as a single, college-educated, childless, healthy adult, I am barely making ends meet. I have $20 in savings right now and have to live with a roommate to afford housing. When I was living in Kentucky last year, I made the federal minimum wage of $7.25/hr which was even harder to live off of. I was on food stamps for a year and still couldn’t pay all my own bills.

Grokpie made some very excellent points in their comment and I would be interested to hear your response to them.

Historically, “while the laws governing wages initially set a ceiling on compensation, they were eventually used to set a living wage. An amendment to the Statute of Labourers in 1389 effectively fixed wages to the price of food. As the centuries passed, the Justice of the Peace, who was charged with setting the maximum wage, also began to set formal minimum wages. The practice was eventually formalized with the passage of the Act Fixing a Minimum Wage in 1604 by King James I for workers in the textile industry…

The first national minimum wage law was enacted by the government of New Zealand in 1894, followed by Australia in 1896 and Great Britain in 1909. In the United States, statutory minimum wages were first introduced nationally in 1938, and reintroduced and expanded in the United Kingdom in 1998. There is now legislation or binding collective bargaining regarding minimum wage in more than 90% of all countries.” (Wikipedia, Minimum Wage)

The minimum wage in the US is no longer live-able and has not been for a while now. It hasn’t kept pace with productivity since the 70s, and it hasn’t kept pace with inflation since the 80s. (CEPR)

According to the EPI:
“On average nationwide, working families with two parents and two children require an income of $48,778 to meet the family budget. In major urban areas, expenses for this four-person family range from $42,106 in Oklahoma City to $71,913 in Nassau/Suffolk, N.Y.; families in small towns and rural areas start from a low of $35,733 in Marshall County, Miss. to $73,345 in Nantucket and Dukes Counties, Mass.

Much of the regional variation in family budgets is pushed by price differences in just a few items: housing, health care, and child care…

Family budgets calculated by EPI represent the pre-tax (taxes are included as a budget category) annual family income required to maintain a safe but modest standard of living.”

In Seattle, specifically, the living wage for a family of the same size (2 parents, 2 children) is $19.63/hr which is $40,829 annually (MIT calculator). That is lower than the federal family budget average and yet still exponentially higher than the $15/hr minimum wage raise.

Is that enough evidence for you?”

 

EDIT: And the plot thickens! My comment got “called-out” by Tim, although he did not respond to it. Instead another commentator made the below remarks:

“CJ,

Your own personal experience can hardly be considered “evidence-based”.
Do you own a car? Do you have cable? Do you have a cell phone? I’d argue, rather strongly, that if you can’t make ends meet on minimum wage, it is because of your inability to manage your personal funds. I’ll bet you have no problem going out on the town with friends on weekends and absolutely zero problem finding funds for $3 beers at the bar.

You see, I have been poor (I made $12k a year my first job in 2002) and I managed just fine. I had a beat up car, no phone, no cable, etc., but I more than survived. Many of my friends grew up poor (minimum wage while going to college). Every single one had no problem affording the nice things in life (new cars, the latest cell phones, flat screen tvs, etc.), however, they could never seem to “make ends meet” with their bills. Then, they wanted to complain that they weren’t making enough. Hmm, I wonder why.

As for “family” minimum wage, we, as a society, shouldn’t have to pay for your personal choices. If you make the decision to have a child and raise that child, you should be responsible enough to afford that child. All decisions have consequences. That’s a concept that is lost on this/my generation.

All of the personal examples aside, you’re completely ignoring the effects on society. You think a $15/hr minimum wage is a good thing? Businesses are already bracing by automating services and outsourcing. Then you wonder why when you call customer service, you talk to someone who can barely speak English. I’ll bet that the shirt you’re wearing right now wasn’t even made in America (or your desk that you’re at). You want to complain about wages then turn around and support outsourcing at a cheaper price so long as you benefit. How many families can barely afford things as is will be out of a job because of the transition you’re so ardent in supporting? You don’t care about them do you because it’s ok for a few to perish as long as more get a better deal, right? Such immorality….”

 

My response:

“I, too, have a “beat up” car. It is covered in dents and scratches (my driver’s side mirror just fell off the other day). And, before you attack my driving skills, all the damage was not my fault. I haven’t gotten a ticket since 2006. I even had to wear out my tires until they were almost bald before I could get new ones. I do not have cable. I did not even pay for internet while I was living in KY, and I didn’t even own a tv. My cell phone I use is also for my job and I bought it for $50 off of Amazon. It’s my only phone line, I do not pay for hard lines in my apartment. Don’t make assumptions about my life, I made $8k in 2013. Please tell me how that is live-able. And it was not my “first job”, I’ve been in the work force since 2005. I made more per hour in high school than I did just last year.

Additionally, there are many reasons why people have children then later realize they can’t support them. Maybe they were more financially stable when they decided to reproduce (think of families who are affected by natural disasters every year and lose everything). Maybe they don’t have access to sex education or birth control (researchers have found that teens who received comprehensive sex education were 60 percent less likely to get pregnant or to get someone pregnant than those who received no sex education). Maybe one parent died and had failed to set up a life insurance account. Maybe the children are a result of sexual assault. There are many reasons.

Businesses embracing automated services is not a bad thing. We are in the middle of a Technological Revolution. The same thing happened in the Industrial Revolution: machines replaced human workers. I look at it as “trimming the fat.” The “fat” being the enormous profits that company executives get by not paying their workers living wages.

Again, don’t make assumptions about my life. On a daily basis, I strive to source all the products I buy from either local businesses or businesses with clear, thoughtful business practices. I am actually at the moment trying to find a way to buy locally-processed and American grown coffee beans. I also buy from Etsy all the time, for example.

Please don’t call me immoral when you don’t know me.”

 

Their response:

“We aren’t talking about your past life. We’re talking about now. You pay for internet, etc. and you claim to still be having trouble with making ends meet. I’ve got a tip, give up the net for starters.

If you made 8k, you weren’t working full-time (choice). Not liveable? hmm, you seem to be typing just fine. I’m supposing that you are alive (and contradicting your thesis). I did a few of my friends’ taxes and with their refund they made over 30k in govt benefits/refund/income etc. despite making “minimum wage”. So I’m really doubting your personal story, because I’ve seen and experienced far different first hand. Fortunately, I decided at a very young age that I would work my way through college to get out of poverty rather than seeking for others to get it for me. Heck, I even started my own business.

Just about every city in the US has planned parenthood and each location gives out as many free condoms as you can handle. Of course, you always have the option of not having sex. Either way, you make a decision and you have to live with the respective consequences.

I didn’t comment on your coffee. I commented on your clothing and desk. Hmm, more expensive coffee and products from a more expensive website. I just found two non-necessary items (in addition to your internet) adding to your problem of not being able to make ends meet. It’s now reasonable safe to conclude that there is a laundry list of items that you pay for that you could eliminate. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t, on the one hand, say you can’t make ends meet and then on the other claim you’re paying for goods that are more expensive.

Either way, that doesn’t explain how I was able to live on 12k a year and you’re somehow unable to survive on $12 an hour (even though I’ve uncovered the root cause).

As for outsourcing and technology. You dont care that they are displacing workers? You’re being awful contradictory. You want people to have more, but don’t care if they don’t have jobs?”

 

My response:

“You spoke about your past life, and so I provided my past life as an example. I pay $20 a month for internet now, yes, which I could feasibly cut out of my budget. The internet is a vital part of contemporary life, however, and without it, I would be disconnected from friends, family, and potential job openings and further education. What about taking online college classes? I’m trying to get a better future.

I was not working full time for the entirety of 2013, that is true. For 7 of the 12 months, I was working full time. For the other five, I was looking and applying for jobs and juggling multiple part-time gigs. It was not live-able, I had to rely on my parents for financial support which I hated doing.

This year, I had my taxes done by free tax preparers at United Way. I will ask them next time if they can get me the $30k you got your friends. Maybe you should do my taxes next year. I also worked my way through high school and college, but I’m sorry to hear that you think I am lying.

I provided coffee as an example of how I’m constantly looking for better sources for my products. My clothing that I’m currently wearing are free finds, Goodwill finds, and Ebay finds. My desk at home was handmade by a student of my mother’s back in the 90s.

You criticize me for supporting “outsourcing at a cheaper price so long as you benefit.” Then you turn around and criticize me for paying more (a difference of a few dollars) to not outsource? Your logic seems contradictory to me.

When adjusted for inflation, your $12k income from 2002 is worth $15,539.10 in 2013 dollars. That is significantly more than my $8k from 2013. Living costs also hugely vary depending on where you live. Now that I make $12/hr I can actually pay all my bills every month, but there’s very little left over. The little money I do have left at the end of the month goes to things like tires for my car, food, household items, and, yes, the occasional $3 beer and garment from Ebay/Goodwill. I said in my first comment that I am “barely making ends meet,” not “can’t.”

I never said I don’t care about displacing workers. I obviously care by trying to buy American-made products. I want people to be paid more for the jobs they should have in the US.

In terms of technology, there’s an overwhelming need to invest more money and human labor in non-manufacture jobs. It is no longer necessary to have human workers take your order at McDonalds, for human workers to package your Amazon purchase, for human workers to assemble cars, and so on and so forth. This trend has been developing for the last few decades, think of the automobile industry crash in Detroit. Human labor is now being channeled toward thought-producing work: technological innovation, research, education, the arts.”

 

Their response:

“Vital? No. You simply think it is. How would you connect with friends, family, job openings, etc.? Hmm, you did say you have a phone. Online courses? Why not just take them in person like most traditional students?

You had the support of your parents. Ok, so it was liveable then. I remember having roommates to split bills up.

Odd, but I have more than ten employees making just under $10 an hour and none/zero/nadda have problems making ends meet. I’m very close with all of them and none of them complain. Oddly enough only two don’t have new cars. My friends have troubles, but they are self-inflicted.

Also I never said I got them 30K, I said their total income including benefits/income/refund were 30k despite being min. wage workers.”

 

My response:

“How would I find job openings that weren’t in newspapers/print without the internet? I can call to apply and interview, but only if I already knew they had an opening. The internet also allows me to do research on the company before my interview so that I can go in knowing who they are and what they do (which is a huge bonus in employer’s eyes). Taking online courses instead of in-person is necessary if you have a full time job to go to everyday as well.

I had a roommate for 3 months of 2013. They then moved to another city to pursue a career. And I have a roommate now.

Where do your employees live? Are they married? And, have you actually asked them about their financial concerns? It’s possible they don’t feel comfortable talking to you about their financial struggles. Your opinions on the subject would at least deter me from talking to you about my own struggles.

And even if it was $30k total instead of $30k extra, I would still like to have the $30k total. Can you do my taxes next year?”

 

Thank you to all the readers that have made it this far. I know it’s a lot to absorb, but I think it’s a very important discussion that should be available to the public. The issues and concerns covered above are very common in the minimum wage debate and it’s important to educate ourselves based on evidence and verified facts.

I didn’t get a response to my last comment, but a different commentator did chime in with:

“So someone in Seattle is supposed to nix the internet and then rely on their phone? Do you know what year it is? What got me my last job (in Seattle) was my linkedin profile… I have been turned down for a job because I didn’t own a cellphone, they want to be able to contact you 24/7…

One last question @Kalani how old are you? You keep saying you didn’t have this and that and whatnot but is that because those things didn’t exist?? The game is changing, new playing field and new rules.”

Lovelypnw, I would like to thank you for contributing. And I would also like to say the following in conclusion:

 

To Kalani & Tim Worstall,

Have I provided enough evidence for you? Did I provide enough information about my life to effectively prove that I deserve to be paid a living wage? Does everyone that makes under $15/hr in Seattle and under $10/hr in the US have to prove to you that they deserve to live a comfortable, secure life?

The Declaration of Independence says that we, as American citizens, have the right to pursue life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We have the right to life, and that includes security. We have a right to liberty, and that includes not being in debt up to our eyeballs because we chose to pursue further education and yet don’t earn enough to pay back the debts. And we have the right to pursue happiness, and that includes being financially sound. We’re not asking for wealth, we’re asking for equilibrium.

My roommate was recently laid off because Trader Joe’s didn’t want to give her the 6-month raise that’s in her contract. She had worked there for two years and had gotten raises every 6 months, but, once it was time for her fourth raise, they instead put her on probation for being one minute late for her shift and refused her the raise. She stayed for another 6 months and yet again they found a minuscule reason to refuse her her raise. She was being paid $11/hr while at Trader Joe’s, but there was not much left at the end of the month after bills and so she had little to live on after her termination. She has now been unemployed for two months and she’s been looking and applying for jobs every day. We’ve even gone through the process of getting utility bill assistance from the city of Seattle and yet she still had to borrow money from her mother for the last two months of rent.

How can we pursue happiness when we can’t even pay our bills? Our rent is $1085 a month for a 800 sq. ft. two-bedroom apartment about 20 minutes outside the city. It was the cheapest we could find. We have shootings and robberies that happen mere blocks from us. We don’t have cable. We have a free tv from 2001 that has a VHS player. We pay $20 a month for internet. Yes, we have cell phones, but we don’t have land lines. We both have beat up cars, both 2000 and 2001 models (her’s won’t even start some days). We buy our clothes from Ebay and Goodwill. We buy groceries at Costco. We cook all our meals, we rarely eat out. All of our furniture is either hand-me-downs from my parents or bought on Craigslist.

I don’t know what else I can tell you to convince you that this is not a sustainable live style. We don’t have any buffer from crises. What happens if one of us has a medical emergency? What happens if our car gets hit while it’s parked on the street and no one leaves a note? What happens if our computer crashes? These things happen, and while, yes, we’re still alive, we are a few crises away from being homeless. My roommate was actually homeless for a few months last year because she couldn’t afford a one bedroom apartment by herself and couldn’t find a roommate to help with the bills. She subleased the apartment she had and couch-surfed for two months.

Even all the personal evidence aside, I have also provided the economic reasons based on inflation rates, productivity rates, and government figures. Please, tell me what more evidence you need.

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by | June 4, 2014 · 5:09 pm

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