“Nobody who works full time should have to raise their family in poverty.”
People hear versions of this phrase from politicians and pundits trying to arouse emotions in a crowd, with varying degrees of success, possibly because it strikes at the core of Americans’ basic sense of fairness.
Even so, the truly disturbing facts faced by low-wage workers daily more often remains unspoken. The current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour simply does not add up.
A worker earning the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour for 40 hours for each of 52 weeks receives an annual, pre-taxed income of $15,080. The federal poverty threshold for 2013 is $12,119 for individuals and $23,624 for a family of four. If a person were able or allowed to work 40 hours, taking no time off, an individual scrapes by with a gross income only $2,961 above poverty.
If they have a family of four on that same income, they fall $8,544 below the poverty line. Just to reach the poverty line, the breadwinner of a family of four must earn $11.36.
Why does the richest nation on Earth accept the concept of the working poor?
Conservative politicians often look first at safety net programs whenever budget shortfalls require cuts. Many complained, calling President Obama the “food stamp president,” when increasingly more citizens find themselves resorting to public assistance programs to feed their families.
Those same legislators balk at the idea of raising the federal minimum wage requirements. Do they really not see that predominately low wages increase the need for state and federal assistance for people to simply survive?
Blinded by ideology, lawmakers fail to see that the only way to effectively reduce social service programs is by creating the working conditions that prove those services unnecessary.
J CHRIS HENRY