The summer after I graduated from college, I worked 40 hours per week at minimum wage. Even with the buffer of being on my parents’ healthcare plan and living with relatives, it was difficult to get by. After shelling out cash for loans, food, transportation, and clothing, I had little to show in my bank account afterward.
I couldn’t imagine paying rent, much less raising a family on minimum wage. Nevertheless, millions of Americans–4.4 million to be exact–get by on these wages, according to The Fiscal Times.
Not that it matters to Florida Representative C.W. Bill Young, a Republican. When a constituent asked if he would support a raise in the minimum wage this past July 4th, Young’s response was wholly unprofessional. And the interaction was caught on tape by a local website (oh, how I love technology).
The representative asked the man, “How about getting a job?”
He told Young, “I do have one.”
According to the Daily News, the constituent is employed, though he makes a mere $8.50 an hour.
“Well then, why do you want that benefit? Get a job,” the lawmaker responded before walking away.
It’s worth mentioning that the constituent, whom the Daily News believes is named Andrew “Pepe” Kovanis, is part of the Occupy Tampa protest movement. But it’s quite difficult for me to wrap my mind around how any so-called professional lawmaker could treat a voter's valid question with so much contempt and condescension. And no, he’s far from a newbie: Young is running for a 22nd term in the U.S. House.
Compared to wages in 1968, the federal minimum of $7.25 per hour is equivalent to a 25 percent pay cut. According to ThinkProgress, “To have the same buying power today, the minimum wage would have to be $9.92. If the minimum wage had been indexed to the Consumer Price Index since 1968, it would be approximately $10.40 today.”
Living Wage NYC calculated that a living wage for a worker in the Big Apple is at least $10 per hour, plus benefits. This would only cover bare bones expenses. Though living wages differ by location, a run of MIT’s Living Wage Calculator shows that $7.25 just isn’t cutting it in many areas.
But I’m sure Young is too busy enjoying the $174,000 a year salary he “earns” to worry about low wage workers.